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Earth Medicine Science

Surprise! More Than Twice As Much Mercury In Environment As Thought 173

sciencehabit writes The most comprehensive estimate of mercury released into the environment is putting a new spotlight on the potent neurotoxin. By accounting for mercury in consumer products, such as thermostats, and released by industrial processes, the calculations more than double previous tallies of the amount of mercury that has entered the environment since 1850. The analysis also reveals a previously unknown spike in mercury emissions during the 1970s, caused largely by the use of mercury in latex paint.
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Surprise! More Than Twice As Much Mercury In Environment As Thought

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  • Where is "Environment"? I've never heard of a place by that name. Or was the headline about ambient mercury in "the environment"?

    The good news is that finding out that there is twice as much of it around means that it is half as harmful as we were thinking it was, assuming the retarded LNT model preferred by statists everywhere.

    • Where is "Environment"? I've never heard of a place by that name. Or was the headline about ambient mercury in "the environment"?

      Headlines miss out words all the time. Film at 11...

      • It's classical newspaper style to omit articles and capitalize words in headlines. Not exactly missing out [by accident].
    • What has being British got to do with anything?

      • by julesh ( 229690 )

        What has being British got to do with anything?

        I suspect OP was being ironic. British English tends to include words in sentences that US English usually omits.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @03:45PM (#47848107)
    Were the latex paint people jealous of the oil based lead paint people and all the attention they were getting? Lead and mercury have been known to be hazardous for decades prior to the 70s. Why in a million years would they think that it was a good idea. Minimally with the late 60s and 70s being a huge eco movement time any company would think twice before potentially attracting the attention of a combination of the health authorities, the eco crowd, and shows like 60 minutes.

    I wonder if the huge crime spikes of the 60's and 70's had this mercury as another contributing factor?
    • Led was used for two things in paint. Pigment and mold control.

      Banning it as a pigment was a no brainer, white led paint is about 8% led. But banning its use for mold control led directly to the use of mercury as a substitute and it was never more than a tiny fraction.

      Washington got it wrong, yet again.

      • Tetraethyl Lead was used in automotive fuel from the 1920s through much of the 70s, and is still used in some aviation fuel. There appears to be illegal manufacture and use of the substance ongoing in the PRC. The amounts involved as a fuel antiknock ingredient exceed Lead's use in mold control and paint, and should be considered the primary source for increased Lead in the environment..

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @04:13PM (#47848271)

    ... ca. 1953, my daddy worked in a oil refinery and he'd bring home small sample bottles full of mercury.

    We puzzled at it, amazed at how heavy the bottle was and stuff. We poured some in our hands and rolled it around.

    Then we coated dimes and pennies with it to make them look like silver and played with those.

    Fast-forward 25 years and I'm an instrument man in an oil refinery lab and I'm calibrating a pneumatic gauge with a manometer that uses lots of mercury and I get a case of the dumbass and blow mercury all the way to the ceiling, all over counter tops and on the flour.

    They evacuated the entire lab and sent in the hazmat team and stuff.

    It's funny how things change with education and I never experienced any fallout from the big white letter E on my keyboard with the bluetooth that clasps to the ballpoint pen of my mother's daisy.

    • Liquid elemental mercury is actually hard to absorb by the body. It's chemically modified mercury, or mercury vapor, that are dangerous. Dimethyl mercury [sciencemag.org], for example, is fantastically dangerous stuff, and rapidly passes through latex, PVC, butyl, neoprene, and skin, and a drop of it can kill you. Meanwhile the mercury amalgam in my tooth fillings apparently is absorbed via vaporization and the lungs, and contributes about as much as occasionally eating fish, even though I have a few thousand mg of it in m

    • My science teacher had similar comments; however, he was really careful with the stuff. It can cause a lot of problems, it's deceptively dangerous it is not like a poison. Different people have different thresholds, plus you also have younger generations growing up with higher exposure rates for their whole lifespan which makes them less tolerant. Handling it with your hands is one thing, eating it is another. In a powder or gas it's bad stuff --- which is why procedures are over protective, if you spill

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @04:49PM (#47848453)

    As soon as I heard that mercury was dangerous, I threw all my thermometers and thermostats in the garbage.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @04:54PM (#47848487) Homepage

    Surprise! More Than Twice As Much Mercury In Environment As Thought

    Here are a couple more Slashdot headlines in this new style:

    Fuck's sake! Facebook's Auto-Play Videos Chew Up Expensive Data Plans
    About Bloody Time! 3 Decades Later, Finnair Pilots Report Dramatic Close Encounter With a Missile

  • Now there is a lot more mercury available to be put, in elemental form, into vaccines.
  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @07:21PM (#47849175) Homepage Journal

    #2, Silver Mining. It turns out mountains don't come labelled as "gold" and "silver-only". As world affluence increases, demand for gold and silver increases. Today, affluent trapped from filters at gold mines produces more mercury than mercury mines. But the only mines "trapping" any mercury are in regulated western economies... most gold mining is in unregulated forests.

    Lamps, by the way, have jackshit mercury, less than a fraction of what they had when lamp recycling got started. Billions of dollars are being spent "recycling" lamps which have barely any mercury in them.

    At least the recycled mercury saves the environment, right? Oh. Nope. Read the great journalist John Fialka on WSJ 2006. Most of the mercury recovered from the recycling went to alluvial gold mining in Amazon and Congo river basins. http://online.wsj.com/news/art... [wsj.com]

    I'm an environmentalist, but environmentalists 3.0 need to recognize past mistakes, and correct them, the same as engineers and software coders are expected to do.

    • by julesh ( 229690 )

      #2, Silver Mining. It turns out mountains don't come labelled as "gold" and "silver-only". As world affluence increases, demand for gold and silver increases.

      Don't worry. It turns out that the cost of mercury is rising much faster than the cost of gold. Another decade or so of this, and it will be more economical for the gold miners just to sell their mercury stocks straight back to us.

  • Right, Mercury is horribly toxic, and releasing it in the environment is bad. But where do we get the mercury first?

    I guess it comes from the environment itself, which suggests some kind of mercury cycle. It was there before as a reasonably harmful compound, perhaps we can ensure it returns to this state?

    • It was there before as a reasonably harmful compound

      Not as such. Metallic mercury is rare. It's a bit of work to get mercury out of various ores, many of which would probably be safe to crumble up and eat since stomach acid is not going to reduce it.

      • But Hg2+ is also toxic right? I believe this is not a metalic Hg vs Hg2+ problem, but rather free mercury (or methyl-mercury) vs more complex compounds.
        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          I should have made it more clear: mercury in a form that can be metabolised is rare in nature. The problem arises when we reduce the ores (which are not "reasonably harmful") and spread stuff around in a form that can get into people and the food chain.

          Your "mercury cycle" suggestion is a bit weird and is a bit like suggesting an Iron cycle or Silicon cycle.
          • Your "mercury cycle" suggestion is a bit weird

            I was just wondering what prevented us from making sure mercury goes back to the environment in the same form we got it once.

  • After all the mercury that was spilled in gold mining operations....

  • Mad as a hatter

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