Mercury in the Environment

Mercury becomes a problem for the environment when it is released from rock and ends up in the atmosphere and in water. These releases can happen naturally. Both volcanoes and forest fires send mercury into the atmosphere.

Human activities, however, are responsible for much of the mercury that is released into the environment. The burning of coal, oil and wood as fuel can cause mercury to become airborne, as can burning wastes that contain mercury.

This airborne mercury can fall to the ground in raindrops, in dust, or simply due to gravity (known as “air deposition”). The amount of mercury deposited in a given area depends on how much mercury is released from local, regional, national, and international sources.

Emissions from Power Plants

Since mercury occurs naturally in coal and other fossil fuels, when people burn these fuels for energy, the mercury becomes airborne and goes into the atmosphere. In the United States, power plants that burn coal to create electricity account for about half of all manmade mercury emissions Learn more about mercury from power plants

Other Causes of Mercury Air Emissions

  • Burning oil that contains mercury
  • Burning wood that contains mercury
  • Burning mercury-containing wastes, including
  • wastes from the manufacture of Portland cement
  • consumer products that contain mercury, like electronic devices, batteries, light bulbs and thermometers, that are thrown into garbage that is incinerated
  • Using certain technologies to produce chlorine
  • Breaking products that contain mercury
  • Burning iron ore, coke and limestone in electric arc furnaces used to produce steel
  • Using coal-fired boilers in many industries to generate forms of thermal heat like steam

The burning of municipal and medical waste was once a major source of mercury emissions. A reduction in the use of mercury along with state and federal regulations, however, has led to a decrease in emissions from this source by over 95%.

Trends in Air Emissions

Every year, industrial and commercial facilities are required to report their releases of chemicals through EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program. You can view a chart showing the annual amount of mercury emissions into the air from facilities throughout the United States from 2003 to the present.

Mercury Emissions around the Globe

What happens to mercury after it is emitted depends on several factors: the form of mercury emitted, the location of the emission source, how high above the landscape the mercury is released (for example, the height of a power-plant stack), the surrounding terrain, and the weather.

Depending on these factors, mercury in the atmosphere can be transported over a range of distances — anywhere from a few feet from its source, to halfway around the globe — before it is deposited in soil or water. Mercury that remains in the air for prolonged periods of time and travels across continents is said to be in the “global cycle.”
One major source of mercury emissions outside of the U.S. is small-scale gold mining that occurs in many countries.

Additional Resources

  • EPA’s Report on the Environment – Mercury Emissions
  • Mercury Study Report to Congress, Volume II: An Inventory of Anthropogenic [Human-Caused] Mercury Emissions in the United States
  • Mercury Emissions: The Global Context
  • Report: Children’s Exposure to Elemental Mercury (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry) (2009)

The Dangers of 5G to Children’s Health

By the Children’s Health Defense Team

 

Mobile and wireless technologies are a ubiquitous feature of modern life. Most U.S. adults own smartphones, a growing proportion are “smartphone-only” Internet users and over a fourth report being online “almost constantly.” As for children, a 2014 survey of high-income nations reported that almost seven in ten children used a mobile phone, and two-thirds of those had a smartphone, usually by age 10. As described by Nielsen, it is now as common to see “a kid with a smartphone in their hand” as it was to see “a kid playing with a yo-yo in the years before the digital age.”

The enthusiasm with which the public has embraced each new mobile and wireless technology—most of which have never undergone any appropriate safety testing or standards development—suggests that consumers rarely stop to consider the health implications of the infrastructure shoring up their ability to browse, stream and download anytime and “on the go.” Consumers are not entirely to blame for their lack of awareness—it is not easy to disentangle the technologies’ health risks in the face of the telecommunications industry’s steady and calculated disinformation efforts and a captured Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that “follows the script of fabulously wealthy, bullying, billion-dollar beneficiaries of wireless.”

… powerful 5G (fifth-generation) networks and technology are about to subject everyone, on a continuous basis, to unprecedented forms and amounts of mandatory irradiation—without prior study of the potential health impact or any assurance of safety.

Now, however, a global 5G “frenzy” is upon us and is coming into full force. The rollout of “blazing fast” 5G technology will “dramatically increase the number of transmitters sending signals to cellphones and a host of new Internet-enabled devices.” The time is ripe for greater grassroots awareness of the undisclosed tradeoffs between convenience and 5G’s potentially catastrophic health effects. Far from a simple “next-gen” upgrade, powerful 5G (fifth-generation) networks and technology are about to subject everyone, on a continuous basis, to unprecedented forms and amounts of what retired U.S. government physicist Dr. Ronald Powell calls “mandatory irradiation”—without “prior study of the potential health impact” or any assurance of safety. Considering that young people (with their smaller body mass and developing brains) are particularly vulnerable to radiation, the Environmental Health Trust has termed 5G “the next great unknown experiment on our children”—and the entire human population.

Early warnings

In fact, the “giant uncontrolled experiment” on children and adults has already begun, despite an urgent international appeal by tens of thousands of scientists, doctors, environmental organizations and citizens calling for a halt to 5G deployment. In 2018, telecom carriers in the U.S. and Europe began rolling out 5G technology in dozens of cities. Focusing (for now) on “dense urban and high-traffic areas” in the U.S., AT&T began positioning its 5G infrastructure in major cities in eight states, and Verizon started offering 5G home broadband service in “select neighborhoods” in a handful of cities.

… health problems such as insomnia, miscarriage, memory problems and other neurological issues, and there are widespread reports of annihilation of insect and bird populations.

For the most part, health concerns have ranked as a tiny footnote in the midst of the massive hoopla about 5G’s speed and capacity, although trade magazines admit that there may be “some objections” to 5G due to “concerns over potential health risks.” In both Europe and the U.S., however, individuals living and working in proximity to newly installed 5G towers and antennas are telling a different story. Many have immediately started experiencing health problems such as insomnia, miscarriage, memory problems and other neurological issues, and there are widespread reports of annihilation of insect and bird populations.

A United Nations whistleblower recently drew attention to 5G’s dramatic impact on health in a widely circulated series of comments about 5G’s “seemingly overnight” rollout in Vienna, Austria. Describing 5G as a “silent war,” she commented:

“…Children are the most vulnerable to 5G depredation because of their little bodies. Friends and acquaintances and their children in Vienna are already reporting the classic symptoms of EMR [electromagnetic radiation] poisoning: nosebleeds, headaches, eye pains, chest pains, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, tinnitus, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, and cardiac pain. They also report a tight band around the head; pressure on the top of the head; short, stabbing pains around the body; and buzzing internal organs.”

Current reports about 5G’s health risks should have been anticipated based on warning signs dating back to 2G cellular technology. In a 2004 pilot study involving functional brain scans of fire fighters who had worked for up to five years in fire stations with 2G cell towers, the researchers concluded that the only plausible explanation for the firefighters’ symptoms—“slowed reaction time, lack of focus, lack of impulse control, severe headaches, anesthesia-like sleep, sleep deprivation, depression, and tremors”—was the radiofrequency radiation exposure from the towers. The International Association of Fire Fighters then went on record as opposing “the use of fire stations as base stations for towers and/or antennas for the conduction of cell phone transmissions until a study with the highest scientific merit and integrity…is conducted and it is proven that such sightings are not hazardous to the health of our members.”

Above and below

One of the novel dangers introduced by 5G technology is its reliance on high-frequency millimeter waves (MMWs), a bountiful and not previously commercialized portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. While 5G’s enthusiasts are quick to promise support for literally billions of devices, there is one catch—the shorter millimeter wavelengths cannot travel as far as the lower frequencies used for earlier generations of mobile technology. Thus, while there were about 300,000 wireless antennas on U.S. cell towers and buildings as of 2016 (a doubling since 2002), 5G will require “exponentially more”—millions of small cell towers every 500 feet “on every street corner.”

… even in the home environment, 5G technology [will] blast through walls and cribs, making a mockery of the notion that ‘your home is your castle’ in which you are supposed to be safe.

Organizations concerned about the health hazards of wireless radiation note that “Right now, you don’t have to live next to a cell tower….but once they have these [5G] cell antennas everywhere, you won’t be able to [move away].” Unfortunately, the “nowhere to hide” aspects of 5G are even more serious, because ground-based 5G systems will be supplemented by satellite-based systems. In March, 2018, the FCC approved the initial launch of over 4,400 low-Earth-orbit 5G communication satellites, to be followed by thousands more over the next two years—with the eventual result being 11 times more satellites orbiting the Earth than currently. The satellites will send “tightly focused beams of intense microwave radiation at each specific 5G device that is on the Earth,” while each device then sends “a beam of radiation back to the satellite.”

In practical terms, this means that in crowded locations such as airports, individuals’ bodies “will be penetrated by numerous beams of radiation as they walk or as other people walk around them with their 5G smartphones.” But even in the home environment, “5G technology [will] blast through walls and cribs,” making a mockery of “the notion that ‘your home is your castle’ in which you are supposed to be safe.”

More than skin-deep

Scientists, doctors and experts from around the world have issued repeated warnings about 5G’s risks, drawing on published research on MMWs as well as thousands of studies showing the harms caused by other mobile and wireless technologies.

In this context, industry and government claims that 5G technology is safe are completely disingenuous. In fact, the health effects of MMWs are already quite familiar to the U.S. military and defense agencies around the world. The U.S. has at its disposal non-lethal crowd control weapon systems (euphemistically named Active Denial Systems) that use millimeter waves to penetrate the skin of targeted individuals, “instantly producing an intolerable heating sensation that causes them to flee.” In research commissioned by the U.S. Army “to find out why people ran away when the beam touched them,” they discovered that targets “feel like [their] body is on fire.” Researchers also have warned that “the same parts of the human skin that allow us to sweat also respond to 5G radiation much like an antenna that can receive signals.”

Moratorium urgently needed

When the FCC endorsed the transition to 5G in 2016, then-Chairman Tom Wheeler (a former telecom industry lobbyist) vowed “to allow new [5G] technologies and innovations to evolve and flourish without needlessly prescriptive regulations.” Thus, even though 5G represented a radical shift in technology, the FCC proposed no further safety studies, instead continuing to rely on its “outdated, excessively permissive, and thus widely criticized, radiation-exposure guidelines that…are based primarily on a 30-year-old analysis…many years before the emergence of most of the digital wireless technology in use today.” A recent government study by the National Toxicology Program—which determined that cell phone radiation causes cancer—deemed the three-decade-old guidelines “unprotective.”

… children who began using either cordless or mobile phones regularly before age 20 had more than a fourfold increased brain tumor risk.

5G poses risks to all life on the planet—people, animals, insects and plants. However, it is clear that fetuses and children are among the most vulnerable members of the human population. Even prior to 5G, Swedish researchers concluded that “children are indeed more susceptible to the effects of EMF exposure at microwave frequencies” and reported that children who began using “either cordless or mobile phones regularly before age 20” had more than a fourfold increased brain tumor risk. Describing brain cancer as “the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg,’” the researchers also observed that “no other environmental carcinogen has produced evidence of an increased risk in just one decade.”

The UN whistleblower states, “People’s first reaction to the idea that 5G may be an existential threat to all life on Earth is usually disbelief and/or cognitive dissonance. Once they examine the facts, however, their second reaction is often terror. We need to transcend this in order to see 5G as an opportunity to empower ourselves, take responsibility and take action.” Some of the actions that people have taken include signing the International Appeal; learning about the multiple reasons to be concerned about 5G radiation and telling others; talking to legislators about why rushing legislation that streamlines the deployment of 5G small cells is a bad idea (and also raising the awareness of legislators and state utility commissions about the risks of smart meters); and changing their relationship to their devices, including using wired rather than wireless Internet connections (or turning off WiFi routers at night) and adopting other simple steps.

5G promises to create an even “denser soup of electrosmog,” with incalculable health effects. In fact, any sane person who examines the evidence must concur with the authors and over 40,000 signatories of the International Appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space, who agree that the rush to blanket the planet with 5G “constitutes an experiment on humanity and the environment that is defined as a crime under international law.”

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12 Reasons Why Even Low Levels of Glyphosate are Unsafe

By Zen Honeycutt, Founding Executive Director Mom’s Across America, Children’s Heath Defense Coalition Partner

 

Proponents of GMOs and Glyphosate-based herbicides and staunch believers in the EPA have long argued that low levels of glyphosate exposure are safe for humans. Even our own EPA tells us that Americans can consume 17 times more glyphosate in our drinking water than European residents. The EWG asserts that 160 ppb of glyphosate found in breakfast cereal is safe for a child to consume due to their own safety assessments, and yet renowned scientists and health advocates have long stated that no level is safe.  Confusion amongst consumers and the media is rampant.

Glyphosate is the declared active chemical ingredient in Roundup and Ranger Pro, which are both manufactured by Monsanto, the original manufacturer of Agent Orange and DDT. There are 750 brands of glyphosate-based herbicides. Glyphosate based herbicides are the most widely used in the world and residues of glyphosate have been found in tap water, children’s urine, breast milk, chips, snacks, beer, wine, cereals, eggs, oatmeal, wheat products, and most conventional foods tested.

The detection of glyphosate in these foods has set off alarms of concern in households and food manufacturers’ offices around the world. Lawsuits have sprung up against companies that make food products that claim to be “100% Natural” and yet contain glyphosate residues. These lawsuits have been successful. Debates, using the argument that “the dose makes the poison,” have been pushed by media. Speculation is that these media outlets are funded by advertisers that make or sell these chemicals or have sister companies that do, and threatening their profits would be unwise for all involved – except the consumers.

It is time to set the record straight

Here are 12 reasons why there is no safe level of glyphosate herbicide residue in our food or beverages.

  1. Babies, toddlers, and young children have kidneys and livers which are underdeveloped and do not have the ability to detox toxins the way adults do. Their bodies are less capable of eliminating toxins and therefore are particularly susceptible. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that children, especially, should avoid pesticides because, “prenatal and early childhood exposure to pesticides is associated with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems.”
  2. Glyphosate does not wash, dry or cook off, and has been shown to bioaccumulate in the bone marrow, tendons and muscle tissue. Bioaccumulation of low levels over time will result in levels which we cannot predict or determine; therefore there is no scientific basis to state that the low levels are not dangerous, as they can accumulate to high levels in an unforeseeable amount of time.
  3. “There is no current reliable way to determine the incidence of pesticide exposure and illness in US children.” -AAP  Children are exposed through food, air, contact with grass and pets. How much they are being exposed to daily from all these possibilities is simply not something that we have been able to determine. Therefore no one is capable of assessing what levels are safe from any one modality of exposure because an additional low level from other modalities could add up to a high level of exposure.
  4. Ultra-low levels of glyphosate herbicides have been proven to cause non-alcoholic liver disease in a long term animal study by Michael Antoniou, Giles Eric Seralini et al.  The levels the rats were exposed to, per kg of body weight, were far lower than what is allowed in our food supply. According to the Mayo Clinic 100 million, or 1 out of 3 Americans now have liver disease. These diagnoses are in some as young as 8 years old.
  5. Ultra-low levels of glyphosate have been shown to be  endocrine and hormone disrupting. Changes to hormones can lead to birth defects, miscarriage, autoimmune disease, cancer, mental and chronic illness.
  6. The  EPA Allowable Daily Intake Levels (ADIs) of glyphosate exposure were set for a 175-pound man, not a pregnant mother, infant, or child.
  7. Glyphosate alone has been shown to be chronically toxic causing organ and cell damage. Glyphosate herbicides final formulations, have been shown to be acutely toxic, causing immediate damage at low levels.
  8. The detection of glyphosate at low levels could mean the presence of the other toxic ingredients in glyphosate herbicides on our food. Until studies are done, one must practice the Precautionary Principle. The label on glyphosate herbicides does not specify the pesticide class or “other”/“inert” ingredients that may have significant acute toxicity and can account for up to 54% of the product.
  9. Regarding the label and low-level exposure: “Chronic toxicity information is not included, and labels are predominantly available in English. There is significant use of illegal pesticides (especially in immigrant communities), off-label use, and overuse, underscoring the importance of education, monitoring, and enforcement.” – AAP. Exposure to low levels of glyphosate herbicides can occur through pregnant wives or children hugging the father who is a pesticide applicator.  The chronic health impacts such as rashes which can, years later, result in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, are often ignored, especially by low income or non-English speaking users dependent on their pesticide application occupation for survival.
  10. The EPA has admitted to not having any long-term animal studies with blood analysis on the final formulation of any glyphosate herbicides.  The EPA cannot state that the final formulation is safe.
  11. For approval of pesticides and herbicides, the EPA only requires safety studies, by the manufacturer who benefits from the sales, on the one declared active chemical ingredient—in this case glyphosate. Glyphosate is never used alone.
  12. The main manufacturer, Monsanto, has been found to be guilty on all counts by a San Francisco Supreme Court Jury in the Johnson v Monsanto. This includes guilty of “malice and oppression” which means that the company executives knew that their glyphosate products could cause cancer and suppressed this information from the public.

Clearly, it is time for food and beverage manufacturers to have a zero tolerance for glyphosate residue levels and for the US EPA and regulatory agencies everywhere to stop ignoring the science and to revoke the license of glyphosate immediately.

Moms Across America is a 501c3 non profit organization whose motto is “Empowered Moms, Healthy Kids.”

Republishing Guidelines

EPA Guidelines for Exposure

Fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. The broken bulb can continue to release mercury vapor until it is cleaned up and removed from the residence.

To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described below. This cleanup guidance represents the minimum actions recommended to clean up a broken CFL, and will be updated as EPA identifies more effective cleanup practices.

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EPA Clean up and Disposal of CFLs

Fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. The broken bulb can continue to release mercury vapor until it is cleaned up and removed from the residence.

To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described below. This cleanup guidance represents the minimum actions recommended to clean up a broken CFL, and will be updated as EPA identifies more effective cleanup practices.

View/Download PDF