Archives for posts with tag: mercury

From Environmental Health News:

A study raises concern about children’s exposure to mercury through fish eating, tying it for the first time to hormone changes that increase chronic stress and associated immune system dysfunction.

The mercury levels measured in the children were well below the levels considered a health risk by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This new study from Oswego County, New York, finds that higher mercury levels measured in the children’s blood are significantly associated with lower cortisol levels. The hormone cortisol is released in response to stress and is important for metabolism, immune responses and blood pressure. Its levels naturally fluctuate during the day – levels are higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon.

Even lower cortisol levels and responses can result in chronic stress even though stress increases the hormone’s level. The study’s results suggest that mercury exposure at levels commonly seen in fish eating populations may do this. It may act as a chronic stressor and disrupt the stress response. Chronic stress means the body doesn’t relax – cells continually function in high gear and do not return to a normal state. Long-term stress can have many negative health effects such as increased heart disease, more metabolic disorders and lowered immunity.

The findings are in line with prior studies in people and fish. The toxic metal increased inflammation in miners exposed to mercury. Animal studies find reduced cortisol levels in mercury-contaminated fish after capture stress.

Fish consumption is a major source both of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and toxic mercury. Omega-3s benefit health by protecting against heart disease. Mercury is potentially harmful because it affects the brain and nervous system in children. Although there are fish advisories in many states, it is still uncertain whether the benefit of eating fish outweighs the potential harm in children.

To address the pros and cons of fish eating in children, the researchers examined 100 children from 9 to 11 years old in New York State. Parents reported children’s fish consumption, which was categorized as eating or not in the analysis. Blood mercury levels, blood lipids, cortisol in saliva and inflammation markers were measured. Blood lipids indicate future heart disease risk; cortisol reflects changes of stress response; and inflammation markers indicate immune response differences.

Fish eaters had higher HDL – or so called good cholesterol – related to lower heart disease risk, than non-fish eaters. However, the fish eaters also had much higher – almost three times higher – mercury levels than non-fish eaters (1.1 and 0.4 microgram per liter, respectively).

More.

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From The Courier-Journal:

An Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis study has found mercury contamination in soil downwind from a coal-fired power plant in Indianapolis, supporting the notion of localized mercury hot spots.

The research examined soil near several plants across Central Indiana but zeroed in on an Indianapolis Power & Light plant on the city’s southwest side. That’s where scientists mapped a plume of soil contamination likely from the plant, which is the city’s largest source of mercury emissions.

“Mercury from coal-fired power plants has been found in the ice at the north and the south poles, so the fact that these noxious emissions are swept far away to other areas or even continents, with global environmental impact, is well known,” said lead author Gabriel M. Filippelli, an IUPUI professor of earth sciences.

He said the new research is among the first to document mercury’s impact on soils and the environment near specific coal-burning power plants.

He also said the study, published this month in the journal Water, Air & Soil Pollution, has important implications for other cities with coal-fired power plants, including the Louisville metro area, which has three.

“I would suspect you might have the same situation that we have here in Indianapolis,” he said of Louisville and Southern Indiana.

Louisville Gas & Electric operates the Mill Creek and Cane Run coal-fired plants in southwestern and western Louisville. Duke Energy operates the Gallagher plant in New Albany, immediately west of Louisville.

The three together emit more than twice as much mercury annually as the IPL plant, according to the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

All three are also generally upwind from Louisville population centers.

An LG&E spokesman, Chip Keeling, said company officials have not reviewed the study, but still questioned its findings.

More.

From NJ.com:

Piles Creek is an offshoot of the Arthur Kill — a dead-end waterway that stops in an industrial no-man’s-land in Linden.

To the west is the rumbling New Jersey Turnpike and a cluster of puffing smokestacks. To the north a horizon of power lines and refineries. To the east and south factories and a brownfield.

And what lives here is not quite normal — a strange ecosystem of creatures large and small that seem cast from a bad toxic apocalypse movie.

Grass shrimp and fiddler crabs are larger, and tend to thrive — even though they eat less. In fact, they are not eaten as much themselves.

Their predators, like killifish and bluefish, are smaller, more sluggish and can’t hunt as well — perhaps because their thyroid glands and neurotransmitters are abnormal.

The blue crabs are sluggish and feeding on easily-available food like algae and sediments. But they are also hardier when exposed to toxicity and more savvy at avoiding predators — even becoming nasty and aggressive when provoked.

“It’s a tough neighborhood to grow up in — that’s the way we thought of it in the lab,” said Rutgers University marine biologist Judith Weis, a 70-year-old grandmother of three who has spent the past two decades documenting the creek’s slow recovery since the beginnings of the environmental movement.

For most of the 20th century, wildlife at Piles Creek had no chance to survive. Weis once saw no life in the brackish water, which is still contaminated by mercury, other metals and a whole mess of acronyms, including PAHs and PCBs. Even now, a bridge of gas and oil pipelines runs over the water, marked with neon stakes. A sign warns trespassers of danger.

Over time, though, the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections since the 1960s have slowly brought life back to Piles Creek. But the recovery has left a toxic legacy — a strange process caused by heavy industry, according to Weis.

Her team from Rutgers meticulously documented five species’ transformations. The food chain was in disarray. She said pollution has created its own variety of unnatural effects on the creatures in Linden and Newark Bay, compared with their counterparts in the cleaner waters of Tuckerton some 80 miles to the south.

The team found healthy creatures introduced into the tainted environment were immediately affected. Blue crabs and killifish from Tuckerton lost their innate hunting abilities when they were put into the polluted water.

“If a predator is worse off than you are, it’s an advantage,” Weis noted.

Despite the slow comeback of Piles Creek, it remains an ecological war zone. Lauren Bergey, a student of Weis’s who is now an assistant biology professor at Centenary College, said she once saw a male fiddler crab waving his huge claw atop a Thermos bottle, trying to attract a mate. He had made his burrow inside the container, she said.

“I still do work out there, and when I come back, I smell like an oil refinery,” Bergey said.

The Rutgers study is unique in that pollution-effects studies most often just examine the effects of poisons by dosing specimens in the laboratory, the researchers said.

“I’m hoping this leads to more research out in the field, instead of just exposing species to the contaminants in the lab,” said Weis, who wrapped up decades of observations of the return of life to the polluted water in a study published last month in BioScience.

Weis — who is chair of the science advisory board of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, has served on committees for the Environmental Protection Agency, and is currently writing about water for the United Nations — believes the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections since the 1960s have brought life back to Piles Creek and other places. Yet she said the environmental threats remain.

“The current regulations are allowing really dreadful places like Piles Creek become better,” she said. “However, it will take a lot more effort, money and stronger regulations — and a lot of years — for them to really become healthy environments.”

From IATPvideo:

Dr. David Wallinga, Director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, talks about the findings of a recent IATP study on the presence of mercury in high fructose corn syrup and in common food and beverage products.


Columbia State:
Drinking water poisoned near sewage disposal site.

Folks in Pelion complained bitterly 21 years ago about human waste and grease that would be dumped on fields in their community. But state regulators approved plans for a sewage disposal site anyway — publicly assuring residents the waste wouldn’t stink up the countryside or hurt the environment. Now, the same agency that approved the sewage dump site is scrambling to stop dangerously high levels of toxic pollutants from spreading in groundwater. More . . .

Associated Press: New USGS study finds mercury widespread in Indiana.

One in eight fish taken from Indiana waterways and analyzed over a five-year period was tainted with the toxic metal mercury, according to federal scientists who last year reported that precipitation that falls near southeastern Indiana’s coal-fired power plants harbors some of the nation’s highest concentrations of atmospheric mercury. The study led by U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Martin Risch also showed that mercury contamination in both surface waters and fish across Indiana routinely exceeds levels recommended to protect humans and animals. Risch said the front cover of the mercury report includes photographs of an eagle and a boy holding a big fish. More . . .

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