3 Parts of Mercury by Haley Nagasaki

Mercury Part 1 of 3:

The Presence of Mercury in our Environment

 

          Mercury, a lethal neurotoxin and major global pollutant, devastates our environment and poses high risk to human health, informed by factors like age, gender, location and class. This heavy metal exists in three different forms: elemental (metallic), inorganic, and organic mercury. Coal-fired power plants and small-scale gold mining operations are amongst the greatest contributors to mercury pollution expelled into our atmosphere. Compromising the integrity of the natural world, mercury settles onto our soil and waterways thereby contaminating and traveling up the food chain as a fat-soluble toxin in the flesh of many organisms, namely marine life. Moreover, this silent killer is knowingly and purposefully injected into human tissues through vaccinations containing thimerosal, a preservative, and dental amalgams. Mercury is widely used, paradoxically so, in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The effects of mercury on the human body became a hotly researched and debated topic during the 1950’s when the Chisso Corporation began dumping wastewater contaminated with methylmercury into the waterways of Minamata, Japan. In 1957, the Japanese individuals born with developmental disabilities were declared victims of a new ailment called the Minamata disease[1].

 

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           A highly informative article written by Rhode Island Science and Environmental Journalist Rebecca Kessler discusses the devastating Minamata disease by mercury poisoning. Called “The Minamata Convention on Mercury, A First Step Towards Protecting Future Generations”, Kessler discusses the history of the disease, and how global leaders must address the mercury issue today via industrial pollution standards. Minamata, Japan is the site where the disease occurred as the “first large-scale incident of methylmercury poisoning”. It is also the location where the convention originated. The Minamata Convention, named after the affected city, is in solidarity to those whose lives were literally or symbolically taken. Its name also serves as a reminder to the Japanese government who were never held “sufficiently accountable” for the disaster, nor did they “fully assess the damage to human health, or adequately compensate the victims”.

 

          September 2017, the fifth Minamata Convention on Mercury will take place in Geneva, Switzerland. Fifty countries are required to ratify the treaty to ensure its status as globally and legally binding and as of April 2017, only nine ratifications remained[2]. Keeping human and environmental health in mind, the conference aims to achieve “a ban on new mercury mines, the phase out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on [atmospheric emissions], and regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations”[3]. The United States is amongst the forty-one countries who have already ratified the convention, however President Trump’s recent decision to re-instate coal mining and coal-fired energy, coupled with his abandonment of the Paris Climate Agreement, instills a sense of uncertainty whereas upholding the coming mercury regulations is concerned.

 

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          In the United States of America, there are nineteen states where every single species of fresh water fish has been deemed “unsafe to eat” due to mercury contamination.[4] The source of mercury is from the “900 different coal-burning power plants” in the country, the discharge of which settles over its waterways[5]. Mercury circulates through the environment, as well as our bodies, “but is never destroyed”[6]. Exposure to mercury in humans is mainly low-dose and cumulative, through diet and lifestyle, although “high dose mercury exposure can occur in industrial accidents”[7]. This deadly toxin elicits desirable properties for many industrial processes, including liquid mercury’s ability to form a “stable amalgam with silver and gold”, and is therefore widely used for extraction[8]. The element poses adverse risks to “the nervous system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, and kidneys”[9], and puts miners at high risk as mercury may be absorbed into the skin “via the sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and hair follicles”[10].

 

Mercury Part 2 of 3:

The Effects of Mercury on the Human Body

 

          Mercury poisoning poses a real threat to miners working in artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations around the globe. Elemental mercury becomes “liquid at room temperature”. Because of its high vapor pressure, the vapors are easily released into the atmosphere; therefore miners ingest mercury through inhalation[11]. The “readily absorbed” mercury then travels to all of the body’s organs via the blood. Approximately 55 countries worldwide practice small-scale gold mining. It is estimated that “20% of the world’s gold” is produced this way, and the process “releases approximately 400 metric tons of airborne elementary mercury [annually]”[12]. Not only are the workers at severe risk of mercury poisoning, but the circulation of mercury itself is without borders.

 

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          Mercury is released into the atmosphere, contaminates the soil and nearby waterways, and eventually assists in the “bioconcentration of methylmercury through methylation and food chains”[13]. Studies suggest that mercury in the human body is linked to “neurodegenerative diseases, especially in the aged ”, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease[14]. Although many younger people are unknowingly exposing themselves to the toxin by applying mercury-containing products directly onto their skin, the majority amongst them being women.

 

          Inorganic mercury has a lengthy history of being used for health care due to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, although more recently this heavy metal has been appearing in the ingredients list of various cosmetic products[15]. Mercury-containing lotions have been reported from several different nations, many of them from countries where women use skin-lightening products[16]. When companies knowingly use poisonous additives in their goods, it becomes imperative that consumers pay close attention to the products they are purchasing, and in the case of inorganic mercury, remember never to apply cosmetics from companies who omit an ingredients list. Cases of severe mercury poisoning in women have surfaced from various Asian and African countries. Other groups of people who have characteristically been known for eliciting symptoms of mercury poisoning by elevated mercury levels in the blood and urine are dentists and dental hygienists.

 

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          Dental amalgam mercury has been used “for more than 150 years… consisting of about 50% metallic mercury”[17]. It is then absorbed into the human body through the amalgam surface, or inhaled as mercury vapor. These fillings are considered a major source of mercury exposure for the general population, and are found in the human blood and urine samples ranging from elementary school age, to dental practitioners and professionals[18]. The mercury content expelled during urination is an indicator of the mercury levels present in the kidney tissues. According to autopsy reports however, mercury from dental amalgams generally congregates in the brain tissues, and is classified as a major public health concern. In recent years the use of mercury as a dental filling has been phased out as public awareness increases. However the rates of mercury found in vaccinations, especially for the immunization of children, are at an all-time high, exposing them to thimerosal: a mercury-based preservative. As this exposure continues to rise, so too does incidents of children born with, or developing soon after, mercury-related chronic and developmental diseases like ADHD, asthma, cerebral palsy, seizures, and autism.

 

          Thimerosal serves as a mercury-based preservative in modern vaccines, thought to keep them free from contamination by preventing the growth of bacteria and fungus. The controversy surrounding this practice is extensive as medical professionals and the media assert that the additive is safe, yet the medical literature showcases several deaths attributed to thimerosal exposure. A recent CNN article called “Thimerosal: Everything you need to know about this vaccine preservative”, by Jen Christensen, states that the additive is entirely safe because the body eliminates the mercury[19]. While it’s true that thimerosal, or ethylmercury, does leave the blood faster than methylmercury, it’s only due to the fact that it leeches into the target organs sooner, namely the brain and kidney tissues[20]. Evidence of this additive’s devastating effects on the brains of people, often children, comes from the thousands of parents who’ve administered thimerosal containing vaccinations to their children, only then to notice a “developmental regression”[21]. One of these cases was actually covered by CNN in 2008, when 48 hours after “nine routine vaccinations”, a young girl “stopped eating and failed to respond to verbal stimuli”, then later began “staring at lights, running in circles, and looking at fans – all symptoms of autism”[22]. By then, the parents knew that their daughter’s “beautiful, inquisitive mind wasn’t coming back”[23].

 

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          These days one third of all flu vaccines contain thimerosal, putting people of all ages at risk, but even more disturbing is the expected volume of modern vaccinations administered to children and infants. The following is an excerpt from documentary, The Cove: Mercury Rising[24]:

 

The Clinton administration, recognizing the gravity of this national health epidemic, reclassified mercury as a hazardous pollutant under the clean air act. Despite that, thimerosal remains in use today. When I was a little boy, I received 3 vaccines. The children who were born after 1989 received 22 vaccines, and there was never any kind of analysis done on what the mass loading of mercury might be doing to the child’s brain tissue or future growth. The generation of children who were born after 1989 are the sickest generation in the history of the United States. Diabetes, asthma, food allergies, ADD, hyperactivity disorder, all kinds of learning delays, speech delays, and of course, autism. Since 1989 the reported cases of autism and autistic symptoms have skyrocketed.

Nobody knows what’s causing the autism epidemic. The occurrence of autism was about 1 in 10 000 during the early 1960s, for example. By the 1980s, the best data show that about 1 in every 2500 kids were born with autism and today the data shows that about 1 in every 157 children have autism, and perhaps as high as 1 in every 80 boys. One of the reasons given by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is that we are now better at diagnosing autism. This of course is nonsense, because missing autism is like missing a train wreck.

Why don’t we look at the American cohorts who did not receive the vaccines, like the Amish? The Amish do not believe in vaccinations and the instances of autism among the Amish are almost non-existent. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) is doing everything in its power to make sure that people don’t study this independently, and that people continue to get mercury in their vaccines. The tobacco industry succeeded for 60 years. This is an industry that was killing 1 out of every 5 of its clients who used its product as directed, and yet was able to escape any legal consequences for its negligence. The cigarette industry at least had CDC against it. Now imagine if this conspiracy included CDC…

 

Mercury Part 3 of 3:

Avoidance and Detoxification of Mercury

 

            It’s imperative that individuals take control of their own health instead of relying on professionals who may be working with an ulterior agenda. When it comes to mercury avoidance and detoxification, the biggest factor is diet. A traditional North American diet, high in animal fat, sugar, and wheat, will never allow the body proper detoxification. Yet this kind of behaviour is not cautioned against; in this society it’s actually encouraged. According to Dr. Mercola, an alternative medicine practitioner, the body cannot detoxify itself in the presence of dairy, sugar, processed meats, wheat, soy, and other common allergens and inflammatory foods. What the body requires is healthy gut bacteria and flora, including that which is naturally produced in the mouth, gut, a woman’s birth canal, as well as the bacteria created through the fermentation process of food. These special bacteria are able to detoxify heavy metals from the body.

 

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          Increasing sulfur-containing foods in the diet, such as cruciferous vegetables, and supplementing with MSM: a kind of sulfur that aids the body in heavy metal detoxification, are other excellent ways of detoxifying mercury from the body. Mercury is excreted mainly through urine and feces, therefore maintaining healthy functions is incredibly important. Cilantro is a great herb used for mercury detoxification because it helps to mobilize mercury from the tissues so that it may be picked up and carried out of the body. Using chelation therapy to accumulate mobilized heavy metals is a progressive treatment for individuals suffering from mercury exposure.

 

          Through this practice, chelation meaning “bonding of ions and molecules to metal ions”, a chemical solution called EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is injected into the body via the bloodstream so that it might bind with “excess minerals” circulating through the system[25]. The chelation therapy method is used to remove “lead, mercury, copper, iron, arsenic, aluminum, and calcium”, yet is still considered a controversial practice and is not generally practiced by allopathic doctors. This therapy, coupled with an organic plant-based detoxification diet filled with antioxidants and fermented foods, is an effective way of removing heavy metals from the body. Fish and seafood should largely be avoided in the diet due to their high mercury contents, especially larger predatory fish like swordfish and tuna that accumulate and store the mercury from other organisms in their tissues. Yet even those who do not consume seafood are still at risk of mercury exposure through following a traditional American diet.

 

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          Due to the contamination of the commons, clean air, water, and soil are no longer an essential human right, but a rare blessing. Conventionally grown genetically modified food is not only laced with toxic pesticides and herbicides, but is further poisoned by environmental pollutants, including mercury. Organic green-house-grown produce is becoming one of the only ways to ensure we’re not consuming toxic sustenance. People must protect themselves and their families by acquiring information and taking accountability in all areas of their lives. It’s important that each individual, especially parents, take it upon themselves to differentiate between what is necessary for themselves or their children’s safety, and what is potentially causing them harm and degeneration for reasons unbeknownst to the public.

 

          Fortunately, efforts to remove mercury-containing dental amalgams are now being practiced around the world, and instances of mercury poisoning by cosmetics is becoming far more rare. An international spotlight has been cast upon Japan to address why heavy mercury-contaminated “mystery meat” from the dolphin slaughter ends up in school cafeterias for children. Pods of whales, which are at the same level in the alimentary food chain as people, are dwindling on the west coast of America at the hands of illness by chemicals and pollution. Not only are people diseased, but the animals as well. Again, the memory of the Minamata disease comes to the forefront of our social dialogue next month as the meeting of the Minamata Convention on Mercury is set to take place in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

          As we string together the facts and speak out with one collective voice, it becomes clear that awareness of the problem must come first before solutions can follow. Informing each other, becoming community detectives, boycotting destructive industries, and fostering our own sterling ingenuity, is more than just a dream. Everyone knows mercury is a threat. But why worry about it in the wake of all the other global instability? Because anything that alters our capacity for being alters our essential humanity, and we must not lose our intuitive sense of wrong from right. Mercury is an assault on the planet and all of its inhabitants, and a refusal to be further poisoned is an inherent right. It is our responsibility, as citizens and consumers, to take accountability for our health, while pushing authorities to better address this issue. The Minamata Convention on Mercury, being a good first step. 

 

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By Haley Nagasaki

 

[1] R., Kessler. (2013). The Minamata Convention on Mercury, A First Step Towards Protecting Future Generations. Environmental Health Perspectives,121(10), 304.

[2] EnviroNews Nigeria 2017. Nine More Ratifications Left to Make Minamata Convention Legally Binding. Retrieved from http://www.environewsnigeria.com/nine-ratifications-left-make-minamata-convention-legally-binding/

[3] (ibid)

[4] Stevens, F., & DuPres Presman, P. (Producers). (2013, January 18). The Cove: Mercury Rising [Short Documentary]. Participant Media. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTD_MusLWTM

[5] (ibid)

[6] Park, J., & Zheng, W. (2012). Human Exposure and Health Effects of Inorganic and Elemental Mercury. J Prev Med Public Health, 45(6), 344-352. Doi:  10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.344

[7] (ibid)

[8] Park, J., & Zheng, W. (2012). Human Exposure and Health Effects of Inorganic and Elemental Mercury. J Prev Med Public Health, 45(6), pg. 345. Doi:  10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.344

[9] Cyran, M. (2013). Effect of Environmental Exposure to Mercury on the Functioning of the Human Body. Medycyna Srodowiskowa – Environmental Medicine, 16(3), 55-58. Retrieved July 03, 2017.

[10] Cyran, M. (2013). Effect of Environmental Exposure to Mercury on the Functioning of the Human Body. Medycyna Srodowiskowa – Environmental Medicine, 16(3), pg. 57. Retrieved July 03, 2017.

[11] Park, J., & Zheng, W. (2012). Human Exposure and Health Effects of Inorganic and Elemental Mercury. J Prev Med Public Health, 45(6), pg. 344. Doi:  10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.344

[12] Environmental Protection Agency. (2016, May 08). Reducing Mercury Pollution from Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining. Retrieved July 07, 2017, from https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/reducing-mercury-pollution-artisanal-and-small-scale-gold-mining

[13] Park, J., & Zheng, W. (2012). Human Exposure and Health Effects of Inorganic and Elemental Mercury. J Prev Med Public Health, 45(6), pg. 345. Doi:  10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.344

[14] Park, J., & Zheng, W. (2012). Human Exposure and Health Effects of Inorganic and Elemental Mercury. J Prev Med Public Health, 45(6), pg. 349. Doi:  10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.344

[15] Park, J., & Zheng, W. (2012). Human Exposure and Health Effects of Inorganic and Elemental Mercury. J Prev Med Public Health, 45(6), pg. 350. Doi:  10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.344

[16] (ibid)

[17] (ibid)

[18] Park, J., & Zheng, W. (2012). Human Exposure and Health Effects of Inorganic and Elemental Mercury. J Prev Med Public Health, 45(6), pg. 351. Doi:  10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.344

[19] Christensen, J. (2017, February 15). Thimerosal: Everything you need to Know About this Vaccine Preservative. Retrieved July 20, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/health/thimerosal-vaccine-preservative-explainer/index.html

[20] Collective Evolution. (2017, July 10). Dispelling Myths Regarding the use of Thimerosal in Vaccines. Retrieved July 20, 2017. From http://www.collective-evolution.com/2017/08/09/the-russian-president-prime-minister-both-mention-the-men-in-black-who-are-these-people/

[21] (ibid)

[22] CNN. (2008, March 07). Vaccine Case Draws New Attention to Autism Debate. Retrieved July 20, 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/03/06/vaccines.autism/index.html

[23] (ibid)

[24] Stevens, F., & DuPres Presman, P. (Producers). (2013, January 18). The Cove: Mercury Rising [Short Documentary]. Participant Media. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTD_MusLWTM

[25] Dr. Axe. (2017, January). Detox with Chelation Therapy – Help Your Heart & Brain. Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://draxe.com/chelation-therapy/