Fetal mercury concentration estimates increase

Feb. 17, 2004, midnight | By Seema Kacker | 17 years, 4 months ago

EPA conducts new study

This is not original reporting. All information has been compiled from the February 6 Washington Post article "Mercury Threat to Fetus Raised" by Guy Gugliotta amd the Rockville Gazette article "Environmentalists say mercury standards lax" by Jen DeGregorio.

Approximately 630,000 infants were born with dangerously high mercury blood concentrations in 1999-2000, according to an article in the Washington Post concerning a new government study.

Maryland had the highest concentration of mercury from rainfall of all US states, according to a study by the National Wildlife Federation.

The new study came about after Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research that suggested that mercury concentrations in a fetus's blood are 70 percent higher than those in the mother's. Prior to this study, scientists did not measure mercury levels in umbilical cord blood in addition to that of the mother since they believed the concentrations were the same.

Mercury is known to be an extremely toxic substance and can cause severe neurological damage, especially in fetuses and young children. Unsafe concentrations in the bloodstream may lead to "learning disabilities, lower intelligence and overall sluggishness," according to the Post.

The mercury can be transmitted to humans through large fish and tuna, whose tissue easily absorbs the substance. Coal burning power plants are the principle source of mercury pollution. The EPA has recently issued regulations for mercury emissions from power plants, calling for a 70 percent reduction by 2018. Critics of this measure claim that these standards are too lenient, as even small amounts of mercury can pose as detrimental health threats.

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Seema Kacker. Seema is a senior in the magnet this year, and is thrilled to be a part of the Online senior staff. She also plays tennis. More »

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