Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mercury in Fish: Consumer Reports Dodges the Truth


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In the October, 2014 Consumer Reports, responding to high levels of mercury (Hg) that is bio-accumulating into top predator, long lived fish stocks, the magazine asks "How does Mercury get into fish?" CU responds with a brief synopsis of how big fish eat little fish and then seemingly blithely comments "Mercury levels in the northern Pacific Ocean have risen about 30 percent over the past 20 years and are expected to rise by 50 percent more by 2050 as industrial emissions increase....".   CU might as well have ended the sentence with "meh".

Are we purposely dodging something important?  The elephant in the room is that the major source of global (as well as U.S.) anthropogenic mercury (Hg) emissions is coal burning, which currently powers the factories in the Far East that build all that cheap shit from you-know-where that CU is constantly evaluating without serious concern for what high levels of consumer consumption mean to the environment. And, the Northern Hemisphere Westerly Winds blow all that Asian industrial pollution over the...you guessed it, the North Pacific.   Indeed, "Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 50 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions (Source: 2005 National Emissions Inventory).".  Well, coal is coal and we know where Far East energy comes from.

I've long had mixed feelings about Consumer Reports, given its selective blindness to the not so hidden costs of human overconsumption of product.  This article, which featured IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond poisoning himself from eating at the top of the fish food chain, didn't help. Rather than suggest less consumption of consumer product, CU tells us to avoid eating certain fish. Mr. Gelfond, according to CU, managed to get his blood Hg up close to 80 micrograms Hg per litre of blood (normal is less than 10) because he could afford a lot of top of the food chain fish and not knowing the consequences, was on a high fish/high mercury/low cholesterol diet. All that saves a lot of us is we don't have the greenbacks to poison ourselves quite so easily.

So it goes.

1 comment:

Chandra said...

Khal,
Now you are talkin'! :)

If you haven't already, I would also refer (you) to reports/papers published by from the data collected for the BEST program of the USGS, which looked at effects of Hg and other metals, on fish livers, in the big rivers in our great nation. And, effects on EROD...

In my humble opinion...
We have the ability to grow stuff, organically, at a reasonable price in this country, where we can feed our families and let the farmers feed their's as well. However, out of avarice, we have resorted to the model of more, more and more, for less; which has made us slaves to mass-produced, sub-standard crap, some of which is also toxic to the core.

Again, thank you for writing about a very important topic.

Have a Great Weekend!
C