Mercury Poisoning


  • Mercury has many uses; but it also has many dangers, because it is incredibly toxic.
  • Mercury can cause brain damage and birth defects.  In recent years, it has been removed from childhood vaccines, and contact lens solutions.
  • Many products containing mercury have been banned such as Mercurochrome and Mercury thermometers.  Ironically, mercury is the major ingredient in silver fillings which contain more mercury than silver.   Mercury amalgam is also considered hazardous waste after it has been removed from a patient's mouth.  (reported by The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry of the U.S. Public Health Service)
  • CFL bulbs.  These new energy-saving bulbs use up to 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb and provide the same amount of light.  (LED light bulbs are about 85% more efficient than incandescent bulbs.)  However, CFL bulbs contain the toxic chemical mercury, and MUST be disposed of according to local, state and federal law.  http://lamprecycle.org 

    The CFL energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs have also been cited
    as a possible cause of migraines, seizures, and the aggravation of skin rashes in people with lupus, eczema, and dermatitis. 

  • More than 140 nations adopted a new and legally binding international treaty to reduce harmful emissions of mercury on  Saturday, January 19, 2013.  "It wil help us to protect human health and the environment all over the world," stated Swiss environment ambassador Franz Perrez. 

    The new accord aims to cut mercury pollution from mining, utility plants and a host of products and industrial processes, by setting enforceable limits and encouraging shifts to alternatives in which mercury is not used, released or emitted.

    Mercury cannot be created or destroyed.
      It is released into the air, water and land from small-scale artisanal gold mining, coal-powered plants, and from discarded electronic or consumer products such as electrical switches, thermostats and dental amalgam fillings.  Mercury compound goes into batteries, paints and skin-lightening creams.

    Because it concentrates and accumulates in fish and goes up the food chain, mercury poses the greatest risk of nerve damage to pregnant women, women of child-bearing age, and young children.  The World Health Organization has said there are no safe limits for the consumption of mercury and its compounds, which can also cause brain and kidney damage, memory loss and language impairment. 

    Governments also approved exceptions for some uses such as large measuring devices for which there are no mercury-free alternatives; vaccines where mercury is used as a preservative; and products used in religious or traditional activities.  ("More than 140 nations endorse treaty to cut mercury," by John Heilprin, Geneva, Associated Press, January 21, 2013)

  • If you are pregnant, nursing your child, or thinking about becoming pregnant, it is important that you avoid consuming too much methylmercury. This substance can be found in certain fish, and it can harm an unborn child's developing nervous system if eaten regularly.

    Avoid these four fish species:
    Shark, Swordfish, King mackerel and Tilefish

    You can eat a variety of kinds that are lower in mercury.
        This same advice should be followed when you're feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions.  Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are: Shrimp, Canned light tuna, Salmon, Pollock and Catfish.  Albacore ("White") tuna, has more mercury than canned light tuna.

    "Local Catch" Alert:
       Be sure and check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.  "Fresh and Frozen Seafood," U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm077331.htm

  • The SRHD warns people not to eat fish caught in the Spokane River between Upriver Dam and the Idaho state line.  Due to PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) contamination, fish in that stretch of river should be eaten no more than once a month.  Large-scale sucker and brown trout caught in Long Lake should also not be consumed more than once a month.  For more information on the safety of eating fish from our rivers, see below. 

What You Can Do
  • Disposing of CFL Bulbs.  CFL Bulbs containing mercury should be treated as hazardous waste and dropped off for FREE at any Spokane County transfer station.  
  • The EPA warns that if you break a CFL bulb, leave the room for 15 minutes and let it air out.  Do not vacuum the debris because that can release toxic dust into the air.  Use rubber gloves to scoop up the glass and mercury with cardboard, and throw the cardboard and broken glass in the trash (or preferably, place the fragments into a plastic bag, seal it, and take it to a recycling center).  You may also use tape to pick up the pieces on carpet.  Then, after you have removed everything visible, vacuum the area.  
  • Learn more about the danger of CFL bulbs by viewing House of Representative Ted Poe's insightful CFL bulb report at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv59PJ30WeM 
  • "Local Catch" Alert:   Be sure and check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.  "Fresh and Frozen Seafood," U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm077331.htm

  • Do NOT eat fish from the Spokane River.  The SRHD warns people not to eat fish caught in the Spokane River between Upriver Dam and the Idaho state line.  Due to PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) contamination, fish in that stretch of river should be eaten no more than once a month.  Large-scale sucker and brown trout caught in Long Lake should also not be consumed more than once a month.  
For more information on the safety of eating fish from our rivers, contact:
Spokane River Fish Advisory:
Spokane Regional Health District
Mike LaScuola, (509) 324-1574
http://cforjustice.org/2011/08/31/conclusion-eating-spokane-river-fish-is-a-public-health-hazard/

Fish Advisories in Washington State:
WA Department of Health
Toll-free 1-877-485-7316
http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/oehas/fish/default.htm
Additional Resources

CFL Bulbs.  Learn more about the danger of CFL bulbs by viewing House of Representative Ted Poe's insightful CFL bulb report at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv59PJ30WeM

ConsumerDangers.Com   
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Consumer products and Medical dangers.
Defective, unsafe, or harmful goods or products…
Baby/children products, drugs, medical devices,
household chemicals, televisions, furniture, gun safety....  
http://www.consumerdangers.com/

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  View products that could be harmful to children and families (from toys to chairs and drinking glasses), at http://cpsc.gov/.   Parents may also sign up to receive email alerts from this agency.   1-800-638-2772. 
Toxic Chemicals.  View information in the state of Washington:
http://pollutioninpeople.org
Washington State Dept. of Health
http://doh.wa.gov