The Truth: Mercury’s Impact on Human Health
The Cove is an academy award-winning documentary; it informs the public about the increase in dolphin slaughter taking place in Taiji, Japan. Directed by Louie Psihoyos, they expose the massacre of thousands of dolphins annually. The Japanese authorities are seen to be supporting the slaughter of this species by all means. A group of volunteers conducted by animal rights activist Ric O’Barry make their way over to Taiji, Japan in hopes of exposing this annual massacre. However, they aren’t only looking at the health and well-being of the dolphins, they are also considering the health of humanity. They begin in exposing dangerous levels of mercury found in the dolphin meat, which is sold in the local Japanese shops. These dolphins are killed, put into shops and readily available for individuals to buy and therefore consume. The levels of mercury that are found in the meat are deemed to be extremely toxic. The Cove doesn’t illustrate which levels of mercury in particular are unsafe; they also don’t explain how exactly it affects our health. They simply give us brief ideas of possible conclusions that mercury can have on the human body. Mercury is discussed as being a toxic element; I will therefore be investigating the impact that mercury possesses on human health and considering precautions to take in order to minimize consumption of mercury.
Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal that enters the environment, it is known as the “most toxic non-radioactive element on earth” (OPS). It is found in multiple forms, which include the following: “ elementary mercury metal, inorganic mercury salt and organometallic mercury” (Langford and Ferner 1). These forms of mercury all acquire “substantial differences in toxicity” (Langford and Ferner 1). Among all three of the organic forms, “elemental mercury metal also known as methylmercury, is the primary concern in regard to human exposure” (Trust). According to Environmental Protection Agency the factors that determine the health effects in which methylmercury has depends on: “dose, age of the person exposed, and route of exposure” (Trust). Dose refers to the amount or level of mercury being ingested, where higher the level, higher the impact. When referring to age, younger individuals are affected by mercury poison with the highest risk (Trust). These factors have great impact on one another. One big factor would be women who are pregnant. They are highly impacted by the poison as it passes on to the fetus therefore newborns are most likely to be born with a birth defect. This will be explained again further in the essay.
As mentioned before, consumption of fish is the most significant source of mercury exposure. Mercury exposure may occur “from breathing contaminated air, eating foods that have mercury residue during processing, or from exposure to mercury vapor” (OPS). Japan has foods that contain some of the highest levels of mercury; these levels as tested by Dr. Endo exceed 20 times the acceptable amount that was set by the Japanese health standards (Bennasir and Sridhar 3). These levels should not be consumed by anyone under any circumstances; however, the Japanese whale industry is continuing to make this a recurring problem (Langford and Ferner 2). Furthermore, “coal-fired power plants emit about half of atmospheric mercury” (Bennasir and Sridhar). These factors need to be taken into consideration when putting the whale meat in shops for consumers to purchase. Most vendors aren’t looking out for the well-being of society; they only look out for their best interest, which is evidently marketing sales. All standards of health should have to take into consideration the mercury occurring from combustion of coal, gold production, nonferrous metal production and human crematoria, these factors are rarely taken into account when looking at what is deemed...
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