Mercury Toxicity in Arizona

 

Did you see the news last week that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality released an advisory suggesting that people limit their consumption of fish caught from three Arizona lakes due to elevated mercury levels found in the fish?  You probably didn’t it.  I only found it by chance.  I picked up a section of the Arizona Republic while waiting for a haircut the other day.  On page 8A in the “Around Arizona” column I saw the 5-paragraph blurb titled “Warning is Issued Over Mercury Levels”.

 

The lakes found to contain contaminated fish were Canyon Lake, Becker Lake, and Black Canyon Lake.  Canyon Lake is just NW of Phoenix, Black Canyon Lake is a ways east of Payson, and Becker Lake is in eastern AZ, over by Springerville.

 

The AZ DEQ states that mercury can come from both natural and man-made sources.  Don’t be fooled though, nature can’t be blamed for increasing mercury toxicity in the lakes.  The most likely culprits are coal-burning power plants. There are some mega-polluting power plants in or near Arizona, including the Four Corners Power Plant in Farmington, NM.  This plant releases mercury emissions that have reached 1,481 pounds annually.  Then there’s the San Juan Generating Station, which emits about 560 pounds of mercury annually, and the Navajo Generating Station, near Page, Ariz. emits 273 pounds of mercury per year.

 

Collectively these three power plants are releasing about 2314 pounds of mercury emissions per year.  Some research suggests that ONE GRAM of mercury is enough to contaminate a 20-acre lake.  FYI there are 453 grams in a pound.

 

No, it’s not naturally occurring mercury that is contaminating our waters and consequently our food and our bodies.  It’s pollution that we have created.  There is some good news in that actions have been undertaken to reduce the amount of mercury that is released from these power generating plants.  The target is reducing mercury emissions by roughly 61%.  However, even if those reductions are achieved, there’s still more than enough mercury being released to cause health problems.  Nothing is being done to help get it out of our environment currently.  I’m not sure there is much to be done.

 

However, I did wonder if the catch and release fishing regulations on the San Juan River, which is just a bit NE of the Four Corners Plant, which is a world class fly fishing destination, might have less to do with preserving quality fishing, but more about discouraging fish consumption to prevent mercury poisoning.

 

We’ve known that mercury is toxic for a long time.  The term “Mad Hatter” came to be from the fact that people who made felt hats often displayed neurological symptoms, like craziness.  The cause was exposure to the mercury used to help shape the hats.  Mercury toxicity is primarily known as a neurotoxin.  In children mercury toxicity can cause a variety of health problems including motor impairment, visual loss, hearing loss, developmental delay, and seizure disorders.  Furthermore, natural mercury elimination from the body is difficult, and even modest exposures over several years can lead to a significant body burden.

 

Unfortunately, we have elevated levels of mercury in our environment and there doesn’t seem to be much that we can do about it now.  We can hope that in the future we will be able to find to a way to cease the production and release of toxins into our world.  What we can do now is try and minimize the mercury we are exposed to.   You can start by consuming fish which have a low mercury content.   Additionally, here‘s a link to a list of possible mercury exposure sources.

 

At Longevity Medical Health Center our physicians are experts at helping people determine whether they have been exposed to mercury.  We offer specialized testing used to assess both acute and chronic exposures.  This testing also reports levels of other potentially toxic elements such as arsenic and lead.   If found, excessive body levels of mercury and other toxic heavy metals can be quickly and safely reduced using proven methods.

 

If you would like more information about heavy metal testing or elimination call Longevity Medical today.

 

 

Contributed by Dr. Jonathan Psenka

 

 

 

 

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