Global scientists unite to sound alarm on mercury consumption

Judy Fahys, Salt Lake Tribune
Scientists have united to declare that mercury poses a serious threat to people, fish and wildlife worldwide.

The “Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution” was developed last summer by scientists who study the atmosphere, water, the environment and human health and published Thursday in Ambio, the journal published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The so-called Madison Declaration concludes that policymakers should begin developing controls so the problems do not get worse. ..

A group of international scientists issued findings this week on mercury pollution. They include:
* 1. On average, three times more mercury now falls from the sky than before the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.
* 2. Increasing mercury emissions from developing countries have offset declining emissions from developed nations during the past 30 years.
* 3. Methylmercury exposure at present levels constitutes a public health problem in many parts of the world.
* 4. Methylmercury exposure may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in adult men.
* 5. The health risks posed by mercury contamination of fish warrant issuing a worldwide warning to the public, especially children and women of childbearing age, to be careful about how much and which fish they eat.
* 6. The actual socioeconomic costs of mercury pollution are probably much greater than estimated because existing economic analyses don’t consider mercury’s impacts on ecosystems and wildlife.
* 7. The unregulated use of mercury in small-scale gold mining is polluting thousands of sites around the world, posing long-term health risks to an estimated 50 million people and contributing more than 10 percent of the mercury in Earth’s atmosphere attributable to human activities.
(10 Mar 2007)

Professor fights against plastic

Jacob Luecke, Columbia Tribune
Vom Saal says obesity linked to chemical.
Plastic companies use bisphenol-A to make a lot of things – food containers, water bottles and even baby bottles. But there’s only one thing Fredrick vom Saal would like the industry to do with it: Take it off the market.

Vom Saal, a biology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, has studied bisphenol-A for more than a decade. The chemical is essentially a female sex hormone similar to estrogen. Plastic companies have long used it to make rigid, clear containers, many of which are used for food.

“This is one of the highest-volume produced chemicals in the world. It’s in everybody’s bodies, and it’s a very potent sex hormone,” he said. “It’s just nuts that it’s being used the way it is.”

Vom Saal’s research, which includes testing the chemical on lab mice, has shown a variety of ill effects. For example, embryonic and infant mice exposed to small amounts bisphenol-A tend to become obese as adults. He surmises the same chemical could be behind the current rise in human obesity.
(4 March 2007)
Related from LA Times:
Chemical agency ties under review
and “Public health agency linked to chemical industry”:

For nearly a decade, a federal agency has been responsible for assessing the dangers that chemicals pose to reproductive health. But much of the agency’s work has been conducted by a private consulting company that has close ties to the chemical industry, including manufacturers of a compound in plastics that has been linked to reproductive damage.

In 1998, the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction was established within the National Institutes of Health to assess the dangers of chemicals and help determine which ones should be regulated. Sciences International, an Alexandria, Va., consulting firm that has been funded by more than 50 industrial companies, has played a key role in the center’s activities, reviewing the risks of chemicals, preparing reports, and helping select members of its scientific review panel and setting their agendas, according to government and company documents.

The company produces the first draft of the center’s reports on the risks of chemicals, including a new one on bisphenol A, a widely used compound in polycarbonate plastic food containers, including baby bottles, as well as lining for food cans.

Devastated system dying of thirst

James Woodford, Sydney Morning Herald
THE Darling River’s flow has been halved by evaporation, government reservoirs, hillside dams on farms and huge private irrigation storages. The river is being devastated by over-extraction, a report for the Murray-Darling Basin Commission has found.

Enough water to fill Sydney Harbour four times over – about 2 million megalitres – is evaporating from storage dams along the river each year. This is a quarter of the river’s annual average flow and has contributed to the astonishingly rapid demise of a number of internationally recognised wetlands. The water reaching three of the Darling system’s most important wetlands has fallen dramatically – by more than half into Narran Lakes and nearly a quarter into the Macquarie and Gwydir marshes.

The report also found:
■ Within 25 years climate change is predicted to reduce average flows in the Darling by as much as a fifth.
■ There has been a large reduction in the frequency and size of floods in all rivers in the Darling system.
■ In spite of a cap on extractions from the Murray Darling system, NSW and Queensland are still looking to expand water use in the basin.
■ Pumping of groundwater is leading to a loss of surface flow in the river of 74,000 megalitres each year, and this will rise to 191,000 megalitres as extraction increases.
■ The passage of fish is being hindered dramatically by weirs. ..

Mark Etheridge, a grazier from Wilcannia and member of the Australian Floodplain Association, said more water was being allocated from the river than existed. “It’s almost as if someone has forgotten to hit the equals button on the calculator.”

William Riley, an Aboriginal elder in Broken Hill and member of the Darling River Action Group, was appalled by the overuse. Inland rivers were being destroyed. “They’re all in trouble because of the cotton growers.”
(7 Mar 2007)

The Bio-DaVersity code
animation website
(March 2007)
Clever use of animation explains the threat to bio-diversity, as important as peak oil and climate change, but often overlooked. -BA