Thursday, March 17, 2005

Latest study on Mercury. Bottom line is that when they looked, "....The main finding is that for every thousand pounds of environmentally released mercury, we saw a 17 percent increase in autism rates,"...

The story is at:

This also illustrates the blind spots of the left and the right.

On the Left, there's been a lot of claims being made about mercury in vaccines being linked to autism. (NB: last I know it is phased out of use in vaccines). These claims are contradicted by hard data: the best studies which control for many of the complexities haven't proven a link between vaccines & autism. Meanwhile, no one had looked at the connection between autism and biologically active mercury raining down from the sky.

On the right, data purportedly showing a lack of toxicity is being used to weaken environmental protections. For instance, mercury in tuna has been shown to be unrelated to human mercury pollution, and has not been shown to be very toxic (apparently this mercury has been curculating in the food chain for so long that it is locked up tightly in relatively stable organic compounds). Meanwhile: based on a reasonable interpretation of the scientific data, EPA originally proposed cutting power plant mercury emissions by 90% by 2007 or so. It then became clear that a couple of more years would be needed to work out the technology. At which point the Bush administration pushed through a plan to delay mercury controls by a decade and triple the allowable levels (i.e., only a 70% cut over 10 years, instead of a 90% cut within 2-5 years). Now, the Bush administration has gone a step further with a nominal 50% with exceptions.

While there's no doubt that mercury is toxic (a drop of methyl mercury is a slow & painful death sentance), the level of toxicity is very much related to the chemical compound containing mercury.

Therein lies the flaw with the both the Left and the Right: both assumed that ANY mercury was equally toxic. The Left extrapolated the data on highly toxic forms of mercury to the relatively benign form in vaccines. The Right extrapolated the data on low toxicity forms of mercury to the biologically active forms with which we pollute our air.

While it may or may not be confirmed the link between mercury pollution and autism, it is a matter of common sense to limit the most dangerous forms of mercury pollution. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has demonstrated a profound cluelessness in areas relating to science--inevitably, ideology trumps science.


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