EPA air chief admits no bodies from mercury air pollution

Rep. Joe Barton challenged EPA air chief to produce a body from airborne mercury.

At today’s hearing, Texas Congressman Joe Barton challenged EPA air chief Gina McCarthy to produce a a “verified incidence” of someone being harmed by mercury air pollution.

McCarthy said:

I don’t think I can address that specifically. I can’t name any individual.

Barton pursued her:

You can’t name one because it doesn’t exist…. you can’t tell me of someone who has gotten sick or died or gone to the hospital because of mercury.

Gina McCarthy answered with dead silence.

[Note: Quotes need to be verified by the transcript.]

45 thoughts on “EPA air chief admits no bodies from mercury air pollution”

  1. Guess we’ll have to wait until we get a rash deformed and dead babies! How many will be enough for you to think we need to do something? One or two million? If it is your child, don’t you think one would be too many?

  2. Gregg… think before you open your mouth and remove all doubt! Where are all the “rash deformed and dead babies” currently?
    Did you think Mercury was a new toxin that has just been discovered? Since, like Gina McCarthy, you can’t produce a single example of this supposed “problem” either… it would seem there isn’t one in the first place!

  3. GreggM, what about fresh air? What if it causes rash, deformed and dead babies? Sure, there are none yet but what if it’s your child, etc., etc., your usual BS.

  4. The first comment underscores the real issue. Since the Thalidomide debacle of the 1950’s an entire generation’s mindset has been directed towards potential chemical dangers. Before that event, chemistry worked wonders. Afterwards, it is the villain.

  5. As a result of the Thalidomide debacle the drug is now being considered to produce the same results in a different, older population group, where it is actually needed. Weird.

  6. further information about thalidomide



    the problem with mercury is that the antis have thoroughly demonized an useful element, current problem reminds me of back in the Clinton administration days when the EPA set out new limits for arsenic in water and all of a sudden numerous public water utilties were found to have arsenic in them, but the arsenic had been present for centuries

  7. GreggM I’m very much aware of Minimata. but as someone else pointed out above and which you ignore if air mercury was so deadly wouldn’t we see thousands of cases like what happened with Minimata? well we haven’t.

    “It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968. This highly toxic chemical bioaccumulated in shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay ” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease
    so how many cases have occurred since 1968??

    it really all depends upon the type of mercury involved. if you”re that concerned about mercury and the problems associated with it I hope that you are working to prevent the sale of CFL lightbulbs

  8. GreggM… Really… the best you could come up with is something that happened 44 years ago?… Wow! You are really on top of the latest data.
    I’ll bet you supported the DDT ban too.

  9. I worked in the test department of a company that used mecury manometers on a round rack with about 20 manometers about half used mercury. Guys on forklifts would back into them breaking the glass spilling mercury on the floor. I would recover as much as possible and pour it between foam cups leaving the dirt behind. I would get about have a cup of clean mercury to reuse. This happened many times during the 16 years I worked there. We also had many other spills where a hose would come off and blow into the air. Going further back our grade 8 teacher had a beaker of mercury, we use to take a little and rub pennies to make them look like dimes in 1953. Also have lots of mercury fillings. Unless you are in a small enclosure breathing fumes for weeks you have nothing to fear but fear itself.

  10. I agree with Alan Walshe. Ten years ago the EPA closed a high school in Phoenix because a girl dropped a locket that had a dram of mercury in it. The locket broke open spilling the dram onto a public sidewalk. What horror! She was arrested for attempted poisoning and terroristic acts.

    I was a test engineer at the beginning of my career. We also used mercury manometers. Our test labs would now be declared super fund sites due to the spilled mercury as we filled, emptied, cleaned and refilled manometers. We also filtered the mercury to remove the oxidized mercury. Somehow the detrimental effects never sickened any of the hundreds of engineers that passed through the tes crew on their way to other careers. It also didn’t stop test crew members from going back to college and earning masters degrees and at least one doctorate. There are isolated cases, like Minimata, but isolated cases do not justify mass hysteria and total ban of an otherwise useful and valuable element that exists all around us naturally.

    A similar thing happened when the U.S. Congress decided to test visitors entering the Capital building for anthrax. Everyone tested positive! They finally realized that the Capital Mall was once used to graze cattle and horses. Anthrax is in the soil of the Mall that everyone walks across to get to the Capital building. So, they closed the building to visitors and built a $600 million visitor’s center. No more problem?

  11. as with all toxic or potentially toxic material it is about exposure & dose, if neither reach toxic levels within an organism then no harm will result… toxicology 101.

    given thet certain government bodies workdwide now insist that we take vials of mercury into our homes (in the form of CFL’s) and that the amount in each is supposed to excede the same governments guidelines on exposure limits….. like everything of a similar vein it is the usual politics over science bullshit.

  12. One of the main reasons there have so few deaths iss because there have been regulations controlling and minimizing the release of mercury. You should also be aware that low levels of mercury are extremely dangerous to developing embryos. If you people manage to destroy the EPA and regulations on mercury, there will be deformed and dead babies directly due to your actions! It won’t happen immediately because it will take time for it to concentrate up the food chain, just like DDT.

    Interesting, you want to ban CFLs at the same time you want to destroy the EPA and mercury regulations. Seems a bit schizophrenic. You know that mercury is a teratogen, a mutagen and a neurotoxin yet you don’t want it regulated. I have to ask again: how many dead and deformed babies do you need to think it needs to be regulated?
    Tell you what, I’ll support banning CFLs if you’ll support progressive tax relief for progressive reductions of mercury from coal fired plants. I would even give them a 100% tax right off on any equipment or overhead costs associated with removing it. If we apply this approach to all pollutants, we might even be able to work together on real and positive solutions to these problems instead of arguing endlessly!

  13. minimata and the iraq bread affair have nothing to do with the ambient levels of mercury or the discharges that occur that the EPA is trying to gin up a crisis about. more than 95 % of the mercury in the invironment is produced by natural processes and ambient mercury is not toxic ever.

    as for the panic about autism–what a crock–if autism is caused by mercury, when does a declining level of mercury exposure from ambient sources produce an increase in autism–same problem that the EPA can’t explain on the challenge of more asthma in times of less air pollution. but True believers don’t pay much attention to the common sense contradictions created by the real world and ignored by the EPA and their acolytes, researchers, and fanatic followers. .

    I have practiced medicine for 40 years, emergency medicine for 38 of those years, and ne

    ver seen or heard of a mercury poisoning.

    because they don’t occur in America–if they did it would be a special industrial or poisoning or suicide situation.

    special industrial, suicide or poisoning cases are not what the EPA noise and scaremongering are about–the EPA is the green on the outside red on the inside anti capitalist anti human movement of modern times. Greg M is a true believer, often wrong but never in doubt and always carrying a chip on his shoulder.

  14. Do think that mercury has become something else? That it is no longer a teratogen, mutagen or neurotoxin? That it is suddenly safe because bodies are not piled in the streets?

  15. Because metallic mercury is not an acute toxin. The phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from the fact that hat makers used mercury to tan leather, over time the mercury did so much nerve damage that they became insane!
    The long term effects of metallic mercury exposure are nerve damage, psychoses, insanity, impotence, damaged sperm, birth defects and spontaneous abortions. Did anyone you worked with exhibit any of these problems?

  16. You think maybe that all of our efforts to remove mercury from the environment have been working? That is why there are no bodies to be found. There were no mercury health warnings for freshwater sports fish in Texas and in many other states until the government mandated coal fired plants be built across the country during the fuel crisis in the 70’s, now there are! Coincidence? Not hardly!

  17. I am a scientist first and review the data first before I make up my mind. Have you ever done a literature review on mercury? I have. Were you looking for mercury poisoning or just telling your patients to “take two aspirin” and call me in the morning? Would you know what a sub acute case of mercury poisoning looks like?

  18. First, toxicology 101 is introductory toxicology, would you take ANY introductory course and think you know everything about that discipline? That is just the beginning and the dose and exposure is just the beginning of learning about toxicity. If I gave you an 8 ounce glass of water and an 8 ounce glass of botulinum toxin and you were to drink both, which would kill you? Same dose, same exposure. Sorry, all substances are not created equal and the chemical is in fact what makes the poison, the dose and exposure just determine if it is going to kill you or not!
    As far as effects at levels below a toxic effect goes it again depends on the chemical. A friend of mine once tried to figure out the level of friable asbestos that would pose zero risk of cancer. What he found is that if ONE fiber makes its way into your lungs, you still stand a 50-50 chance of getting cancer! How’s that for a dose response?

  19. “A friend of mine once tried to figure out the level of friable asbestos that would pose zero risk of cancer.”
    so has your friend’s study been published and peer reviewed or do we have to accept your word for it?

  20. Do you wonder why it’s not in medicine anymore? Maybe because it hurt a lot more patients than it cured! Wonder how many they rendered totally insane to cure them?

  21. Oh so your friend didn’t do a study at all then. I’ll have to assume that the studies you allude to are urban legends until you can provide links to credible peer reviewed articles.

  22. The mercury scare is just another excuse to shut down our coal plants which provide about 50% of our energy. The bottom line is that U.S. coal plants emit very little mercury (0.5% or less of the mercury emissions in the US atmosphere) and there is no evidence that anyone has ever been harmed by either those emissions or typical ambient levels of mercury in the environment or fish regardless of source.The following paper written by Dr. W.Soon addresses these phony claims.

  23. Did you read what I said? He conducted a peer reviewed literature search, that’s a little better than someone saying they’ve never SEEN anything harmful coming out of a coal fired power plant or cosmic rays are responsible for global warming!!!

  24. hey GreggM your first response was “A friend of mine once tried to figure out the level of friable asbestos that would pose zero risk of cancer. What he found is that if ONE fiber makes its way into your lungs, you still stand a 50-50 chance of getting cancer! How’s that for a dose response?”

    it wasn’t until a later response that you said he did a literature review. my response was to your first message about your friend trying to determine the level.

    does that help?
    as for literature reviews one need only look at how Michael Mann and his cohorts worked hard to make sure that climate skeptic articles weren’t accepted by journals. so how do we know that the journals you review and your friend reviews are honest objective journals. you could point us to some not all of the articles. but then if you did that we might find articles that refute yours. ain’t life a b*tch?

  25. Well, you can safely assume science funded by industry groups like coal and oil are going to be biased immediately. They have the most to lose if global warming forces the end of fossil fuel use. If someone blames cosmic rays for global warming or says that CO2 is good for you, start looking for the tin foil hat. Most scientists are trying to get at the truth and the peer review process is there to stop fraudulent or wrong science from being published! If your denier papers aren’t being published, it is probably because they are recognized for what they are…. Garbage!

  26. “you can safely assume science funded by industry groups like coal and oil are going to be biased immediately.”

    really?? you have proof? or how about one can safely assume that science funded by non-industry groups is biased immediately?

    “the peer review process is there to stop fraudulent or wrong science from being published!”
    yes i’ve read how Michael Mann and others have worked to prevent PoVs that are different from theirs, no matter how solid the science was.

    “If your denier papers aren’t being published, it is probably because they are recognized for what they are…. Garbage!” or it could be because the acolytes and panjamdrums of climate change don’t want their religion challenge 😉

  27. Greg 5 years ago a Russian scientist stated mars was warming up at the same time as earth. The only possible explation is the sun. what more proof does anyone need.?

  28. Wow, a perfect question to start with, why not trust industry “science”? I’ve read Dr. Soons
    Paper and looked into him and the foundation backing him. This is what I found The Science and
    Public Policy Institute, (#0673507-0) lists its directors as Robert E. Ferguson, and two attorneys.
    This was reportedly a shell corporation, with no income and no expenditures. They refuse to
    reveal their funding but EXXON lists a donation to them for $100,000. Dr. Soon s qualifications
    lists him a an Astrophysicist and Geoscientist but not as a Toxicologist yet here he takes on the
    role of an ecotoxicologist. If this is appropriate, the next time you need brain surgery go to a
    botanist, a scientist is a scientist, right? In 2011, it was shown that he received over $1,000,000
    from petroleum and coal interests since 2001. Purely to support his science, right?

    Dr. Soon bashes EPA for failing to go through peer review for its new guidelines but is his article
    peer reviewed? Not that I could find. The paper makes a lot of interesting points but his over-
    riding argument is that since our mercury releases are so low, we shouldn’t do anything. Now this
    has basically been the industry stance on every chemical man has ever made i.e. DDT, PCBs, etc.
    and in one paragraph he destroys his entire argument and vindicates every environmentalist you
    people have attacked. “EPA’s mercury RfD is further problematic because it is based on
    inappropriate studies of Faroe Islands inhabitants who consume both fish (found to be generally
    low in mercury) and pilot whale meat and blubber (a unique practice no one in the U.S. pursues)
    containing multiple, confounding chemicals (PCBs, lead, cadmium, pesticides, persistent
    organic pollutants, DDT, etc.), of which mercury is only one.” (Page 38). In his zeal to make his
    point, he completely vindicates all those who warned that we shouldn’t be releasing these
    chemicals. They have concentrated their way up the food chain to the point that they are having
    some effect out in the islands. They weren’t wrong then and they’re not wrong now.

  29. 1. The funding sources and Dr Soon’s credentals are irrelevant, Is the research valid or not? He has listed his sources.
    2. Since the US power plants are responsible for only 0.5% of the mercury in the atmosphere, it doesn’t make sense to spend billions of dollars when natural and foreign sources provide 99.5% especially since there is no provable health benefit. The EPA’s position on health benefits was devestated by expert witnesses testifying before the House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Energy and Commerce Committee on February 8, 2012. Those billions of dollars will increase the cost of the energy, construction, manufacturing and transportation sectors of the economy. This will particularly hurt the poor, and the middle class that President Obama claims is his prime concern.
    With respect to DDT, millions of africans have lost their lives due to malaria because DDT was made unavailable: https://junkscience.com/ddt-and-malaria/100-things-you-should-know-about-ddt/.

  30. Dr. Soons objective was to debunk the truth about mercury as an environmental hazard, not to conduct an unbiased review of the data. His funding and his credentials ARE very much a part of this, he calls himself an astrophysicist and a geoscientist, not a toxicologist thus all of his conclusions are not based in a complete understanding of the field or the issue.
    Since his paper is not peer reviewed and I don’t have the time to track down every publication he cites, I distrust it thoroughly. He is a part of the AstroTurf denier system you people have set up so I would discount it totally. Get it published in a reputable toxicology publication, and I’ll reconsider.

  31. Hmm, let’s compare churches? One church that protects Gods creation and advocates good stewardship, the other church wants to master it and would destroy all other life for their god of progress at any cost? Yours is the church of the destroyers!

  32. Wow! greggm that is an astounding response. I’m absolutely gobsmacked by your superior intellect and debating skills. I bow before you as I’m not worthy to be in your presence.

    NOT! I’ll assume that the leader of your Church is the great and all knowing and most beneficent Albertus Goreus. (he did at least attend a divinity school but failed to complete the program)

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