For moms and kids, go mercury-free

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As a mother, it is my responsibility to protect my children that continually gives me cause for concern. How can we protect our children from the dangers lingering in the air and land around them?

It is no doubt my job as a field organizer for the environmental advocacy organization Oceana's Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination, that makes me so keen on the subject of environmental dangers. But just because I am more familiar than most with the toxics lingering in our environment doesn't mean that all of our children aren't equally at risk.

RECENTLY, OCEANA released an analysis quantifying some of the hidden social costs of the release of mercury pollution, including releases from the local Olin chemical plant. Our researchers estimated that total mercury emissions, from all sources, have lowered the IQ of more than 400,000 children in the United States annually because of neurological damage.

The analysis examined the specific cost to the American economy of lost wages because of lowered intelligence attributed to mercury releases from chlor-alkali plants. Olin's local plant has caused an estimated $17 million in lost economic productivity due to lowered IQs over the past 10 years. These costs do not include the price of environmental damage caused by Olin.

Mercury pollution that is released to the environment ends up in our waterways and oceans, contaminating seafood. When a woman eats too much seafood that is highly contaminated, her body can end up passing the pollution on to her unborn baby in the womb. And since babies can be harmed by lower levels of this poison than it takes to harm adults, even small doses can cause irreversible impairment to brain function.

Because of mercury contamination, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has advised residents to limit their consumption of largemouth bass and legal-sized striped bass from the section of the Savannah River around the Olin plant. Sediment tests from the Olin Corp.'s canal, which leads to the Savannah River, that were released in April 2006 revealed mercury levels about 1,000 times higher than areas upstream of the factory.

For the past four years, citizens here and around the country have been asking Olin to switch to modern, mercury-free technology at its chlor-alkali plants. Though Olin's local mercury-based plant and the one it owns in Tennessee are nowhere near the only sources of mercury pollution in the toxic stew our children are exposed to, their emissions are completely unnecessary. Almost all of the other chlor-alkali plants in the country are equipped with modern, mercury-free technology.

YET OLIN REFUSES to modernize these plants, and has to spend millions of dollars simply to keep up with basic pollution standards. Olin could better spend this money by upgrading to mercury-free technology, which operates in a far more cost-efficient manner than the old equipment. This means that the company would make its investment back in cost savings plus more!

Switching to modern technology not only would be good for our waterways and our kids, but it also would help protect local jobs. As it stands, the equipment at the plant will not be able to compete with more modern plants for much longer. If the company made the decision to switch, Olin would be making a long-term investment in our community.

Olin, do it for us moms! Do it for our children! Protect kids, protect waterways and protect jobs. Please go mercury-free!

(The writer is the Georgia field representative for the environmental group Oceana.)

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sconservative 05/17/09 - 01:28 pm
How exactly did Olin cause

How exactly did Olin cause the lower IQs over the last 10 years? If this is a state or nationwide average, then other possibilities are the birth rates to educated parents (less than 2) versus the birth rates to uneducated or poor parents (greater than 5) and the immigration of uneducated or poor to the U.S. welfare state. How much mercury was found in the fish caught south of the Olin plant? All deer killed in deer hunts at SRS are tested and show only trace amounts of contamination. Rachel Carson got DDT banned, but millions of Africans have died of blood-borne diseases because the most effective control of the mosquito was prohibited.

afadel 05/17/09 - 06:04 pm
The 400,000 figure probably

The 400,000 figure probably comes from Trasande L, Landrigan PJ, Schechter C. Public health and economic consequences of methyl mercury
toxicity to the developing brain. Environ Health Perspect. 2005;113:590-596. If you read the study, cord blood was measured and elevated levels of mercury found. Scientists believe that high levels of mercury are correlated with loss in IQ. If you measure mercury in cord blood, you can then estimate how much IQ was lost without ever measuring IQ.

carcraft 05/17/09 - 06:13 pm
Gee and those neat little CFL

Gee and those neat little CFL bubles have what in them? Mercury. There is a scandel in Chinea from mercury contamination dur to the production of those stupid bulbs

mad_max 05/17/09 - 09:45 pm
Hmmm, I just checked the

Hmmm, I just checked the prevailing winds and that certainly explains the IQ of our commissioners. Okay okay. That was too easy. Seriously. I do not normally agree with very many "environmental" issues but this is one of those I do agree with. Mercury is just one of those things that we should not be spewing into the environment. I have never understood why the "acceptable" levels of pollution from this element are allowed to be high enough to make eating fish dangerous. Sounds like the "acceptable" levels are not really acceptable. I believe I pointed out this discrepancy to our RC Health Board back in the '80s when they were devoting themselves to crucifying smokers. We can't take the chance on any innocent citizen getting a whiff of cigarette smoke but NO PROBLEM with these industries in south and east part of the county belching tons of pollutants into the air and water daily. Nobody in the system is concerned because they are all hypocrits. It's not about health, it's about money and these companies have lots of money to pay off the officials and taxes to give to the government. That is why it is still okay to belch mercury into the environment. 10-4 on the CFL bulbs carcraft.

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