Thursday, June 5, 2014

Viv Forbes: Poison Propaganda

The environmental debate today is so corrupted by politics and propaganda that facts are too often distorted, and exaggeration of risk is commonplace.

The vicious war on hydro-carbon fuels is a good example where certain substances are labelled “poison” or “pollution” when associated with coal utilisation, but blithely ignored in other areas. For example, climate alarmists have labelled carbon dioxide produced by carbon fuels as a “pollutant” and the US Supreme Court even declared it to be so. But that ignores the simple truth that 100 times more carbon dioxide exists in the lungs of every animal on earth than in the air; it is an ingredient in beer, bread and champagne; it is essential nutrition for all plant life on earth; and this plant life supports all animal life - hardly a pollutant.

With their “CO2 pollution” propaganda failing, alarmists are now accusing coal of filling the air with mercury “poison”, which sounds really scary. Their aim now is to use supposed mercury dangers to force the closure of more coal-fired power stations. This is just another aspect of the war on carbon fuels - they want to kill coal by fair means or foul.

However if tiny traces of mercury are so dangerous, why do millions of people allow dentists to put silver amalgam (with 50% mercury) in their teeth? And why does the EPA ignore all the mercury waste that dentists flush down their sinks every day?

And why does the US FDA allow mercury compounds to be used in flu vaccines? And the people attacking the minute amount of mercury in coal are the same people promoting dangerous mercury-laden compact fluorescent lights.

Traces of mercury occur widely in rocks and minerals and it gets taken up in minute amounts by plants, water and animals living near those sources. When those plants form coal, tiny traces of mercury may be there too. In rare places the mercury content of rocks is so high that dangerous quantities may get into nearby plants and sea life. In other places, bushfires release more mercury to the atmosphere than coal-fired power stations. Mercury has been circulating in the biosphere for far longer than man has been burning coal. Whether it is poison or harmless depends on the dose.

So, let us take care with mercury, but let’s not lose track of where our biggest risks occur. Every human faces risks every day just staying alive. But emissions from modern pollution-controlled power stations using washed coal are not one of our major health hazards, especially where Australian coals are being used because their content of mercury is so extremely low. For many people in the world, lack of electricity, starvation, drought, floods and death from exposure pose far greater dangers than the risk that there may be from miniscule traces of mercury occurring naturally in all plant and animal material, including coal.

For those worried about possible over-consumption of mercury, another trace metal, selenium, provides natural protection. Today, the real health problem is more often a deficiency of selenium in the diet.

For those who wish to read more:

The War on Mercury:

The Myth of Killer Mercury:

The Dangers of Mercury Amalgams in Dentistry:

Dentists pollute water with Mercury waste:

The Dangers of Mercury in Fluorescent light bulbs:

Most concerns about Mercury in fish are misguided:

More Comment:

 Some Real Mercury Risks

Humans have long used mercury and its compounds, sometimes at far greater risk than today. The term “mad as a hatter” arose over 100 years ago from symptoms suffered by felt hat makers handling mercuric nitrate while making felt hats from animal fur.

Ladies once used cinnabar, a bright red natural ore of mercury, as a cosmetic and mercuro-chrome was once widely-used to combat infection and scarring in wounds.

Perhaps the worst recent mercury incident occurred 50 years ago at Minamata Bay in Japan which was contaminated by mercury in waste from a plastics factory. Local residents were badly affected after eating contaminated shellfish from the bay.

Another incident in New Zealand, initially blamed on run-off from an old gold mine, involved mercury contamination of coastal fish. Then it was remembered that there was a fish of that type in the museum that had been caught before gold was discovered. This fish also had mercury. It was then found that the rock/soil near the sea contained higher than normal mercury and this was probably the source for the mercury in the fish.

More recently, many light-houses turned on a bath of mercury and there are millions of mercury-filled thermometers and electrical switches still in use.

Every activity in life involves risks. Every person must balance those risks and rewards sensibly.


Richard B said...

Again, common sense wins over half-truths and scares that are exaggerated by the media, politicians and government funded bodies that stand to gain from the scare stories. Well said Mr Forbes! Its a pity more people aren't prepared to speak out against the current tidal wave of misinformation.

Anonymous said...

It is pleasing to see some balanced informnation brought to bear in a debate about man made climate change. Too often we hear political statements like "consensus" used when we should hear more words like "correct", and "unproven" and "hypothesis".

Anonymous said...

Worked in coal industry for 50 odd years. Lived in vicini9ty of smelly coke plants for 25 years, lived within 5 miles of coal fired power stations for 20 years, and I'm pleased to say I'm a happy octogenarian. The mercury missed me! And thinking about it - I don't remember any of my work colleagues and neighbours suffering either. It must have missed them too!

Anonymous said...

A clear, concise statement of the facts. Politicians today like to get on-board scary bandwagons and divert public attention away from important real issues that should be the focus of attention.

Peter Caulton said...

Of course carbon dioxide is an unpolluting red herring. We have much more problems in our land from farm runoff in our waterways.We should always keep monitoring the heath effects from heavy metals which are proven. I still see a lot of people using aluminum cook wear which is another proven health issue.We should have a common sense movement in this country as we seem to have lost what used to be our greatest virtue in this country. In the meantime just ignore stupid laws. If enough of us do this they become irrelevant.

paul scott said...

I agree with Peter Caulton immediately above. It is a good thing to refuse stupid nanny laws.
I think the Ecan Canterbury regional are coming to try to put out my logburner. They will nedas lot of men, and then when I finish them off I will relight the burner, again every night