Coal industry taking steps to reduce toxic mercury exposure

Those in Los Angeles and Orange County who eat a lot of seafood may want to take note of one report on mercury exposure coming out of the Midwest. The amount of this toxic metal exposure is being greatly reduced by the coal mining industry. In fact, they have reduced the amount of mercury sent through their smokestacks by over 50 percent in the past 15 years while hoping to reduce that number by another 75 percent by 2016.

Coal-fired power plants have greatly improved the technologies that they use to cipher out mercury from their smokestacks in recent years and while it has gone a long way in reducing local coal produced mercury exposure; hazards with the material still exist worldwide. This is because while the United States and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working towards reducing this type of pollution, the rest of the world may not be, and mercury floats through the atmosphere before falling in rain and snow from places as far away as Asia.

When mercury enters the atmosphere, it falls back down to the ground as methylmercury and lands in water sources thus exposing fish and other water dwelling creatures. When humans consume exposed seafood or animals that have fed off of seafood, they themselves become exposed to the greater amounts of mercury as well. This is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children as it can harm brain and nervous system functionality in the young.

The global market is taking steps to reduce mercury exposure throughout the world, but it may be decades before the effects of those steps are seen in significant levels. Until then, if someone is exposed to high level of mercury or other toxic exposure that leads to illness or injury, they should contact an attorney who practices in that area of the law. They will be able to help determine what legal options and remedies may be available due to such exposure.

Source: Duluth News Tribune, “Minnesota coal plants cut mercury in half,” John Myers, Feb. 19, 2013

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