In the dust-up concerning the shipping of American coal to China, almost nothing has been said about the vast amounts of highly toxic mercury that will be released into the atmosphere along with the soot, CO2 and other pollutants that dirty up air around the world. Photographs of Chinese cities show visibilities of less than a city block due to the smog created by the fossil fuels used in that country. Why make it worse for them and for us?
As for the mercury, it was deposited with the organic matter during the millions of years that the coal was being formed. For about 200 years, the vast amounts of mercury that have been belched into the air from the burning of coal have been spread over the Earth and have eventually found its way into the seas. Additional mercury has come from gold-mining operations and from medical instruments and compounds.
We are now being warned not to eat tuna and other large fish. Over the long lives of such fish, mercury builds up in their flesh.
In the environmental impact statement being prepared for the construction of coal-shipping facilities, the problems created by increasing mercury pollution must be considered.
Joseph Henry Wythe