Am I stoned?

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  • 16% of women of childbearing age exceed the EPA’s “safe” mercury level
  • Freshwater fish mercury levels too high for pregnant women to eat in 43 states
  • Fish intake decreases risk for SGA newborn, but mercury can cause SGA


  • Mercury dental amalgams pose health risks to pregnant women, unborn babies, and children (FDA)
  • Contaminant in high fructose corn syrup
  • Mercury costs U.S. economy $5 billion/yr

Decreasing Causes and Limiting Consequences of Mercury Pollution

  • Phase out coal burning power plants
  • Hospitals phasing out mercury thermometers
  • Stop buying gold (e.g., wedding rings)
  • Make healthy seafood purchases
  • Screen and treat when appropriate
  • Avoid tainted cosmetics

Minamata Convention

  • A set of legally binding measures to curb mercury pollution
    • As of 10/16/14, 128 countries have signed and 6 (including the U.S.) have ratified
    • Takes effect 90 days after 50 nations ratify

Minamata Convention

    • Best emission-control technologies requred for new power plants, boilers and smelters
    • Compact fluorescent lightbulbs containing over 5 mg Hg banned by 2020
    • Primary mercury mining banned (old mines get 15 yrs to close down)
    • Allows use of mercury in artisanal and small scale gold mining; encourages nations to phase out use altogether

Minamata Convention

    • Exempts dental fillings, but encourages alternatives
    • Vaccines with thimerosol exempt
    • Bans Hg-containing batteries by 2020 (button-cell batteries exempt)
    • Bans switches and relays with Hg by 2020

Minamata Convention

    • Limits Hg in soaps and some cosmetics
    • Bans Hg in medical devices by 2020
    • Exempts religious and traditional uses of Hg
    • Bans use in certain types of manufacturing


  • Contaminates groundwater in Bangladesh, also, India, China, Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, Vietnam, and parts of the U.S.
    • 200 million affected worldwide
    • 13 million Americans have drinking water exceeding EPA’s “safe level”
    • Exposure also via rice (esp. brown), seafood
    • Also found in apple and grape juices, wine


  • One serving/wk puts infants and children over safe limit
  • Brown rice contains 80% more arsenic than white rice
  • Organic = non-organic
  • Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking; cook in large volume of water
  • Consider alternatives (quinoa, buckwheat, millet)


  • Known as “inheritance powder” in the Middle Ages (expedited the generational transfer of wealth and power)
  • Used to pressure treat wood in US and elsewhere
    • Primarily wooden structures built before 2005

Health Consequences of Arsenic Exposure

  • Causes discoloration of skin, GI upset/N/V/D, numbness, paralysis, and blindness
  • Linked to learning disabilities, neurobehavioral problems, elevated blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, bacterial infections, kidney/bladder/lung/skin cancers, and bone degeneration and deformities

Health Consequences of Arsenic Exposure

  • Miscarriage, low birth weight
  • Weakened immune system
  • Resistance to antimonial preparations used to treat Leishmaniasis

Heavy Metals

  • Heavy metals found in over half of low cost jewelry sold in the U.S.
  • Lead, mercury, or arsenic found in 1/5 of both U.S.- and India-manufactured Ayurvedic medicines purchased via the internet


  • Welders exposed via fumes
  • Causes “manganism” (like Parkinson’s Disease)
  • Welding companies covered up link for decades (like lead paint, etc.)


  • Cigarettes most common source of exposure; also found in rice; contaminant in phosphorus-based fertilizers
  • Can delay pregnancy and cause neurological damage, hearing loss, osteoporosis/fractures, periodontal disease, breast cancer, and premature aging


  • Phosphorus in dishwater detergents
    • Contribute to eutrophication, harmful algal blooms
    • Banned in 16 states
  • Phosphate in fertilizers
    • Agricultural runoff contributes to toxic algal blooms, dead zones
    • World supply running critically low
    • Composting would recycle, return to soil


  • Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae can cause gi illness, skin rashes, are hepatotoxic, and may cause liver cancer)
  • Global warming expected increasing algal blooms

Perchlorate (PERC)

  • Perchlorate
    • Toxic air pollutant, endocrine (thyroid) and reproductive toxin, likely human carcinogen, exposure increases risk of low IQ, bipolar disorder and PTSD
    • Used in rocket fuel, dry cleaning
    • EPA requiring phaseout of use in residential areas by 2020


  • Preservative used in food products, toiletries, cosmetics
  • Estrogenic
  • May increase risk of breast cancer


  • Comes from natural decay of uranium in soil
  • 1/15 U.S. homes has elevated levels
  • Cause of lung cancer
    • Causes 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in U.S. each year
  • Home detectors available, relatively inexpensive
  • Remediation lowers risk

Supplements and Milk

  • Melamine scare with Chinese milk products
    • Kidney failure
  • 37/40 herbal dietary supplements tested by GAO in 2010 contained trace amounts of at least one hazardous metal (lead, mercury, arsenic)
    • Supplements do not require FDA approval pre-marketing

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