August 25, 2006
Putting my mouth where my mercury is
I'm getting a bit sick of reading about the alleged "risks" of mercury:
Leila Varella's son Darius, 9, no longer munches tuna sandwiches for lunch. His mother now regrets the slabs of shark she tossed onto the grill.Greenpeace? A record number of comments?
Is no one interested in actual evidence?
I should be, because my mouth is full of the stuff. But the available hard science doesn't seem to think that's dangerous:
Children who got "silver" dental fillings containing mercury amalgam showed no neuropsychological or neurobehavioral differences compared with kids who got fillings of a polymer composite, say two new studies out Wednesday.(See also Quackwatch.) Small amounts? How might these amounts compare mathematically to the emissions from coal-fired plants?
Mercury, of course, is a natural element; not man-made. In ground coal it is measured in parts per billion, and overall US mercury emissions from coal are a small fraction of the worldwide total (half of which are natural emissions:
World wide mercury emissions are estimated at 5,000 to 5,500 tons/year with natural emissions half the worldwide total depending on volcanic activity. The US generates 117 tons/year (40 tons/yr from power plants).I think the EPA should close Yellowstone Park ASAP!
They also ought to issue a cease and desist order against me, for my teeth are loaded with mercury -- at levels far above that occurring in ground coal.
Why, I'm so loaded with mercury that it's unsafe to cremate me! Seriously, the people who are worried about burning coal should read this!
Additionally cremation of those with amalgam fillings adds to air emissions and deposition onto land and lakes. A study in Switzerland found that in that small country, cremation released over 65 kilograms of mercury per year as emissions, often exceeding site air mercury standards(9), while another Swiss study found mercury levels during cremation of a person with amalgam fillings as high as 200 micrograms per cubic meter (considerably higher than U.S. mercury standards). The amount of mercury in the mouth of a person with fillings was on average 2.5 grams, enough to contaminate 5 ten acre lakes to the extent there would be dangerous levels in fish(2). A Japanese study estimated mercury emissions from a small crematorium there as 26 grams per day(10). A study in Sweden found significant occupational and environmental exposures at crematoria, and since the requirement to install selenium filters mercury emission levels in crematoria have been reduced 85%(11). A study of assessing hair mercury in a group of staff at some of the 238 British crematoriums found that the groups hair mercury were significantly greater than that of controls(12).Reading that is enough to burn me up!
Me and my mouth! I never imagined my mouth was more hazardous than coal.
In Maine, legislators have proposed yanking the fillings from corpses before cremation.
Getting through the hysteria to any actual science is like pulling teeth.
Maybe this is a law school exam question, but if the hysteria over mercury were to make me grind my teeth, which in turn made me emit numerous parts per trillion, wouldn't that mean that the hysteria would a contributory cause of the pollution?
MORE: These days a lot of false or unsubstantiated claims are made, and bloggers are often accused of less than full disclosure. While purely personal details about me are irrelevant to most of the things I discuss, in this instance I have made a claim based on such personal details. Because of the well-established principle that details should be verified in order to be trusted, I'm all too glad to oblige, and provide photographic proof that what I say is true:
That's only my lower jaw; the uppers are similar.
UPDATE (08/26/06): There's benzene in soft drinks! But the levels are apparently not as dangerous as drinking tap water. Nevertheless, that didn't stop a massive lawsuit:
District of Columbia Superior Court judge Mary Terrell dismissed that case Friday morning.Maybe if I drink enough Coke it'll loosen some of my mercury fillings!
posted by Eric on 08.25.06 at 08:51 AM
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