Mercury fingered in Permian-Triassic extinction

Hmmm. This sounds a bit like a sales pitch against “dirty coal” in support of the recent EPA Mercury ruling instead of regular geological research. I question this research claim because they only have evidence that there were spikes of Mercury during those events, not that they caused or accelerated the extinctions. The PR states: “they have discovered a new culprit likely involved in the annihilation…”  but that’s an assumption on their part. Further, no one has a good handle (though they claim volcanoes set coal beds on fire) on what actually caused the PT extinction event. A number of theories on what caused the PT event abound, and the science is not settled.

From the University of Calgary

This graphic shows historical variations of Mercury (Hg) deposition before and after the Latest Permian Extinction event as recorded in a sedimentary section in the High Arctic, Canada. The vertical axis demonstrates the depth of the sedimentary section relative to the extinction boundary while the horizontal looks at the amount of mercury accumulation (concentration in the rock) as measured in milligram per kilogram. Credit: Hamed Sanei, Steve Grasby and Benoit Beauchamp. (Sanei et al., 2012, Geology). -CLICK TO ENLARGE

Earth’s massive extinction: The story gets worse

New finding on mercury-volcanic link could re-write history on past annihilations

Scientists have uncovered a lot about the Earth’s greatest extinction event that took place 250 million years ago when rapid climate change wiped out nearly all marine species and a majority of those on land. Now, they have discovered a new culprit likely involved in the annihilation: an influx of mercury into the eco-system.

“No one had ever looked to see if mercury was a potential culprit. This was a time of the greatest volcanic activity in Earth’s history and we know today that the largest source of mercury comes from volcanic eruptions,” says Dr. Steve Grasby, co-author of a paper published this month in the journal Geology. “We estimate that the mercury released then could have been up to 30 times greater than today’s volcanic activity, making the event truly catastrophic.”

Grasby is a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada and an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary.

Dr. Benoit Beauchamp, professor of geology at the University of Calgary, says this study is significant because it’s the first time mercury has been linked to the cause of the massive extinction that took place during the end of the Permian.

“Geologists, including myself should be taking notes and taking another look at the other five big extinction events,” says Beauchamp, also a co-author.

During the late Permian, the natural buffering system in the ocean became overloaded with mercury contributing to the loss of 95 per cent of life in the sea.

“Typically, algae acts like a scavenger and buries the mercury in the sediment, mitigating the effect in the oceans,” says lead-author Dr. Hamed Sanei, research scientist at Natural Resources Canada and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary. “But in this case, the load was just so huge that it could not stop the damage.”

About 250 million years ago, a time long before dinosaurs ruled and when all land formed one big continent, the majority of life in the ocean and on land was wiped out. The generally accepted idea is that volcanic eruptions burned though coal beds, releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins. Direct proof of this theory was outlined in a paper that was published by these same authors last January in Nature Geoscience.

The mercury deposition rates could have been significantly higher in the late Permian when compared with today’s human-caused emissions. In some cases, levels of mercury in the late Permian ocean was similar to what is found near highly contaminated ponds near smelters, where the aquatic system is severely damaged, say researchers.

“We are adding to the levels through industrial emissions. This is a warning for us here on Earth today,” adds Beauchamp. Canada has taken a lead role in reducing emissions internationally. In North America, at least, there has been a steady decline through regulations controlling mercury.

No matter what happens, this study shows life’s tenacity. “The story is one of recovery as well. After the system was overloaded and most of life was destroyed, the oceans were still able to self clean and we were able to move on to the next phase of life,” says Sanei.

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104 thoughts on “Mercury fingered in Permian-Triassic extinction

  1. “but that’s an assumption on their part”
    AKA speculation. As in scientists speculating with inadequate or non-existent evidence, and expsecting everyone to accept it, just because the are scientists.
    You pegged it, Anthony. When they act like scientists, we will treat them with respect. If not… there is such a thing as skepticism.

  2. Hey, we found a rock at the PT boundary! Stop the presses! All the animals died from a rock fight! /snarc

  3. Maybe the dental amalgam from all the dead and decaying dinosaurs caused the mercury to spike ? They should have had them removed……
    Kevin

  4. The takeaway is stop volcanoes now. With just a simple regulation by the EPA these damnable features of the Earth could be wiped out.

  5. Unfortunately, what is coal today were the plants that were living during that period. They were not coal and were green growing in a very heated earth environment due to the star we call our sun in a very robust, warming period. Those plants became what is coal today. Mercury was a natural occuring element back then as it is today. I would bet there is only a finite amount of mercury on the planet yet today and no new mercury is being made, but I could be wrong.

  6. They have to be kidding. Are we to believe that all this myriad of life developed on earth through massive volcanism, and other geologic change, and then suddenly the volcanoes got to the Mercury mines, and started spewing out Mercury, to wipe out life.
    Does anybody out there know, or know of, anybody who ever died from Mercury poisoning. I used to play with pounds of raw liquid Mercury when I was a lab assistant in high school. spilled a good bit of it on the wooden floor and plenty disappeared down into cracks between the T&G floor boards.
    Never heard of anybody even getting sick.

  7. I have always suspected that the mass suicide of all the dinosaurs probably attracted a big rock from outer space and caused it to fall on the planet….

  8. Isn’t releasing the mercury in coal just the restoration of the natural environment of the Earth?

  9. If we were able to go back to the end of Permian and walk the landscape- I don’t think we would have required AA spectrophotometry analyses to know life was in real danger. The Siberian Traps would have been difficult to ignore. Additionally, the end of Permian extinction killed 90% of the life forms on earth- above and below the water surface. And required some 30 million years before life was able to kick back into high gear. Hard to believe mercury describes the totality of this terrestrial and aquatic devastation. (This wasn’t your World Wildlife Federation type of extinction event- the end of Permian saw nearly 60% of all families disappear.)
    I’m not sure how the “huge load” makes it more difficult for the mercury to be recycled to the sediments. The abundance of sulfides and H2SO4 should also have expedited bacterial mediated precipitation in addition to algae. There are any number of other precipitation chemistries.
    My bet is that as soon as the new mercury rules pass from political view – we’ll return to the methane clathrate scare or CO2 scare as the end of Permian Morality Tale. This is classic Regulatory inspired just in time research.

  10. “About 250 million years ago, a time long before dinosaurs ruled and when all land formed one big continent, the majority of life in the ocean and on land was wiped out. The generally accepted idea is that volcanic eruptions burned though coal beds, releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins. ”
    So CO2 is a deadly toxin for these “scientists”? Interesting. Yesterday I drove through heavy showers of deadly dihydrogenmonoxid raining from the sky, probably acidic. Only my car prevented me from suffocating while simultaneously being dissolved.

  11. A well placed large rocky body from space could toss all kinds of stressful molecules, elements and compounds into the air, especially if one hit an early vast coal deposit. Such an impact would create a very deadly climate changing event, even agitating volcanoes as well. The mercury released would be either also deadly or just incidental. But all told, a very unpleasant day.
    Hits Happen.

  12. What if all the mercury escapes from all the Algole CFL lightbulbs…at once like in a big earthquake or something? What no danger from ‘ManBearPig’ lightbulbs? Ignore the EPA warnings?
    I have know clue about this stuff, just being Silly Goose…but that sounds too feminine…but then again Bambi was a buck…see what I mean?

  13. RE: George Smith, “Does anybody out there know, or know of, anybody who ever died from Mercury poisoning.”
    Actually, yes, in three ways, but it is usually from mercury vapor.
    1 – Dentists used to use a device called an amalgamtor (sp?) which violently shook together silver and mercury to make the amalgam with which they filled teeth (grey/silver looking fillings). Usually the dentists and/or their staff went nuts first. Patients were not usually effected because they were not around the vapors enough.
    2 – Mercury gilding was a process used years ago to (guess what?) guild metals using mercury, gold and heat. Again, vapors to blame. Same scenario.
    3- Everybody’s heard of the “Mad Hatter.” In past centuries, mercury was used in the production of felt. Hat-makes went crazy, then died.
    Oh, and BTW, in past times people took mercury orally as a laxative. Taken that way it passes through the body without doing (much) harm
    Not that any of this makes this new paper necessarily credible. Just some interesting trivia about mercury. LOL

  14. Sounds like they’re trying to make cases for the repeal of the ban on incandescent light bulbs and perhaps a ban on CF light bulbs.

  15. Gosh, does this mean that all these mercury-laden light bulbs we’re being forced to put in our homes might be a BAD idea?

  16. So, dinosaurs burnt dirty coal, caused them to get sick and die…… because of the evil mercury they released. Ok, got that. Bastards probably drove SUVs, too!!! Serves them right!
    Or, we could interpret this as, there is very little we can do about the freaking mercury. Natural processes put out more than what we can. Moreover, mercury isn’t a big issue. Nor will it be if we continue to burn coal in the same manner we have in the last 40 years!!!!
    Or, maybe people are dying left and right from mercury poisoning and the gubment is keeping it a secret from all of us!!! My God! What a delusional, paranoid, scared of our own shadow, society we’ve become. This isn’t how it was intended for us to live.

  17. George E. Smith; says:
    January 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm
    Never heard of anybody even getting sick.
    Table salt is made from two deadly chemicals. Yet we feed it to defenseless children. Clearly we need to ban salt as well as mercury compounds. How many countless lives were saved over the years by Mercurochrome? Removed because of fear driven junk science:
    “The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed it from the “generally recognized as safe” and into the “untested” classification to effectively halt its distribution in the United States in 1998 over fears of potential mercury poisoning.[3][4] It is readily available in most other countries.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merbromin

  18. ….and exactly what are your plans when the sky falls
    That explains all of the life that survived and continued evolving…..
    …obviously a great resistance to mercury poisoning
    So we’re all safe now…….

  19. @ James Sexton Loved the conspiracy theorist reference. Most anti-conspiracy theorists call climate change skeptics CTs…but that’s funny, considering that most are just ordinary people, LOL.
    But indeed, what a shameful society.

  20. I noted the Green PR machine had had its brief changed to include and emphasise mercury from coal.
    I suspect that this is ‘retaliation’ for the terrible drubbing Greenies have been getting for promoting mercury filled light bulbs.
    Doesn’t matter what the truth is…they are firefighting on all fronts.
    Think of a playground argument.
    Your light bulbs are full of mercury.
    Well your coal fired power stations are producing mercury…so yah boo…sucks to you!
    A fascinating exchange.

  21. I seem to recall that CO2 was at a low point prior to that extinction. Also, there is evidence of lots of fungal growth leading up to it and even more during it. Where is the sweet spot for CO2, exactly? Anyone who claims to know this is a liar.

  22. “releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins”
    CO2 is a deadly toxin? who knew, it’s a miracle that we all exhale CO2 yet still live.

  23. @ AnonyMoose
    “No, not deaf. Daft!” said the white rabbit to the mouse, er…moose.

  24. page488 says: “…Oh, and BTW, in past times people took mercury orally as a laxative. Taken that way it passes through the body without doing (much) harm….”
    It was not mercury but mercurous chloride that was used as a laxative. I don’t recall any direct evidence that it killed anybody, but it was discontinued on general principles, given that there were a number of alternatives.
    My father had a patient who died of severe intestinal perforation. There was no way to prove it, but my father always believed that the man had been poisoned by mercuric chloride (or similar compound) contained in a box of candy sent by a former girlfriend. A tragic case.
    I heard that the mercury vapor concentration directly above the floor in UCLA chemistry labs reached toxic levels as a result of miscellaneous spills, broken thermometers, mercury manometers, etc. Again, no fatalities known to me.

  25. So if high mercury levels caused a mass die off – then where are all the fossils of deformed/mutated plants and anumals from that period?

  26. I recalled correctly, assuming Geocarb3 has any merit. Now the scary thing is, approaching the P/T boundary levels were possibly on par with what they are today (< 500 ppm). There are only two segments of Earth history where it appears it was below 500 ppm (let alone, below 1000 ppm) – the Permian, and, the late Triassic to present. YIKES!
    In other words, the herd are worrying about the wrong thing. It is not increasing CO2 levels that should worry us, it is being below 500 or even 1000 ppm. This may be a highly unstable state, one which could easily incite a mass die off of photosynthesis driven organisms. It would seem that the biosphere may actually be in a marginal and dangerous state at such a low CO2 level.

  27. The radical greens are nothing if not consistent. According to them the only meaningful arbiter of an idea’s truth is its utility. This story I predict will have legs because of how useful it is in blaming coal for a whole litany of evils.

  28. Wow, this thing is so full of holes a Mad Hatter could drive a semi through it. Coal, especially in the New World began forming from peat a little under 300 million years ago.
    Mercury occurs in deposits throughout the world mostly as cinnabar (mercuric sulfide). The red pigment vermilion is mostly obtained by reduction from cinnabar. Cinnabar is highly toxic by ingestion or inhalation of the dust. Mercury poisoning can also result from exposure to water-soluble forms of mercury (such as mercuric chloride or methylmercury), inhalation of mercury vapor, or eating seafood contaminated with mercury.
    Roasted cinnabar in abandoned mercury mines is a serious health danger, but all of these things require the intervention of a rational, thinking creature to extract it, compound it, or refine it in order to bring it to lethal levels.

  29. “… Earth’s greatest extinction event that took place 250 million years ago when rapid climate change wiped out nearly all marine species and a majority of those on land.”
    Qe?

  30. Thank you page488! Very lucid recounting. While I have no problem with less mercury being in my environment I’m quite certain Mr Watts is on to something. Now that CO2 is fading as a “serious threat” they (environazis) do need a new horse for this race. The old CO2 one is being flogged even though all life signs ceased a while back. Fishing expedition? Perhaps.
    I am concerned about real pollutants like mercury as it can be proven without a doubt to cause problems when in certain forms and dosages. It can also be used safely but is serious business. Anyone who glibly brushes it off can have my share.

  31. RE: George Smith, “Does anybody out there know, or know of, anybody who ever died from Mercury poisoning.”
    1. The residents of Minamata
    2. Newton was loaded with the stuff. Massive amounts were found in his body after death. At least they waited until he was mad as a hatter before electing him to parliament.

  32. RE: jorgekafkazar says: “It was not mercury but mercurous chloride that was used as a laxative.”
    Actually, pure mercury mixed with only sugar was used as a laxative a long time ago.

  33. Regarding mercury poisoning … it has a number of extremely unpleasant effects on the nervous system. Half a century ago, many residents of the Japanese town of Minamata were poisoned by ingesting inorganic methyl-mercury, which was being discharged from a seaside industrial plant and accumulating in local fish.
    There’s also a nightmarish story I heard a few years ago and unfortunately can’t relocate, of a research doctor or lab tech who had a lab accident and absorbed some mercury through her skin. It killed her … eventually, slowly, and very painfully.
    On the subject of the Permo-Triassic extinction: I echo the skepticism over this latest “cause of the extinction.” In twenty years of following paleontology I’ve seen dozens of explanations offered for mass extinctions — usually the K-T extinction, but in recent years the others have gotten more attention. Most of these ‘explanations’ are Just-So stories with little or no direct evidence. Looking for one cause of a mass extinction – any mass extinction – is IMHO no more likely to be successful than is looking for one cause for cancer, or one source of climate change. There were certainly many factors at work, including some we don’t yet know about.

  34. “”””” AnonyMoose says:
    January 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm
    George E. Smith: “Never heard of anybody even getting sick.”
    So mercury made you deaf? “””””
    Well Moose, if cutting all four legs off bullfrogs makes therm stone deaf, so they won’t jump no matter how loud you holler at them; then I figure it might have been that Mercury, that made me deaf.
    Now I remember that that was also when I decided to make myself a collection of ALL of the 92 then known elements; I figured, I could just seal each of the samples in small glass tubes, sealed at both ends (about 1/8th inch dia.)
    Now encapsulating a bit of #8 Copper wire, and aluminium wire, was a piece of cake, but when I tried to seal off the other end of the tube full of Mercury, with a Bunsen burner, the damn stuff kept boiling, and blowing out the end of the tube. Maybe that’s why I am half daft now.
    In any case my teeth are full of fillings of fulminate of Mercury or some such, and just today, my dentist said he could replace them with some cheapo plastic stuff, that just looks like teeth. I figure I won’t last another 1/4 century, with those poisonous teeth, so I may take him up on the exchange.

  35. The volcanism at the end of the Permian was far larger, far longer, far more extensive, and far more violent than anything like it since. It happened over hundreds of thousands of years, maybe more. (It is no coincidence that the continents were all together-suggesting unstable mantle-convection-crustal relationships when most of the continental plates are all together). But if it takes that much volcanism, that long, to do that kind of damage, then why are we worried about ~100 years of SUV exhaust?, and some rather tiny ‘carbon volcanoes’ (ie coal fired power stations).
    As for mercury, it doesn’t turn the rocks red, which they are at the end of the Permian in NSW, as well as the Karoo in South Africa-indicating hothouse conditions. Mercury wasnt the main cause, heat was, and over a very long time period, not some puny few hundred years of human coal burning with a little mercury.

  36. You have to wonder when people who talk about the extinction of 95% of species make statements like this:
    “,,,,,,,,releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins……..”
    CO2 is a deadly toxin? I guess they skipped a few classes on plant biology so they could attend EPA press conferences.

  37. “”””” Dr K.A. Rodgers says:
    January 5, 2012 at 7:27 pm
    RE: George Smith, “Does anybody out there know, or know of, anybody who ever died from Mercury poisoning.”
    1. The residents of Minamata
    2. Newton was loaded with the stuff. Massive amounts were found in his body after death. At least they waited until he was mad as a hatter before electing him to parliament. “””””
    Well I’ve never heard of the people of Minamata, so maybe all their death certificates do say they died from Mercury poisoning, and are no longer with us. I wonder why my Doctors, when I was a kid, used to administer a toxic does of Mercurchrome, every time I scuffed up my knee or big toe.
    So does Newton’s death certificate say he died from Mercury poisoning; maybe that’s why Obama wants us all to switch to Mercury fluorescent lamps. Why don’t they use a different source of ultra-violent radiation, instead of Mercury, if people are so worried about it.

  38. Well it seems that the Minimata people were poisoned by Methyl Mercury.
    I only played around with elemental Mercury. Seems like lead poisoning is about the same; putting a lead sinker on your fishing line won’t kill either you or the fish, but if you chew on White Lead Oxide painted stuff, it might harm you.
    Gallium Arsenide doesn’t seem to be too obnoxious either, but Arsenic is not good for you, although some living things can thrive on the stuff.
    I’m pretty sure that Polonium 210 is not good for you.

  39. I understand the Siberian Traps were the site of massive volcanic eruptions and lava flows for up to one million years. If that’s the case I’ll bet mercury poisoning was the least of the earth’s living organisms worries!

  40. Beauchamp, a competent Canadian arctic geologist is riding a fine line these days… the moment he crosses to advocacy his career might do well but his reputation not so much. Good luck Benoit!

  41. I am no scientist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. And even though I am not a scientist, I don’t think I am a dummy, I remember a few things from my high school chemistry class. Either the report is nonsensical or they are just very sloppy with their language. The article says the extinction may have been caused by “an influx of mercury into the eco-system”. Well isn’t mercury an element? Doesn’t the same amount exist today as existed a billion years ago? Is the universe creating more? Is it being imported from other planets?
    Maybe they don’t mean elemental mercury, maybe they mean mercury alloys and compunds, but then why don’t they be specific and say that. And besides are there any more of those than in the past? And if it is one of the compounds of mercury, heaven’t they all been around a long time in roughly the same quantities?
    I don’t get it.

  42. wolfwalker says:
    January 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm
    “There’s also a nightmarish story I heard a few years ago and unfortunately can’t relocate, of a research doctor ”
    “Karen Wetterhahn (October 16, 1948 – June 8, 1997) was a well-known professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, who specialized in toxic metal exposure. She made national headlines when mercury poisoning claimed her life at the age of 48 due to accidental exposure to the organic mercury compound dimethylmercury (Hg(CH3)2). She was the Albert Bradley Third Century Professor in the Sciences at Dartmouth College.” per wikipedia

  43. About 250 million years ago, a time long before dinosaurs ruled and when all land formed one big continent, the majority of life in the ocean and on land was wiped out. The generally accepted idea is that volcanic eruptions burned though coal beds, releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins. Direct proof of this theory was outlined in a paper that was published by these same authors last January in Nature Geoscience.
    Always, always, some carbon-based fuel is the problem. Well, as a geologist I can tell you that the probablility of a volcano coming up through a coal bed is pretty low. I can also tell you that the amount of coal that would be burned in such an occurrence would also be pretty low. Indeed, I understand all the fossil fuels we have currently have could be burned and they’d only increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere to about 600 ppm, which is nothing, really. It takes 10,000 ppm before CO2 becomes a problem for humans and other mammals. Their inclusion of “other deadly toxins” from burning coal beds is a mystery–sure burning coal puts other pollutants into the air, but the way coal beds are sandwiched between sedimentary strata (that’s what makes them coal, btw), it’s hard to imagine that the above scenario is realistic.

  44. Shooter says:
    January 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm
    @ James Sexton Loved the conspiracy theorist reference. Most anti-conspiracy theorists call climate change skeptics CTs…but that’s funny, considering that most are just ordinary people, LOL.
    But indeed, what a shameful society.
    ======================================================
    Thanks Shooter! Sometimes I think no one reads my comments. 🙂

  45. OMG! The science is not settled on what happened 250,000,000 years ago! How can that be? They’ve has all that time to figure it out. Maybe it’s in our genetic memory. We need to see a medium!
    It would take a ridiculous amount of mercury to alter its concentration in the oceans enough to do what they say. But, in a deck where half the cards are Jokers, they can make up anything they want.

  46. Zachary has a link to the original. lots more to read and respond to:
    5 Jan: PlanetSave: Zachary Shahan: Republican Presidential Candidates Win Climate B.S. of the Year Award
    Climate scientists and communicators got together to come up with a list of 2011′s biggest climate B.S.-spewers recently. B.S. standing for Bad Science, of course. Here’s the full list, via Climate Progress:
    by Peter Gleick
    Fifth Place: Anthony Watts for his BEST, and worst, climate hypocrisy…
    Steve McIntyre
    And finally, the “dishonorable” mention of the year goes to Steve McIntyre for his despicable smear of climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State University (and to Anthony Watts for amplifying that smear) by drawing a parallel between the Penn State pedophilia investigation and their separate scientific investigation of questions about climate research (in which Professor Mann has been completely and repeatedly exonerated). Joe Romm discusses this disgusting case here.
    http://planetsave.com/2012/01/05/republican-presidential-candidates-win-climate-b-s-of-the-year-award/

  47. George E. Smith – the Minimata disaster was no alarmist hoax – it was a genuine mass poisoning of people who were exposed to a lethal mercury compound. While it was an appalling episode in industrial history, it has also been used ever since not only to demonise mercury, but to leverage wild claims about ‘heavy metals’ generally.
    But as PPs have said, throwing the term ‘mercury’ around is meaningless – just like the way ‘carbon’ is used instead of ‘carbon dioxide’. Mercury is neither good nor bad intrinsically, and mercury compounds range from beneficial (tooth fillings) to lethal (see above).
    Like Anthony, my Spidey sense was tweaked by the rhetoric in the summary – deadly climate change, CO2 pollution etc. The suggestion that mercury caused mass extinctions is purely speculative. And, the timing is … interesting.

  48. My old geology Professor at Strathclyde University told the following story in his lectures.
    The phrase “Mad as a Hatter”from Alice in Wonderland. Hatters used to use mercury to smooth the felt inside of the hats and a lot of hatters ended up mad.
    There are a lot of lead and zinc mines in Ireland – one of the biggest in the world is at Navan to the northwest of Dublin. During the discovery and exploration phase of these deposits in the late 60’s and 70’s a similar deposit ,but which contained a large amount of mercury, was found at a place called Gortdrum in County Tipperary. The explorers were trying to find the land owner and they discovered that he was in the lunatic asylum. It turns out that the family’s water well was drilled into the deposit and that over the years they had ingested a fair amount of mercury….

  49. George E. Smith; said:
    January 5, 2012 at 7:46 pm
    “Now I remember that that was also when I decided to make myself a collection of ALL of the 92 then known elements…”
    ————————————-
    How much astatine did you collect? 🙂

  50. Philip Nolan says:
    January 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm
    “I am no scientist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. ( think I might have been down the hall…)……yada yada yada…(all good stuff, just a shamless Seinfield reference)… ?
    I don’t get it.”
    Look what they did with CO2…and its not toxic…now do you get it? Its all about their worldview…which is radically different than most peoples…I am just saying.

  51. Mark and two Cats says:
    January 5, 2012 at 10:16 pm
    George E. Smith; said:
    January 5, 2012 at 7:46 pm
    “Now I remember that that was also when I decided to make myself a collection of ALL of the 92 then known elements…”
    ————————————-
    How much astatine did you collect? 🙂
    He had TONS…he kept it right next to his Polonium!
    (sorry if that is piling on…it’s been one of those days…I guess its better metaphorically kicking Jorge than my dog…


  52. George E. Smith; says:
    January 5, 2012 at 7:46 pm
    “…
    In any case my teeth are full of fillings of fulminate of Mercury or some such,
    …”

    If your teeth are filled with fulminate of mercury, I would advise you against biting down on any very crunchy foods such as, say, a nice hard almond. Ensign Pulver’s experience in the laundry scene in Mr. Roberts comes to mind.
    🙂

  53. Susan says:
    January 5, 2012 at 9:53 pm
    From where I first saw this story, they were talking about COAL FLY ASH, on the Canadian Government site.

    There are alpha emitters in fly ash too (e.g. U, Th). A large fraction of the glass spherules have diameters in the 5 to 10 µm range, just the right size to go into the lungs and stay there. While there, the tissues are irradiated with potent alpha. Strangely, the regulators worry about radon you breathe in and out again immediately, but don’t bother to consider potentially serious longer-term exposure and cancer potential of fly ash.

  54. Large scale burning of coal isn’t feasible for the simple reason coal is underground with limited exceptions. Underground coal burns very slowly because oxygen is always limited.
    A much more plausible scenario is large scale burning of dried out peat bogs. Peat is merely uncompressed coal.
    Imagine a swamp a few hundred times larger than the Okavango. Entirely possible on Gondowanaland.
    The climate cools, possibly from volcanic eruptions. A cooler climate is a drier climate and the peat bog starts to dry out. One lightning strike is all that is needed to start a fire that would burn for decades if not centuries reinforcing the volcanic cooling and further drying the peat bog.

  55. Back in my school days in the early 1950’s one of the tricks was to roll a small tube out of silver paper from a packet of cigarettes (don’t ask), fold and seal one end, carefully insert a drop of mercury, fold over the open end, then rattle the mercury in the tube carefully so the ends sealed properly and became rounded. If you had done it right you could approach some unsuspecting female and hold out your hand and say “See me llttle worm!” The sight of the little upright jiggling silver tube in your hand caused much satisfying consternation. With practice you could even make the little silver worm do cartwheels.

  56. Nearly all species went extinct 250mya you say?
    I’m glad it wasn’t us that killed them I say. (big hello to George Carlin in Heaven)
    More marine species died than land species. It was a giant undrsea volcano or three wot dunnit

  57. @ George E. Smith
    ” …in any case my teeth are full of fillings of fulminate of Mercury or some such..”
    I hope that’s a mistake. That’s what is in Primer Caps. For bullets.

  58. Yes, Mercury and many Mercury compounds are toxic. And Mercury poisoning is not something to take lightly. No, the tiny amount in a fluorescent light won’t wipe out an entire neighborhood. Or even do much harm. One should probably refrain from cleaning up Mercury spills by licking up the debris. The amount of Mercury (and other heavy metals) in a single ton of coal is very small. The amount of airborne Mercury from all the tons of US coal burned every year is high enough to be a concern — and to cause “them” to recommend that Great Lakes fish be consumed only once a week. That may be overreaction. Or it may not. You don’t want the hear that coal is a dirty fuel that quite possibly endangers folks who live downwind/downstream. Tough. In general reality doesn’t care what you want to hear.
    As for the Pm-T extinction event. It is one of three major extinction events associated with massive vulcanism. Pm-Tr(SIberian Traps), Tr-Jr (Newark Traps), K-T (Deccan Traps). the other three major events — O-S and two in the Cambrian — are older, probably less severe, hazier, and are not clearly associated with vulcanism.
    Personally, I doubt that Mercury played a major role in the Pm-Tr extinction event. But it’s interesting to know that it could have. I assume that someone will go look at Mercury levels at the other extinctions. Better that than spending money on more or less worthless climate models. I can understand a handful of GCMs just to verify that, given our current state of ignorance about climate, they are not very useful. Why do we need dozens?
    The thesis that the P-Tr extinction might have been caused by vulcanism burning coal beds and releasing CO2 strikes me as pretty weird. Paleo CO2 charts do show a spike at the end of the Permian, but nothing all that dramatic. Of course, I personally think that our ideas of past CO2 levels (beyond the million years are so of direct measurements from ice cores) are more fiction than fact. I suppose that given numbers and some hard evidence, I could be talked around.

  59. Philip Bradley says:
    January 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm
    Large scale burning of coal isn’t feasible for the simple reason coal is underground with limited exceptions. Underground coal burns very slowly because oxygen is always limited.
    ==================
    In general, I agree with you. BUT, keep in mind that massive shield vulcanism like the Siberian traps could conceivably put large quantities of molten rock in direct contact with coal seams. I suppose that it is possible that the heat could be sufficient to gasify entire coal seams on a regional basis. Sort of natural “town gas”? Even though the gases might not “burn” until they got to the surface where there is Oxygen, they probably would leak to the surface pretty quickly in geologic terms … maybe … I suppose.

  60. George E. Smith; says:
    January 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm
    Re Mercury poisoning
    Google “Mad as a Hatter”, again not conclusive evidence but interesting none the less. I suppose dinosaurs may have made hats?

  61. This is a good’un as wind up stories go. Rule number one in Toxicology – the poison is in the doesage! CO2 is not toxic, well no more than dihydrogen monoxide is when you breath too much of it in! UK guidelines for CO2 is 5% for Health & Safety purposes, although those in charge are allowed to make a judgement (Heaven forbide we ever make any of those here in the PDREU) to permit levels to rise ot 10-15% locally! Now, if memory serves, (see below ;-)) there was a lot of cafuffle many years ago regarding mercury levels in fish due to the incident already cited above. The BMA issued guidelines for fish consumption in the UK as a result with the usual mixed messages we tend to get from them, as they have been saying for the last 10 years we must eat more oily fish for our health. In Japan, they eat vastly more fiah than we do here in UK, yet apart from Minimata, I have heard nothing about increaed incidents of mercury poisoning in Japan, & what’s all this sushi crap all about I hear nothing about discouraging trendy youngs eating bucket loads of the stuff these days? It’s rather like the BMA & its drink awareness campaign – 3 units per day for men & 2 units a day for women, based on the sound scientific procedure of picking numbers at random as they conceded a couple of years ago because they “felt” it was the appropriate level of consumption!
    I also suspect they are in league with Al Gorical here, & this proves it imho http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16425522
    “Don’t listen to the old people” he said (excluding himself that is) it doesn’t say much to me other than it may be significant then again it may not be, or it just says a lot about UK civil servants – I should know I used to be one in my dark past! I have probably forgotten more than I know at 53-54. 🙂

  62. They even get the timing of the dinos wrong:

    About 250 million years ago, a time long before dinosaurs ruled

    Nope:

    The first dinosaur-like creatures emerged up to nine million years earlier than previously thought. That is the conclusion of a study on footprints found in 250 million-year-old rocks from Poland.
    Writing in a Royal Society journal, a team has named the creature that made them Prorotodactylus. The prints are small – measuring a few centimetres in length – which suggests the earliest dinosaur-like animals were about the size of domestic cats. They would have weighed at most a kilogram or two, they walked on four legs and they were very rare animals.
    Their footprints comprised only two or three per cent of the total footprints on this site.
    The footprints date to just two million years after the end-Permian mass extinction – the worst mass extinction in the history of the planet. According to Stephen Brusatte, from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who led the research: “In geological terms this is just the blink of an eye.”

    Original paper: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/278/1708/1107
    So it’s a while before they “ruled”, but not that long.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6906603.stm

  63. It is hard to describe just how big the Siberian Traps volcanoes were. Over a period of about 3 million years with a peak period of about 1 million years, enough material was erupted to cover the entire US in 1 km of magma, ash and debris. A super-volcano, every few decades, lasting over 3 million years with a peak period when 5 super-volcanoes were in constant eruption, it is no surprise that many species went extinct.
    The peak volcanic period coincides exactly with the peak of the Permian extinction event. The dO18 isotope data right at the timeline says that temperatures fell by up to 7.0C (not rose because of CO2 as the pro-AGW set likes to say). The Permian was very warm, proabably the warmest period in the last 500 million years, but during these volcanoes and, especially at the extinction event, there is a large downspike in the temperature proxies.
    It was a bad day on Planet Earth and there was untold amounts of contaminants in the atmosphere (beyond mercury) and then falling out on the surface. There may have been whole decades when solar radiation fell by 25% or so. What caused the extinction? That is obvious enough.
    This mercury evidence should put the science back on track because it is so specific and clear. We shouldn’t see so many CO2- Permian extinction links anymore. But there was already a large group of specialists on the event who have been writing papers together about the event and tying it to the Siberian Traps volcanoes and that hasn’t stopped the CO2-based climate modelers/CO2 causes extinction -types from publishing

  64. Mercury for gods sake , have these people no sense. Some thing rather large and unfortunate happened to our little blue ball and they blame mercury. Our sun that little constant heat lamp in the sky may have hiccuped, one of a trillion or so lumps of rather large proportions may have intruded on our air space, or kimakazed into the sun causing a zsunami that would ultimately cause the earth pain. It is like blaming the particulates in the atmosphere for the fire that caused them.
    Cause and affect must be an alien concept to some people.

  65. “Never heard of anybody even getting sick.”
    In sufficient quantities, Mercury is a nasty neurotoxin. However, it is plain that this whole thing was ginned up to pave the way for some sort of legislation or crusade. Using speculative “science” as a way to draw attention to a perceived environmental issue and then support some sort of prohibitive legislation has become a pretty recognizable pattern at this point. Our governments must think we’re idiots.

  66. Wasn’t Rasby somehow connected to the Charles Monnett “drowning polar bears” scam?
    Sponsor,collaborator,peer-reviewer?

  67. Since annihilation is a naturally recurring event, preemptive finger-pointing seems logical to the misanthrope. An “I told you so” in advance needs no basis in fact.
    For example, someone said that unnamed misanthropes might have been heard to have allegedly said, “I blame Al Gore George Bush for the upcoming, inevitable eruption of Yellowstone and the end of civilization.”

  68. Never mind that the total mercury emissions from human activity are insignificant in comparison to the mercury emitted directly into the oceans by submarine volcanic activity, notably at the spreading centers on the ocean floor…

  69. “Scientists have uncovered a lot about the Earth’s greatest extinction event that took place 250 million years ago when rapid climate change wiped out nearly all marine species and a majority of those on land.”
    Who proved this? Doesn’t this make thier research moot seeing how they already know it was rapid climate change? Was it mercury, or rapid climate change? Does the author of the article realize this contradicts what the article is about? Is a statement blaiming climate change a prerequisite to publishing a science article? Do they think we are really that stupid?

  70. They base their worldwide mercury inspired extinction on the sedimentary record limited to the Canadian High Arctic!
    Pangea had not yet broken apart at the time of the Siberian Traps and the sediment sample used by this study was relatively code to the Traps. Much of the world’s land mass at this time was south of the equator so one would think a sample from the southern hemisphere would be more representative when making a claim that involved global extinction of terrestrial and marine life.
    We should expect mercury from the traps to have be emitted along with bromine speeding Hg oxidation and reducing atmospheric travel time. The ash should have led to rapid burial in the sediments. I’m just not sure how all this mercury made it to the southern hemisphere in quantities sufficient to have caused the worldwide mass extinction.

  71. Shouldn’t one be able to cross section dinosaur bones of that era and find mercury in the outer layers if this is true? (And not mercury from bones NOT from that era?)

  72. SSam says: January 6, 2012 at 12:44 am
    @ George E. Smith
    ” …in any case my teeth are full of fillings of fulminate of Mercury or some such..”
    I hope that’s a mistake. That’s what is in Primer Caps. For bullets.

    I think that was also the compound used in the rolls of ‘caps’ we used to put in our toy guns. That was back when we were living in caves and thought a metaphoric display of testosterone was a more appropriate way to release that energy than acting out the real thing. A discernment of play vs. reality. Somehow, I doubt the rate of murder has diminished by suppressing the play of soldiering or good vs. bad guys.
    George E. Smith; says: January 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm
    George, I too played with mercury. Had a small glass bottle with some in it. Dropped a silver dime in it and was fascinated how the silver was mercury ‘philic’, and would eventually dissolve the finer features on the dime.

  73. As the inventor of “lights in shoes” I can tell you of personal experience with the Environazis back in the early 90’s. Yes, they were called toxic tennies by the media. The original design used a miniature (and I mean miniature!) mercury switch to operate my system. The entire system was encased in a block of epoxy resin. Some wanker Environazi in Minnesota, I believe, proclaimed that the burning of one pair (as he maintained trash was all burned in that state) would contaminate half a 40 acre lake (Why not one 20 acre lake?) with the mercury contained in those switches. Of course, this defies logic, not only on the face of it but, because trash turned out to be buried instead. The story seemed to disappear when I wrote to him and asked what they did with fluorescent tubes that burned out from the millions of offices in his state.
    Nevertheless, the switch was changed, depriving future generations of mercury sources in garbage dumps. 😉

  74. Note that the catastrophic events associated with global vulcanism resulted in mercury contents rising from around 0.2 ppm to 0.6ppm! in the sediments – definitely this is a load of crap. What about the most likely cause – the vulcanism itself and horrendous earthquakes associated with continental collisions that buckeled up mountain chains – possibly also the beginnings of break-up of Pangea super continent. You think we have big earthquakes! These must have been 20 on the Richter Scale (not merely 7.5 that killed 25,000 people in Iran a few years ago) and the Tsunamis! I’d guess (this is the new science) hundreds of metres high waves. With ocean’s squeezing shut and disappearing and the conflagration of volcanic activity, earthquakes, many of the 60% extinction never got much of a whiff of this puny amount of Hg. Shameful work. Geologists held firm against all this CAGW bull until the past year or two when they began to get into the act.
    http://bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=Break%20up%20of%20Pangea&mkt=en-ca&setLang=en-CA
    “The Cimmerian plate was still travelling across the shrinking Paleo-Tethys, until the Middle Jurassic time. The Paleo-Tethys had closed from west to east, creating the Cimmerian Orogeny (mountain building event). Pangaea looked like a C, with an ocean inside the C, the new Tethys Ocean. Pangaea had rifted (began to break up) by the Middle Jurassic, and its deformation is explained below.”

  75. Take Mercury out of our air. Bring it straight into our homes in light bulbs, instead.
    ~More Soylent Green!

  76. “The story is one of recovery as well. After the system was overloaded and most of life was destroyed, the oceans were still able to self clean and we were able to move on to the next phase of life,” says Sanei.
    So the conclusion is that without this happening we would not be here. Go Mercury.

  77. Don K says:
    January 6, 2012 at 12:53 am
    “Yes, Mercury and many Mercury compounds are toxic… The amount of airborne Mercury from all the tons of US coal burned every year is high enough to be a concern — and to cause “them” to recommend that Great Lakes fish be consumed only once a week. ”
    As I understand it the mercury that gets into fish is stored in the fatty parts. So if you only eat the meat you get little to no mercury. Also the tests for the mercury grind up the entire fish to do the test rather than on specific parts so the tests are not representative of what you actually eat.
    I live in Michigan and eat fish (whitefish) whenever possible. Smelt when they come to season.

  78. aaron [January 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm] says:
    “Mass extinction of fish, sharks, etc would release lots of mercury.”

    A most excellent point. That’s precisely what a Scientist should say, yet it does not seem to appear in the story anywhere.
    So we have another possible mixup of cause and effect. Or maybe chicken and egg. How about CO2 and temperature and the 800 year lag. True Scientists would not pick one up front and then embark on a biased data hunt to get their funding and adoration at the exclusion of other logical hypothesis.
    Just out of curiosity, a mass extinction of 90% or more of everything dead would leave a huge and complete layer of their chemical constituents. After 250 million years and lots of weight and pressure suggests to me this would be the start of Peak Oil production. I wonder if anyone can comment on the P/T boundary relationship to petroleum deposits. Just wondering.

  79. I strongly suspect that should the Yellowstone super volcano have a major eruption or there were worldwide eruptions for whatever reason, that mercury poisoning would be the least of our worries. Everything and everyone who was going to die would be dead long before the mercury from coal fires or merury from the eruptions could have any effect.

  80. For those interested in fatal mercury poisoning: “We report four cases of fatal mercury vapor inhalation, a rare occurrence. The mercury vapor was released at a private home, where one of the occupants was smelting silver from dental amalgam containing an unknown amount of mercury.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1987914
    One dental amalgam filling contains about 1 gram of mercury. If you vaporize all of this and mix it with 100 cubic meters of air that should get you 10,000 micrograms of mercury per cubic meter (ug/m2). That’s 400 times the WHO occupational exposure limit of 25 ug/m2.
    So this a high concentration of a highly toxic form of mercury. Distrubuting mercury globally is obviously a different matter. I have a hard time imagining that you could get exposures that would threaten entire populations of dinosaurs.

  81. I know a Benoit and Steve. (Steve not as well).
    Benoit in particular is a well respected scientist with respect to his arctic research into the geological history of the arctic. I have read several of his papers, and heard him speak on numerous occasions. My distinct impression is that he is NOT supportive of the IPCC agenda. He may be a midget (he is), but he is far from small intellectually. Discovering an interesting anomoly begs to have some accompanying proposed mechanisms (and research directions to test hypothesis). Instead of slamming someone for having a hypothesis, perhaps consider the facts and suggest alternatives. I am a staunch fan of this website, what it does, and what it stands for, but I don’t like the tone which suggests this is in some way underhanded.
    Also, even if their hypothesis is correct, it doesn’t mean anything with respect to CO2. They are talking about mercury. A known poison!
    I used to TA a course called “The Geological Record of Global Climate Change” about 10 years ago. My impression is that CO2 is essentially a red herring, but toxic poisons, particulates are worth paying attention to.
    Calgary is a staunchly scientific oil and gas town (fueled by almost entirely by coal power). It is far enough north that if CO2 did cause rapid global warming, we would certainly welcome the effect around here!
    my 2 cents from Calgary.

  82. I wrapped all my CFLs with aluminum foil so the fears inside them won’t get out of my head.
    Wait…

  83. Ooops … the late Triassic to present -> the late Cretaceous to present. Sorry about the mistake.

  84. Di methyl mercury killed Dr Karen Wetterhahn of Dartmouth in 1997. This is a particularly nasty organic neurotoxin. I believe it passed through her latex glove. You can Google her name and get the whole story.

  85. “”””” Mark and two Cats says:
    January 5, 2012 at 10:16 pm
    George E. Smith; said:
    January 5, 2012 at 7:46 pm
    “Now I remember that that was also when I decided to make myself a collection of ALL of the 92 then known elements…”
    ————————————-
    How much astatine did you collect? 🙂 “””””
    Well in those days we couldn’t get a licence from the NZ gummint to import any of the stuff (1950) as we hadn’t imported any Astatine in the base year; which was 1945.
    As it turns out in 1959, I actually imported the very first silicon transistor, to be imported into New Zealand; actually I imported six of them from Holland; they were Phillips OA202 ‘s; actually a PNP transistor, which was bloody odd to see in silicon in those days.
    I needed a silicon transistor, since the leakage current in Germanium Transistors was too high to work in the charge integrator I was building. It was part of a Masters project to build a Tissue Equivalent Neutron Monitor, to monitor the neutrons, we made in our Cockroft Walton accelerator lab; by firing Deuterons at heavy ice targets frozen onto a rotating copper heat sink. We got neutrons in the 14 MEV range; but they would eventually also end up as thermal neutrons, which are really bad s***, so we needed to monitor the neutron flux in the lab at all energies from thermal to 14 MEV, with a detector that responded in proportion to the expected damage in human tissue.
    Well the punch line of this shaggy dog tail, is that the NZ gummint rejected my request for an import licence because I had not imported any OA 202 Phillips silicon PNP transistors in the base year 1945.
    But good old Prof Karl Kreielsheimer, solved the impasse, by pointing out to the gummint beurocrat, that the transistor was not invented until 1948 (maybe it was 1947). So I got my license and my transistors.
    But we never did get an okay on the Astatine; dammit, I coulda had the best element collection on earth. Even Howard Hughes never had any Astatine.
    Well I figured someone would get a bang out of that fulminate of mercury. But I do still chomp on those Mercurial teeth every mealtime, and if my saliva won’t dissolve the stuff, nothing will..
    And Johanna, I do take toxic poisoning very seriously. I was once R&D head of the then largest LED company in the world, and we had enough seven nines pure Arsenic in our building to poison everything in the known universe. In the 12 years we were in operation, we never once had ANY employee ever test positive for Arsenic, and every person who worked around it in any way, was tested every month.
    But my money is not on the Mercury in the Permian extinction.

  86. So, since it says that volcanoes are responsible for most of the planet mercury emissions, can we get rid of the draconian regulations on coal power plants?

  87. No, no, no, no. You all have it wrong.
    What really happened is all the trilobites were forced to quit using their incandescent lights and start using fluorescent bulbs containing mercury. It seems the Trilobite Protection Agency (TPA) forgot how easy it was for the handless trilobites to drop their lights while eating. All the new bulbs broke and by the time everyone realized what was happening, it was too late.

  88. I think there may be some unfair “piling on” here. Let’s not be like the Climategaters.
    In fairness, Stephen Grasby wrote a remarkably sensible presentation for Natural Resources Canada entitled “Water Supply for Western Canada’s Oil Sands: Reality Check” that demonstrated the natural cyclical increase and decrease of river flows in Western Canada. I can’t find the url – but I have the presentation pdf.
    Anti-oilsands activists have cherry-picked recent declines in Athabasca River flows to claim a crisis in oilsands water supply. Stephen Grasby pointed out that we only had ~50 years of flow data on the Athabasca River, whereas the ~100 year record on the North Saskatchewan River showed the natural cyclical increase and decrease in river flows, that were in-sync with Athabasca River flows.
    The Athabasca River is now one of the most measured and protected rivers in the world.
    Activists Scary Myth number 3,046,271:
    The Athabasca River is being drained to supply the oilsands with process water.
    Reality quiz:
    The oilsands consume what percentage of annual Athabasca River flow?
    Choose:
    90%
    50%
    1%
    Answer:
    1%
    Not so scary, is it?

  89. George E. Smith; says:
    “Well I figured someone would get a bang out of that fulminate of mercury. But I do still chomp on those Mercurial teeth every mealtime, and if my saliva won’t dissolve the stuff, nothing will..”
    Your saliva won’t dissolve the stuff. This is what happens: dental amalgam accumulates corrosion products relatively quickly. These corrosion products prevent an amalgam filling from releasing mercury vapor. But then when you eat, chewing mechanically removes the corrosion products and exposes the amalgam, causing the fillings to leak mercury vapor again. You inhale the vapor and it enters the bloodstream. (Swallowing the corrosion products is probably not significant.) This is the biggest source of mercury exposure for most people, or was (since it’s less used now and I have no recent info).
    It’s clearly not making most people sick, but it could cause subclinical neurological impairment in a largish minority. The potential cost of that in diminished productivity is astronomical. That’s the problem with exposing an entire population to this kind of thing.
    And the “cheapo plastic stuff” is probably a composite containing about 80% ceramic particles.

  90. Maybe the climate change caused them all to use long life light bulbs, and the mercury escaped!

  91. George E. Smith; says:
    January 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm
    Does anybody out there know, or know of, anybody who ever died from Mercury poisoning. (…) Never heard of anybody even getting sick.

    1. Elemental mercury (liquid or mercury vapor)
    a. Contact with the skin: Mercury is not known to directly irritate the skin. However, an allergic skin reaction may develop after prolonged contact with mercury.
    b. If mercury is swallowed less than a thousandth (according to some sources: 0.01%) is absorbed by the body and most of it is eliminated, mainly through the urine and faeces. Still, swallowing a high concentration of mercury on the short term can lead to severe harmful and even life-threatening effects. (http://copublications.greenfacts.org/en/mercury-cfl/l-2/2-release-health-effects.htm#0 )
    c. When inhaled: Mercury vapor is very dangerous because it is absorbed quite easy by the lungs. According to Wikipedia, approximately 80% of inhaled mercury vapor is absorbed via the respiratory tract where it enters the circulatory system and is distributed throughout the body. Chronic exposure by inhalation, even at low concentrations in the range 0.7-42 µg/m3, has been shown in case control studies to cause effects such as tremors, impaired cognitive skills, and sleep disturbance in workers.
    2. In the aquatic environment, elemental mercury is bioconverted into methyl mercury. Ingested methylmercury in the human body is readily and completely absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract, almost completely absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed to all tissues within about 4 days. Methylmercury is accumulated in the liver and kidney. (…)
    Pregnant and child-bearing women are a sensitive group because methylmercury as methylmercury-cysteine conjugate can pass not only the blood-brain barrier but also the placenta and causes the adverse effects tot the fetus.
    (Technical Guideline on Environmentally Sound Management of Mercury Waste. 24 July 2007, p. 4-5)
    So, mercury has to be avoided when possible: by reducing emission in power plants, by ignoring the mercury containing CFLs and substituting them by halogen type or incandescent bulbs.

  92. “The generally accepted idea is that volcanic eruptions burned though coal beds, releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins.”
    Releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins???
    So CO2 is a “deadly toxin”? Those who claim this, do they have a Phd degree? In that case, did they issue Phd’s to small children?

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