Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Wed, Dec 03 2003

Just Say No - To Tuna?

After hearing all the hoopla about the mercury emissions in the last day or two, I did some online reading this morning. There's mercury in some tooth fillings (which have to be discarded at some point), button-cell batteries (which have to be discarded at some point), scanner lamps (which have to be discarded at some point) and the LCDs and lamps used in some cars and appliances (which have to be discarded at some point). I don't have a lot of inside knowledge about many of the sources, but I do know that many dentists would happily use mercury-free tooth fillings for all patients if the insurance companies would cover their use. Many insurance companies will only assist patients in paying for "tooth-colored" composite fillings in the front teeth. Many will not cover composite fillings for children's baby-teeth at all. So the issues of mercury tend to feather into other areas that affect life and health on many levels. Many industries are becoming aware of all the mercury in use and are finding other ways to handle tasks. But this means we still have piles of this stuff to recyle or store. The United Nations Environment Programme released a report on Global Mercury Assessment earlier this year, and it does a good job of covering the basic scope of this problem.

Humans seem to get most of the mercury in their systems from eating fish, principally canned tuna. If we decide that we're going to limit the amount of mercury present in fish (more than we do now) we're going to affect the fishing industry, who will in turn pounce on the energy plants who have polluted the waters that pollute the tuna. If we allow the power plants to trade those "pollution permission credits" to delay upgrades to equipment, we run the risk of allowing mercury levels of seafood to rise even higher and create a scenario in which people may end up suing the fishing industry for supplying them with polluted fish. Or people might stop eating fish altogether. The fishing industry might then sue the energy companies for polluting the water in which the fish lived. The energy companies will no doubt pass along the cost of such a legal predicament to its energy customers (that would be you and me).

If the fish just died as soon as they became full of mercury this would be an easy decision. If we died as soon as we ate the mercury-laden fish, it would still be an easy decision. The problem is, as it is with most health issues, one gambles one's future health by making the pleasurable choices of today. In this case, our leaders are doing the gambling with our health. If they follow this projected path, forget the tuna. It's the rest of us who are dead in the water.

posted at: 07:49 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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