The Cost of Progress: Mercury in Every Stream and Fish
After eight years researching mercury levels in the nation’s streams, scientists at the United States Geological Survey unveiled some bad news yesterday: Every fish taken from nearly 300 streams between 1998 and 2005 tested positive for Mercury, a neurotoxin, with 27 percent containing levels deemed unfit for human consumption. The Associated Press lays out both the dangers, and the sources of contamination:
Mercury consumed by eating fish can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children. The main source of mercury to most of the streams tested, according to the researchers, is emissions from coal-fired power plants. The mercury released from smokestacks here and abroad rains down into waterways, where natural processes convert it into methylmercury — a form that allows the toxin to wind its way up the food chain into fish.
The study provides yet another boost for legislation to move the country away from its heavy reliance on dirty fuels like coal. But not everyone has greeted the news with alarm. The Center for Consumer Freedom, a group backed by the food and restaurant industry, shot out a statement yesterday disputing the findings, arguing that the mercury levels reported by USGS are no cause for concern.
“There’s nothing new about tiny traces of mercury in fish,” David Martosko, the group’s director of research, said in a statement. “[I]t’s been there since the first ocean creatures evolved.”