China and India combined have more coal-burning energy plants than the rest of the world, and China has more than India. Japanese scientists are openly complaining that the almost 13,000 foot Mt. Fuji is coated with toxic mercury from China’s coal burning plants.
Some Chinese scientists have challenged that by explaining Mt. Fuji’s high mercury counts could be from other sources, but Japanese scientists have noted the mercury count is highest when the air currents are westerly from the Chinese mainland. They say they are lowest when Pacific air currents come through.
Considering the exaggerated hype on carbon emissions causing global warming, it’s easy to say the clear and present danger of coal-burning plants is mercury emissions.
During the 1990s and into the early 2000s, China expanded its coal-burning power plant capacity tremendously using older “dirty” technologies that did nothing to curb mercury emissions.
China’s mercury emissions from coal burning plants and other industries are the highest in the world, and mercury emissions are easily carried long distances by air currents.
Recently, China has begun to modify coal-burning plants with newly developed cost-effective technologies that can reduce mercury emissions by 90%. They’ve also begun switching to gas-powered power plants.
High mercury levels of seafood are mostly from coal plant mercury emissions
A recent study completed by researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Hawaii have determined that the bulk of mercury contamination in fish throughout the Pacific Ocean is from Asian atmospheric mercury deposits.
The major Asian contributors are India and China. Their mercury pollution from coal plants comprises over 50% of the world’s mercury pollution.
They deduced the mercury sources from a method of chemical analysis “finger printing” that enabled the determination of atmospheric coal emissions, usually delivered into the ocean via rainfall, as the primary source of mercury in Pacific fish.
They also explained how deeper water fish, such as tuna, were affected more than shallow water fish or those closer to the surface.
According to the study’s scientists, sunlight on water creates a biochemical process that neutralizes much of the mercury. But as the mercury drifts downward into the depths, certain waterborne bacteria convert mercury into monomethylmercury, a compound that collects in animal tissue and is highly toxic to humans.
Most of us know that extreme mercury toxicity induces severe neurological reactions that can cause convulsions and death. Less intense mercury contamination can accrue to cause long-term mental disabilities.
But some scientists think it’s not just mental or neurological issues that exist from mercury contamination. Mercury depletes the immune system and damages cellular DNA.
This not only can precipitate cancer, it can cause it. According to cancer researcher Dr. Yoshiaki Omura, “All cancer cells have mercury in them.”
The USA has its own coal plant mercury emission problems
25 coal-burning energy plants in the USA were creating 30% of all the nation’s mercury emissions while contributing only 8% of the nation’s electric energy. There are more than 25 coal-burning energy plants in the USA, of course.
Many of them have or are planning to install ACI (activated carbon injection) technology that has demonstrated the capacity to reduce mercury emissions by over 90%. And the price tag for ACI has dropped considerably over the last decade.
Most states have their own mercury emission limit standards. But the 25 worst mercury emitters, as of 2010, were in states that didn’t have limits. Texas is one of them, and they have seven of the top 25.
So China and parts of the USA have begun to lower mercury emissions for coal-burning power plants with ACI technologies. Hopefully it’s not too little too late.
Sources for this article include: