The secret on the ocean floor: the wild, weird origin of the modern deep-sea mining industry, complete with spies, Soviet submarines, and Howard Hughes. How much is real? How much is emergent from this first fake venture? If you only read one thing about deep-sea mining, read this.
We really misled a lot of people and it’s surprising that the story held together for so long”
All of the revelations about the lead in the water system of Flint, Michigan have made residents and curious neighbors alike wonder ‘haven’t we solved the lead problem’? There are thousands of well-established scientific studies; the sources and even many of the solutions are well-understood and frequently implemented. Not to say the problem’s gone, but we’ve wrapped are heads around it. So how is it possible that a new lead problem has surprisingly reared its ugly head? And more importantly, what does that mean for exposure to chemicals for which we’ve barely scratched the scientific surface?
The world of fisheries has its analog – mercury. We’ve all heard the recommendations for pregnant women and small children to avoid tilefish, swordfish, mackerel, and shark. We understand that it bioaccumulates in the food chain – and that as humans not exactly at the bottom, we’re susceptible. The dynamics of methylmercury (the poison variety) and elemental mercury are fairly well mapped out and we can identify areas of potential hazard where more methylmercury is likely to be naturally created. We’ve also stopped doing things like spraying mercury-based pesticides and covering our landscape and foodscape with the toxin. Kids have even stopped playing with ‘quicksilver’, it’s been removed from dental fillings and vaccines, and you should get rid of that mercury-based thermometer. Yet, if you scanned most people’s hair (the way we measure these things), there would be mercury present. And there’s still a host of ways they might have been exposed. But the better question is – if there’s still mercury in your body, what else is floating around in your system? And why do we focus on only the best-understood pathway of chemical exposure?
After years of scaring pregnant women away from fishy nutrition, the FDA is finally updating its recommendations to encourage them to eat 8-12 ounces of low-mercury fish a week. That’s 2 or 3 meals per week in order to support fetal growth and development. Curious about what fish are low mercury? Stay away from tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel and limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week. Better options include “some of the most commonly eaten fish such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod”. For locally caught fish, you should check with your local authorities. The new recommendations aren’t final – read the draft and write in if you want more information that would help you make safe and healthy seafood choices. Here’s some things you should consider. Read More
The droughts that shook the east African nations in the mid-1970’s and again in the 1980’s decimated the traditional nomadic clans of Somalia, leaving them without live stock to feed their families. Tens of thousands of the dispossessed, primarily of the Hawiye clan, were relocated to coastal areas. Fishing communities took root and began to flourish. With over 3000 km of coastline, rich with rock lobster and large pelagic fish, these communities grew, perhaps even thrived. Then, as is often the narrative of African nations, came civil war.
For 2011 we’re going to do a bit more with our Weekly dose of TED series. Instead of just posting a video each week, we’re going to include a short discussion of either the entire talk or a point that could be expanded.
The idea that, when it comes to seafood, we may not know what we are actually eating is a major problem. Beyond the whale/dolphin debate, how many of us can honestly distinguish among all the seafood we eat? I once went into a few local restaurants to surreptitiously test the tuna they served. Some tuna was tuna, some was grouper, some was Nile perch, but all of it looked the same when cooked. In many cases this is not a case of restaurants misleading customers, or even being mislead themselves, but simply a problem with the length of the supply chain. The more intermediates that a piece of fish has to go through to get from the boat to your table, the more chances there are for it to be misidentified. In general, the places serving local fish were far less likely to have something misidentified. The problem is that this really throws a wrench into the principle of supply side conservation if we are unable to honestly choose our seafood.
We recieved several responses to Dave’s post this week on the bizarre “Save the Light Bulb” movement. A movement that seeks to ban energy efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and return to the old, energy expensive, incandescent bulbs. The primary critique is that CFL’s contain mercury, and thus, any environmental benefit is negated by mercury exposure when the bulbs break or are thrown out.
A while back I reviewed the many seafood guides and the various ways they rank seafood choices. They do share one thing in common, however, and that’s the special denotation of certain species as hazardous to human health because of toxin load. Specifically, high levels of mercury and PCBs as found by an Environmental Defense study.
First, kudos to EDF for making their data have immediate impact. Other studies of toxins in fish have sat around for literally decades before becoming part of the mainstream discourse about fisheries. But it does beg the question, what makes mercury and PCBs so important among the myriad toxins in our oceans and our seafood?
The Cove has recently collected a long list of awards including most notably an Oscar for best documentary. These well-deserved accolades reward the filmmakers for risky and groundbreaking filming in a highly protected cove in Japan where a dolphin fishery thrives, both to feed the aquarium trade and citizens wishing to enjoy a dolphin dinner. However, I caution viewers, as with most works of art that rely heavily on scientific information, that you should use the movie as inspiration but turn to the scientific literature for accurate information, especially in terms of mercury concerns within the dolphins. Mercury poisoning is scary, but it is only one amongst a long and growing list of toxicological concern. Its effects are relatively well-understood and known to be primarily of concern for pregnant women and small children.