Mercury, Amalgams, Thimerosal — and Paint


By the time I watched 'Mercury Rising' (below) I knew more than enough about mercury in paint* and the food chain* to have my curiosity kicked into overdrive.

Unfortunately, the more I looked into it — skeptically and rigorously — the more the status quo "safe" narratives fit the mold of textbook groupthink. E.g. unanimous dismissals of unpopular evidence, dogmatic support for flawed conclusions, peer-pressure, politicized conflicts of interest... aggressively bass-ackward wikipedians [1, 2] etc. (etc.)

Accordingly, what was intended as a fairly modest post about mercury in paint*, fish and fields* became a bit of a sprawling, slap-dash, point-form polemic.

*For a ton of interesting and or compelling info about mercury in paint, and paint's little known role in systemic contamination of the food chain, start with 'On Paint', 'The Crux of the Epidemiology' and 'Regulated Loopholes', halfway down.

[invisible search engine keywords: Seipjere, thimerosal controversy, vaccines, autism ]

People only see what they are prepared to see. - Ralph Emerson

Science progresses not because scientists change their minds, but rather because scientists attached to erroneous views die, and are replaced.


'Mercury Rising': An 18 minute film from the makers of the Oscar nominated documentary, The Cove. (The Oceanic Preservation Society.) [Copyright Oceanic Preservation Society, 2009. | Alternate Link ]

PLEASE NOTE: Sadly the red-herring / straw-man of anti-vaccination has thoroughly poisoned perception of the legitimate scientific debate. So it's necessary to be very clear:



For a lot more on ‘spoiling our own nest’ with mercury — again, see The Crux and On Paint, halfway down.

(And for more about thimerosal, scroll down.)


'Poison In The Mouth' (1994), Panorama, BBC. [ Copyright Panorama, BBC, 1994. | Alternate (better video quality) duplicate link]

 Note: The missing opening sentences were:

“This is mercury — one of the most toxic substances known to man.*  Most people have metal, or 'amalgam' fillings in their mouth, and half the metal in each filling is made from this stuff.”

*i.e. as or more toxic than arsenic, and >10x times more toxic than lead

[ For some unbiased info about dental amalgams see: Homme, Kern, et al (2014)   |  Mutter: 'A Comprehensive Review' (2005 English translation)  |  Chris Shade, PhD (in Hg)  *†*  |  Barregard (1995)  |  Mutter: 'EU Amalgam Safety' (2011)  |  etc. ... Or, for a less academic more than a little tacky low budget, documentary-style take: 'Mercury Undercover' (2012) -- bootlegged 'screener' ... | And for more about mercury and Alzheimer's / dementia, see Mutter et al., 2010. ]

Believe it or not, it turns out most dental colleges invested a few generations in what can now safely — sadly — be described as canonical tobacco science: Healthy population averages (and selective exposure estimates) which 'prove' — because healthy people grossly outnumber unhealthy people — there's almost no problem.” ...

Because chronic, low-dose mercury poisoning is a marginal / tipping-point phenomenon (*†*) that varies widely from person to person, and most 'safe' amalgam studies force the data into a single curve, the vast majority of ‘safe’ research inadvertently suppresses and or completely removes the sick cohort from the data, discussion and published results as statistical anomalies: outliers.
[ See Chris Shade *†*,  Mutter ('05), Barregard ('95), etc. ]
Also, many amalgam exposure estimates are based on urine test results rather than analysis of fillings, breath, blood and saliva, and the results appear to be ignorant of (i) tissue burdens, (ii) other detox pathways (feces and sweat) and (iii) the deterioration of the kidneys in those most affected.
i.e. Since the kidneys are a primary Hg target, urine derived exposure estimates might be, at best, a black-box crap-shoot — even when the single curve analysis is avoided.

  re. 'tobacco science', “almost no problem” from above:

By the way, statistically speaking that's kind-of true with most chronic poisoning:

(i.e.) There's always almost no problem” when the vulnerable group is a minority population and that's the hypothesis you're hoping to prove.

*†*  Note,  re mobile link: My favorite Dr Shade talk (IAOMT 2010)  -- profiling a healthy population of accidental poisoning victims (stark outliers) -- won't seem to play on mobile devices. (Only on desktops.) ... I'm hoping to get a duplicate. But in the meantime only the main paragraph link (above) still links to it. (All others have been switched to the previous 2009 talk, covering most of the same material.)


Dr. Boyd Haley, interviewed by "FAIR", 2005. | See also: Boyd's 1 hour presentation in 2003 (here), at IAOMT 2010 (here), etc. etc.

BTW  (1) 
( i.e. Olmsted and Blaxill; a little ways down )
+   (if you haven't already) The Crux of the Epidemiology
&  On Paint  (halfway down.)

(2)  I know almost nothing about ALS and absolutely nothing about what Boyd was referring to. (Just think it's safe to assume there's some clever underpinnings to it ... and, not the sort to begrudge any earnest, thoughtful scientist for chewing the hypothetical fat.) 

To summarize, of the 58 empirical reports on autism and heavy metal toxins, 43 suggest some link may be present, while 13 reports found no link. Even with the tendency for null results not to be reported, it cannot be said there is no evidence for a link between heavy metal toxins and autism: although the question may still be open-in sum, the evidence favors a link. - 'Sorting Out The Spinning Of Autism', C.M. DeSoto & R.T. Hitlan (2010). [Full pdf]

From a cellular perspective, it would appear that the existing scientific literature supports the biological plausibility of a Hg-based autism pathogenesis. - 'The Plausibility of Mercury in the Etiology of Autism', M. Garrecht & D.W. Austin (2011). [Full html] 

Exposure to mercury can cause immune, sensory, neurological, motor, and behavioral dysfunctions similar to traits defining or associated with autism, and the similarities extend to neuroanatomy, neurotransmitters, and biochemistry. Thimerosal, a preservative added to many vaccines, has become a major source of mercury in children who, within their first two years, may have received a quantity of mercury that exceeds safety guidelines. A review of medical literature and US government data suggests that: (i) many cases of idiopathic autism are induced by early mercury exposure from thimerosal; (ii) this type of autism represents an unrecognized mercurial syndrome; and (iii) genetic and non-genetic factors establish a predisposition whereby thimerosal's adverse effects occur only in some children. - "Autism: A Novel Form of Mercury Poisoning" - S. Bernard, L. Redwood, et al. (2001). [Full pdf, and long version]

re. Thimerosal, Ethyl Hg and Inorganic Hg:
(Hg2+ -- aka: 'Mercuric-Hg', 'Divalent-Hg', Hg(II), Hg++)
[ note: 0.1μg (micrograms) = 0.0001 mg (milligrams)]

(i)  Based on the 0.1μg/kg /day, infant, EPA methylmercury seafood limit** and average U.S. vaccine loads (Ball 2001), the average U.S. baby vaccinated between '91 and '01 was significantly over exposed.

The average baseline exposure was 62.5μg or 75μg of ethyl-Hg on each of the 3 or 4 days of the schedule — often beginning on the first day of birth — and 187.5 (baseline average) by 6 months; while the accumulated, 6-month ingested methyl-Hg foodsafety max for the average sized baby is just 98.5μg. (i.e. 98.5 NET methyl max — for the entire 180 days!!**)

[ ( 0.1 / kg / day x 182 days = 18.2μg / kg ) multiplied by average baby weights (approximately 3.21 kg at the end of the first week of birth, 7.60 kg at 6 months = 5.41 kg crude daily average) = 98.4μg max.]

** The EPA's 0.1/kg limit was reviewed, questioned and scrutinized by the The (US) National Academy of Sciences in 2000, by congressional mandate. Their conclusions: "On the basis of it's evaluation, the committee's consensus is that the value of the EPA's current RfD for MeHg, 0.1 μg/kg per day, is a scientifically justifiable level for the protection of public health." -- "Recommendations", page 11 (lower half), exhaustive 300+ page report, here.

(ii) MEANWHILE, Burbacher 2005 painstakingly compared ingested methylmercury to vaccine schedule injected thimerosal (in infant primates) and found that thimerosal (injected ethyl-Hg) contributes more than twice as much inorganic mercury2+ to the brain as a similar amount of ingested methyl-Hg! (Because it rapidly dissociates to ethylmercury in the blood, crosses the blood–brain barrier, and breaks down to Hg2+ — in the brain — quicker than methylmercury.)

Inorganic Hg2+  forms in the brain from the breakdown of both ethyl and methyl mercury, and the best research to date (Burbacher 2005 and Vahter 1995) suggests an optimal (healthy primate) detox half-life average of 120 to >550 days for brain-Hg2+ , compared to just 37 to >57 days for methyl brain-Hg. (Which most safety assessments are based on.)

(iii) Similarly, Magos 1985** compared the effects of high dose ingested ethyl-Hg to methyl-Hg (on rats) and found (1) 3.4 times more brain Hg2+ in the ethyl rats,

And (2) that ethyl-Hg (and its higher concentrations of inorganic Hg2+ ) was more kidney toxic — and lethal — than methyl-Hg.***
(**See note 're. Magos 1985' below)

(iv) Moreover, there are plenty of sound reasons to suspect inorganic Hg(2+/1+) of a primary role in many common organic Hg poisonings — chronic and acute. Namely its strong bonding attraction, larger inflammation response, extremely slow detox — if any, from sick brains — and the commonly observed long latency period (delay) between peak organic poisoning and peak symptoms and/or death.

re. latency periods and organic Hg poisoning: the slow steady breakdown of organic mercury results in a gradual build-up of inorganic Hg(2+/1+)  which seams to perfectly coincide with the delayed onset of symptoms and /or death. (Long after peak organic Hg exposures have come and gone.)
†  Proposed in Weiss 2002, and expounded at length in Mutter 2010.
  (See the notes **re. Magos and ***Magos–Weiss directly below)

(v) Incidentally, a significant common thread between inorganic Hg2+ and most widely accepted contributing causes of degenerative brain disease (concussions, poor lifestyles, etc) is EXCESSIVE AND PROLONGED inflammation.

. . . . .
** re. Magos 1985:  Although much of his primary science is quite good. Many of his published conclusions are deeply flawed, and, as far as I can tell, formed the bedrock of three decades of confused academic thought re. methyl, ethyl and inorganic Hg(1+/2+) toxicities.

To whit — after establishing that ingested ethyl-hg accumulates less initial net Hg in the brain than methyl-hg (because it breaks down more rapidly to inorganic hg, and concentrates in / targets the kidneys), he foolishly and speculatively concluded: 'Ethylmercury and inorganic mercury are less harmful to the brain than methylmercury.'

(And this unfounded and seemingly bass-ackwards opinion is still, to this day, widely cited and reported as fact.)

Then once the vaccine / thimerosal storm hit ('02-ish) he foolishly testified to the U.S. Institute of Medicine that "injected ethylmercury (i.e. thimerosal in the blood stream) is less harmful to the brain than methymercury." — despite there being no sound research on the subject (injected ethyl-hg vs ingested methyl-hg) until Burbacher '05.

To give you a crude analogy: That's a little like comparing a small group of random gunshot victims to a small group of car accident victims, and — when none of the gunshots studied actually hit the head — testifying to a government panel on gun–brain injury that ‘gunshot wounds are significantly less harmful to the brain than car accidents[!].’

*** re. Magos-Weiss :
Had Magos not established this wrong-headed belief (inorganic mercury is "less harmful") it's not unreasonable to expect that Weiss (2002) would've gravitated much more strongly towards inorganic Hg formation as the plausible, delayed-Hg smoking gun.

i.e. It's kind of a no brainer:

Mercury is bad. So charged divalent-mercury free radical precursors — with their much slower detox, strong bonding attraction, large inflammation response, and lower dose mortality — are, one would think, significantly worse.

. . .
For more on methyl-hg exposures and Hg blood levels see '5' and '9' approximately 4/5ths down the page.
(And again, Burbacher '6' for more about thimerosal vs ingested methyl-hg.)
. . .

Dan Olmsted & Mark Blaxill discuss their landmark book, The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic (2010)   [ See also: SafeMinds.org / /Research_Now, etc.]

Btw ... (1)    I don't have any idea what Olmsted was alluding to re Down syndrome. (But imagine it was just something completely out of left field.)
(2)   The epidemiological argument of continued increase after “thimerosal was removed” is totally beside the much larger point.
Namely, the overall (net) trend in heavy-metals and specifically mercury** — in food and soil** from industrial and commercial pollution biomagnifying its way up the foodchain.**
(Hundreds of millions of tons of mercury, cadmium and you-name-it laced sewage sludge fertilizer** and garden soil** ... atmospheric pollution, coal fired power, compact fluorescent bulbs, garbage and sludge incineration...

Not to mention the unanswerable questions re. expanding awareness, and diagnosis of the moderate end of the previously unrecognized spectrum.)
**Again, The Crux -- halfway down       
9 (etc - on atmospheric industrial pollution.)

PLEASE NOTE, Re MMR: Because plenty of anti-vaccine discussion focused on the real but rare MMR vaccine inflammation (encephalitis) risk, and it's now clear the virus can re-emerge at the drop of a hat (particularly in under-immunized populations) it's important to note:
And (3) the vaccine is said to protect around 95% from exposure, and ONLY WHEN IMMUNIZATION RATES ARE EXTREMELY HIGH (AROUND 92%) ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE POPULATIONS PROTECTED. (e.g. Newborn infants, and cancer patients on strong chemo.

~  For more on measles see: (Brief) Measles PSA (here).  ~

D. Ayoub (PR Trojan Horse, Google Bomb) at NorthWestern University (2006)

1)  UNFORTUNATELY truck-loads of conspicuously moronic nut-job horse manure (at Ayoub's next and last credible public speaking invitation) completely destroyed his credibility.
[see the footnote at the bottom of this section, 'Ayoub, PR trojan horse']

HOWEVER entirely on account of almost everything here being lifted from mother nature AND the published work of others he does a predictably good job here picking apart the shoddy case of the '06 groupthink gang.

(The nut-job PR bomb stuff is, perhaps not surprisingly, the most conspicuously Ayoubian material.)

2)  'The Danish study' was arranged and co-authored by a Danish CDC employee who is now wanted by the FBI for fraud and embezzlement of CDC autism research funds.

3) Since predatory fish are now our primary food source of essential omega 3 fatty acids and since mercury can't be broken down (it just accumulates, and accumulates, and accumulates)  I think it's ridiculous (complete horse manure) to suggest that industrial emissions are “one of the safest forms of mercury”.***

4) I haven't been able to find Dr Julie Morita's rebuttal. (Ayoub claimed she "chose to change the subject rather than debate the topic.") Presumably she focused on the general importance of vaccination, and the MMR–Wakefield red herrings. (If I find it, I'll post a link.)

5) Incidentally, it's a favourite subject of industry funded mercury apologists ("researchers" and lobbyists) to argue that -- because large volcanic eruptions also produce high atmospheric mercury levels (in addition to systemic man-made Hg pollution) -- wide-spread environmental mercury pollution is "completely natural", (as in, not harmful.)***

And it turns out this was essentially the same argument used to sow confusion and skepticism about the harmful effects of cheap, profitable and horsepower boosting ethyl-leaded gas*** and cheap and durable lead paints, pipes and solder during the long era of unrestricted commercial lead use.

*** FYI : the eerily similar story of decades of denial before the scientific community began to accept lead's chronic toxicity (the story of Claire Patterson and company versus commercial lead) is profiled nicely, in idealized broad strokes, in the 7th episode, of the 2014 (Seth McFarlane produced) 'Cosmos Spacetime' reboot.
[Bootleg (here)]
(Again, lead is mercury's significantly less toxic but more widely prohibited elemental cousin.)

. . . .
An acute lack of discretion REALLY got the better of him.

The next time he was invited to speak, he launched into a foolish nut-job conspiracy (completely out of nowhere, on video) — the PR sabotage equivalent of detonating a 5-megaton suicide google-bomb; after months of building trust and rapport within the more sympathetic and discerning, fledgling '06, anti-thimerosal grassroots.

Whatever his intentions, morals, motivation and or sanity, I suspect the worst of Bill Cosby's PR people would struggle to craft a more effective, hard to trace method of undermining said grass-roots than Ayoub's videotaped, delayed PR implosion.

Dr. Mark Geier and his son David Geier interviewed by FAIR (2005)

Btw: (1) Mark began as a staunch skeptic and public critic of Boyd Haley,

And (2) --- perhaps not surprisingly --- they (the Geiers) have been shamelessly and ignorantly smeared and attacked for their research, advocacy, testimony and treatment of regressive autism (with a combined testosterone-inhibition and chelation protocol.) ...


4. On Paint

(i) Phenylmercuric acetate (PMA) and phenylmercuric nitrate (PMN) are the two best known mercurial paint preservatives.

Mercurial preservatives were the industry gold-standard for many decades on account of their superior antibacterial and antitmold finished-product performance -- and their ability to dramatically extend the shelf lives of spoil prone products. (E.g. 'low v.o.c.' and water-based...)

PMA and PMN also break down to inorganic Hg(2+),

The U.S. EPA's daily recommended safe allowance for PMA (the most studied of the bunch) is 0.07μg/kg/day,

And exactly what came of the U.S. EPA's supposed phase-out of “all mercury from all paint” is, if you asked me, not even close to what most people would have you believe.

Continued in Regulated Loopholes (ii), Data on Mercury in Paint (iii), and Off the Charts (iv), a little ways down.

Crux of the Epidemiology
(to Date)

Bio-Solids Fertilizer, Water-Based Paint, and the Massively Under-Reported Escalation in Heavy-Metal–Food Exposures:

The clamp-down on water pollution via sewage treatment plants (and chemical industry shift to all things water-based) inadvertently led to an unprecedented rise in heavy-metal contaminated bio-solids fertilizer, and bulk commercial garden soil, over the last 20 odd years.  

We've concentrated an enormous amount of toxic pollution (and a large portion of paint waste) into sewage sludge, and we've hawked that sludge onto farmers, and soil makers*, as perfectly good fertilizer — year after year after year.

And although there's usually significant testing (at sewage plants, for acute levels), generally speaking, the old tongue-in-cheek expression is still sad but true: [i.e.] ‘The solution for pollution is [still largely] dilution.’ Only now, instead of diluting with rivers, lakes and oceans, we dilute with excrement (crap) — and spread it on fertile land.

i.e. The last time I checked (personally, back in '01-'02) more than 99% of all solid waste (locally) — mercury, arsenic, cadmium and you-name-it — was testing ‘low enough’ to be shipped, diluted in sludge, straight into the food chain.
Again: see the links 9 paragraphs down, and the EPA's comprehensive 2009 sludge/fertilizer survey results here.

As it turns out, we were so concerned with cleaning sewage and heavy-metals (pcbs, phthalates, etc) from our rivers, we decided — bureaucratically — it made more sense to generally consider it safe enough (diluted enough) to use most of it on our own crops.

(i.e.) We shifted pollution away from our waterways and straight into our fields, soil, and commercial food chain ... and this year-over-year accumulation — coupled with an enormous increase in novel, easy clean-up, water-based chemical products — steadily ramped-up, all over the continent, during the same over-arching epidemiological timeline as the autism epidemic

See Regulated Loopholes (6 odd paragraphs down) to learn how mercury in paint ties right back into this picture.

(... Everything from commercial car paints to industrial stains, varnishes and epoxies, became increasingly water-based and, likewise destined to contribute significantly to the problem.)
. . . 
Of course, many of these changes do actually represent a HUGE step in the right direction. (Enormous progress cleaning our water-ways; dramatically cutting smog from the air; cheap and fertile lawns, sod, and landscape soils and fertilizers...)
BUT for our commercial food-chain, to date, it's been a complicated win–loose situation at best.

A real mixed bag: Brimming with nutrients — BUT laced, indiscriminately, with toxins.**


For more on this under-reported phenomenon see:

*An extremely large amount of commercially competitive black garden soil, top-soil and bulk garden fertilizer now derives its deep colour, rich organic content, and cheap manufacturing cost directly from millions of tons of mostly urban – you-name-it – highly questionable sludge solids.

  [Again, SOLUTION 1.]

...When it comes to waste products like mercury, cadmium, phthalates, etc., the conventional solution, to date -- from Waterloo to Kalamazoo -- is to de-water, test to preclude the possibility of acute poisoning** (i.e. prove ‘there's almost no problem), re-brand and ship...]

. . .

** The U.S. EPA's comprehensive 2009 sludge/fertilizer survey states: (1) the “safe” -- allowable -- U.S. sludge fertilizer mercury level: 57,000 μg/kg*;
[ 57mg (milligrams) = 57,000μg (micrograms) ]

(2) That 60% of U.S. sludge was used as fertilizer;

And (3), the sample results for mercury: high - 8300μg/kg; low - 170μg/kg;
**    Lead:       high - 450,000μg/kg;  low - 5810μg/kg;
**   Arsenic:    high - 49,200μg/kg;  low - 1180μg/kg;
** Cadmium:  high - 11,800μg/kg;  low - 210μg/kg.

And remember: the accepted (EPA) methyl-Hg food guideline for infants is 0.1μg/kg/day;

and, mercury tends to bioaccumulate (concentrate) as it goes up the food-chain.

Hence very dilute sea water levels produce average (2011) tuna–mercury levels of 427μg/kg (white) to 71μg/kg (light)... And, hence the Minamata researchers stopped eating their beloved sushi.

*Btw: Technically 57,000μg/kg is the 'class B' (partially restricted) US fertilizer limit. (The unrestricted 'Class A' Hg limit is 17,000μg/kg),

BUT, leaving aside the obvious ENORMOUS question of
17,000μg/kg as itself a ridiculously HUGE theoretically "safe" number; from what I've seen the practical implications of the distinction (class A or B) -- if any (in practice) -- is ITSELF an open question.

i.e. Class B fertilizer was/is only restricted from use IF the net field-soil levels (for hg, pb, cd...) are / were clearly shown to exceed the maximum soil concentration safety ceilings,

And it's entirely unclear where, when, how often or by whom any of these 'class a' safety ceilings are/were actually enforced, tested, monitored...

Remember, for a good 25+ years (of this same timeline) “deregulate — and let the private sector handle it” became practically the first commandment of US federal and state economic policy. (i.e. Funding competent scientists to go around the countryside testing and enforcing soil/fertilizer regulations was exactly the sort of thing to be widely regarded as economic sacrilege...)

  [ SOLUTION (1) ]

(ii) Regulated Loopholes:

[ For the U.S. equivalent / original loophole, scroll down 7 paragraphs.]

The first Canadian mercury-paint legislation was finalized after an extensive — 3 year — consultation with the industry, and passed into law in December 2000.

Crucially it excluded all “recycled surface coating materials” without providing any explicit definition of what constituted said material; thus normalizing a seemingly small loophole for the Canadian market.

Similarly the text of the current (2005) legislation [ beginning on page 118 / 889 of this pdf archive] deals extensively with “recycled coating materials” (the loophole); sets the current legal limit for ALL conventional paints “imported, manufactured and soldat 10,000 μg/dry kg (i.e. 10 mg/kg); and also conveniently fails to offer any specifics, details, definitions or explanations whatsoever on what did or didn't qualify as “recycled.”

MEANWHILE ... a very knowledgeable, industry insider friend of mine (with a long-held senior technical position -- at a prominent, international paint-market leader) told me explicitly — to my surprise — in '05-ish: “most of [their] conventional paints [were] technically recycled.

He explained to me (a) that the rinse-water used to clean the lines (my subject of inquiry) was regularly recycled back into production; (b) that this had been the case for quite some time (i.e. since the supposed 'voluntary phase-out' of the 90s); and (c), because of this -- again: “most of [their] conventional paints [were] technically recycled.” [His emphasis on technically; i.e. technically true — but a bit of a stretch.]

MOREOVER — and directly to the point: In early 2007 a second knowledgeable, senior technical insider (at the same firm) told me explicitly: they “still add[ed] as much mercury as [they]'re permitted to add” to the majority of their paints. ‘Including their premium interior lines.’

re the current (2005) legislation: There are no stipulations for liquid content, off-gassing, documentation, or warning labels. (Warning labels were only stipulated for lead and “recycled products” that exceeded the 10,000μg limit after 2005; when all Canadian paints were again permitted to contain that much mercury.)

[Again, the full text of the '05 Canadian legislation: pages 118-133 / 889-901 of this pdf archive.]

. . .

BTW: If you're curious about the American equivalent (and origin) of the Canadian “recycled” paint Hg stepping stone, take a critical look at the U.S. EPA's congressionally mandated “Resource Conservation and Recovery Act” ('RCRA') 1985 to present. (E.g.)

It was specifically designed to encourage the beneficial use, reuse and recycling of toxic materials, like and including mercury, by exempting them from environmental regulation. (E.g. 1, 2, 3...)

And once you dig into some of its meandering and byzantine text(again, e.g.) it's pretty easy to see how it plus NAFTA (plus/minus the 'best' government money can buy) ended up spawning “technically recycled” Canadian paint.

. . .
Remember there was (and is) plenty of U.S. industrial mercury waste in need of an RCRA compliant (regulation exempt) “beneficial” end use.
e.g. Used chlor-alkali conversion catalyst (one of the larger traditional sources of concentrated mercury waste — from tens of $billions worth of vinyl and pvc siding, pipe, trim, windows and doors), coal combustion emission scrubbers (the largest source of recovered mercury waste; when / if the scrubbers are maintained), gold smelting / precious metals... Not to mention compact flourescent light bulb recycling. (i.e. Our most recent Hg waste behemoth.)

Btw / FYI -- some of the RCRA's legislation actually allows/allowed toxic waste to be legitimately recycled”, via zinc fertilizers and run-of-the-mill bio-solids sludge, straight into the food-chain.

(So 'recycling' Hg in paint, at a lower level than is permitted in fertilizer — not to mention teeth — actually looked relatively responsible.)

[See Paint Geek 'B' about 12 paragraphs down for more reasons why spoil-prone water-based paints were a relatively good match for regulation exempt, recycled U.S. mercury.]

. . . . .

(iii) Two Sets of Data on Mercury in Paint:

The first is a survey of the Hg content of so-called Canadian recycled consumer paints in 96/97, published (without any details whatsoever) within the current (2005) Canadian mercury and lead paint regulations (originally in milligrams):
Interior water-based & oil-based products: 45,000 - 120,000 μg/kg [i.e. 45-120mg/kg]
Exterior water-based & oil-based products: 250,000 - 700,000 μg/kg
Maximum amount: 4,000,000 μg/kg  
[page 897 / 129 of this pdf archive]
The second study was part of the Hurricane Katrina relief and it's much more thorough and detailed. It includes some random New Orleans paint samples which further substantiate grounds for concern: 'median Hg: 14,700 μg/kg; max: 214,000 μg/kg' (a note on the lower levels in a minute.) And, referencing some much earlier work*, establishes a 40+ year window of significant use:
During the era of unrestricted Hg additives in paint, the annual amounts were large. For example, in 1971 Hg in paint accounted for 16.4% of the US total consumption of mercury, or 297 metric tons.” (*MacGregor 1975)

Of course random paint chips from New Orleans may or may not reflect Southern Ontarian paint chips. But what is clear — particularly to anyone who sands a lot of old paint — is that 14,700, 214,000 and 4,000,000 are all WAY too far above 0.07 (the safety max) for comfort.

(iv) Moreover / Off the Charts:  The last time I came across it ('02 or '03) stand alone, concentrated (aftermarket) water-based mould proofing mercury paint additive was cheap, odourless, colourless, relatively easy to get (up from the States — in litres and gallons), and regarded by paint geeks and industry insiders alike as the best bang for buck mould protection / antibacterial peace of mind money could buy.

(It was a popular precaution for some industry insiders; a way to hedge your bets against the supposed new 'low/no mercury regulations' — and not then vetted water-based product lines.)

Paint Geek Digression (A) : Paint mould growth has been a long running problem for builders, contractors and paint / stain manufacturers because (1) oil based paint resins (the old gold standard) were commonly derived from plant oils which — being organic and biodegradable — mould was frequently able to feed upon (on damp, finished surfaces); (2) Until recently no professional painter was worth his or her salt if s/he wasn't schooled in oil-based paints and familiar with the propensity for paint films to feed mould; And (3) the conventional, old school wisdom (re. mould feeding on organic resin, finished films) carried over well into the current era of waterborne synthetics (and building booms) on account of the widely held assumption/fear that waterbased paints would be more prone to mould and mildew than their oil predecessors.

[ More on water vs oil re Hg in Paint Geek (B), below.] 

So if you were a cautious contractor with your ear to the ground and you believed the American Dental Association's claims (that 'mercury is totally safe') you may well have bought this stuff — concentrated, waterbased mercury additive — by the case.

(v) Gardeners Fyi: If your lot has had wood siding, trim, fascia, windows, sheds or fences at any significant time in the past, play it safe and give your vegetable garden safer soil.***
(Plants readily absorb lead, mercury and cadmium, and most aged surfaces have dropped WAY too much pulverized paint into the ground for it to be anywhere near food-safe.)
i.e. Sadly, it's safe to assume that many heirloom urban soils are at the very least highly suspect.
[  continued below  ]

For a lot more on urban garden soils see:

Still, you may want to be a touch fussy about the replacement soil (and fertilizer) you choose; because again, many of the most commercially competitive and widely distributed bulk soils and fertilizers are derived directly from concentrated urban sludge.

[   Ps:   If you have already been growing in mystery replacement soil see Gorospe 2012 for a little crap-shoot reassurance: Average (2012) raised-bed grown San Fransiscan heavy-metal produce levels were — perhaps not surprisingly — significantly lower than historic, ground soil comparisons.  ]

Once more - SOLUTION 1. ]

Paint Geek (B): Although synthetic waterborne resins are generally less prone to mould and mildew when applied and cured (compared to many traditional, organic, plant oil resins) the situation couldn't be more reversed when each is in its liquid, in-the-can state.
(i.e.) Waterborne paints are generally much harder to preserve on the shelf than their traditional oil kin, and require significantly more toxic anti-bacterial preservatives like mercury to prevent premature spoilage (dramatically shortened shelf-life.)
Stagnant water is a near perfect breeding ground for bacteria; whereas turpentine, mineral spirits and alcohol (traditional solvents) are generally uninhabitable to in their own right...

(Hence the likey cause for the old New Orleans oil numbers being lower than the 96/97 — more water-based — "recycled" Canadian numbers. ?? ) ]

Large swaths of the paint industry had a huge incentive to lobby for, carve-out and maintain their tried-and-true — durable and cheap — mercurial preservatives of choice.

Skyrocketing waterbased demand was turning the industry upside-down, and the risks of failure — from new formulas and escalating R & D + production costs — were already nerve-racking enough.


Meanwhile (a) to give you a sense of the scale of heavy metal usage in pigments (and paint) — according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) U.S. domestic use of cadmium pigment (vibrant yellow, orange and red) averaged 137.5 metric tons per year, '01 through '07*; accounting for 10.69% of total U.S. Cd usage. (10.69% of 9006 total metric tons, '01-'07*.)
(*note: the USGS stopped reporting the Cd pigment percentages in '08.)

(b) According to Wikipedia we're currently using >20,000 metric tons of cadmium annually (worldwide), with around 2000 tons for pigment.[1]

And moreover ( just fyi  --  c) we're also said to be using 4.6 million tons of titanium-dioxide annually (world wide); predominantly as white pigment. [2]  (And despite titanium-dioxide being an astronomical quantum-leap in the right direction  -- compared to its white lead predecessor -- it's still not something that I, personally, really want fertilizing my groceries.)

. .

5. On Methylmercury Exposures

From the U.S. EPA's 'Mercury and Human Health' page :

In the EPA’s Mercury Study Report to Congress (1997), EPA estimated that 7% of women of childbearing age would have blood mercury concentrations greater than those equivalent to the RfD. The estimate of 7% of women of childbearing age above the RfD was based on patterns of fish and shellfish consumption and methylmercury concentrations present in fish and shellfish. Blood mercury analyses in the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2000 NHANES) for 16-to-49 year old women showed that approximately 8% of women in the survey had blood mercury concentrations greater than 5.8 ug/L (which is a blood mercury level equivalent to the current RfD). Based on this prevalence for the overall U.S. population of women of reproductive age and the number of U.S. births each year, it is estimated that more than 300,000 newborns each year may have increased risk of learning disabilities associated with in utero exposure to methylmercury. More recent data from the CDC support this general finding.

. . .

6.  Here's a talk by Dr Burbacher (the primate + mercury research pioneer) where he very tentatively describes his professional experience with mercury and thimerosal -- and how politically skewed (misconstrued) reporting and perception has generally been.

Btw: (If you haven't already,) see thimerosal ('3') for a lot more info about thimerosal.

(And '7' — below — for more about thimerosal politics and pull.)

. . .

7. FYI: (i) When Bush Sr. was vice president (right after he spent two years on Eli Lilly's board of directors) the special U.S. 'vaccine court' was established to protect vaccine manufacturers from all U.S. lawsuits. (Lilly is the inventor and longtime licensor of thimerosal.)

Payments were initially limited to $250k per victim, and class action suits, federally outlawed. (Cases are settled one by one by one...)

After trying a tiny number of early autism test cases (...) a backlog of approximately 5200 families were (last I checked) completely denied due process.

Update 1:   In 2011 the too conservative (deferential / stuck in the mud) U.S. supreme court* upheld the law 6-2 -- albeit with a strong, categorical dissent by Justices Sotomayor w/ Ginsburg.
(*Bruesewitz* v. Wyeth; SCOTUS, 2011. Decent: *page 30* of the court PDF.)

(ii) Similarly, in '02 / '03 a rider clause further outlawing any thimerosal specific lawsuits was added to the US Homeland Security bill.* (A belt and suspenders admission of deep rooted fear, IYAM.)

Long-time Republican congressman Dan Burton -- whose grandson regressed into autism, and whose district just so happened to contain Eli Lilly's head office -- publicly described this as part of a deal he made with the then Presidents of 'Eli Lilly, Merck and other leading vaccine makers.'

According to Burton's telling this was in exchange for the voluntary removal of thimerosal from childhood vaccines, and the co-operative funding of the Vaccine Compensation Trust Fund, to pay vaccine court claims and expenses.

Update 2:  (a) Pretty sure they implemented an industry wide levy (tacked onto the cost of every vaccine.)
And THANKFULLY (b) in the last four years of increasing political pressure it's (finally) become MUCH easier to receive speedy and reasonable compensation for accepted vaccine injuries.
(Although Autism is of course -- regrettably -- still prominently excluded.
(A subject far too many still pretend is somehow explained away by Andy Wakefield's cluster eff.)

Meanwhile (? --  iii) another well connected Indiana Republican (Mitch Daniels -- President of Purdue University last I checked) was the Chief Executive of the Office of Budget and Management right when the crap was hitting the fan. ('01 to '03.)

He was appointed by George W from his previous positions — Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Policy, Eli Lilly ('97 to '01); and President of North American Operations, Lilly ('93 to '97.)

Technically he had executive authority over almost every program funded by the US federal budget, '01 to '03.

(Again -- at the absolute peak of the thimerosal safety crap storm.)

PS:  That Homeland Security clause was stripped out a year later.
And Robert Kennedy's '05 piece (Rolling Stone) describes some of the ground level political shuffling that preceded the groupthunk "thimerosal's completely safe" preclusions.

(8)  Here's a recent Globe and Mail article describing the massive problem of compact florescent light-bulb recycling. (The average compact fluorescent bulb contains 3000 to 5000μg; 3 to 5 mg.)

(9)  Here's some good reporting on atmospheric mercury pollution,  man-made / industrial hg–ocean increase,  and how atmospheric Hg is converted into methylmercury in the food chain.

(10)  And here's a good link on common household mercury switches.

(11)  For some great presentations on mercury detox and health check out Dr Russell Jaffe on ascorbate vitamin c ..., again Chris (Dr Mercury) Shade, etc. etc.

(12)  Dietary / lifestyle approaches that I've used
       to detox from LARGE amounts of toxic paint exposure:

(Take with an appropriately HUGE silo of salt;

i.e. Let most of this in one ear and out the other.)

- lean protein (for glutathione production) 
- onions, garlic, broccoli, brussell sprouts, 'Omega 3' eggs and similar sulphur rich foods -- moderately*G – ;*, but regularly -- also to boost glutathione
moderate*G – ;* fyi: your nose will tell you when you're extra extra-sulphurred.
- high quality chlorella (the natural heavy metal intestinal vacuum) — to unload the lower-half of the detox pathway and usher heavy metals out of the gut and intestines. (Otherwise Hg tends to destroy healthy gut flora and get recycled and redistributed, by the front-end of the detox / mineral-transport system.) A la Chris Shade's detailed, 1 hr presentation and pitch. (Chlorella does basically the same thing as his novel silica product.)
- fresh (pure, tasty, refrigerated) high qualty fish oil [e.g. 'Summit Supplements Bio-Omega 3' ('New Age' on Whyndam St...)]   
Massively reduced omega 6 to omega 3 ratio (much lower 6, and a modestly higher 3) than the conventional 's.a.d.' diet. And / but  — sadlyalmost no high-order predatory fish -- ever. (Almost always opting for fish oil, instead; and regularly cooking with anchovies.)
- Anti-inflammatory diet — (again, lower o-6 and higher o-3:) Avoidance of garbage fats (cheap oils, cheap fillers, modifieds, and hydrogenateds) and most funked junk. (Almost exclusively using olive oil (o-9) and quality Ontario butter...) AND a fairly reduced / moderated, disciplined approach to grains: The old rule of thumb of many small servings spread out throughout the course of the day -- to keep the blood sugar (and insulin response) reasonably under raps.  ( # MODERATION )  
- Quality Vitamin C preferably ph / mineral balanced natural form ascorbate -- where the vitamin acid is bound to various healthy minerals (a la Russell Jaffe**, sweet potatoes, oranges and bell peppers) --- And good old cheap ascorbic acid: Regularly. In moderation. And in tandem with a modest pinch of cheap minerals for balance. (Magnesium and zinc...) Vitamin C 's extremely well suited for binding and eliminating inorganic lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium throughout the body.)
Cilantro (the natural chelator)  cooked with (in very, very small quantities) to chelate heavy metals from tissue and organs and load-up the lower detox pathway (gut and intestines) -- where chlorella (...) escorts it straight to the toilet.
- All 8 E vitamins (preferably -- when they're reasonably priced) Just NOT the the dime-a-dozen, single form d-tocopherol (which some research suggested is harmful.) [ BTW: The basic mixed tocopherol (alpha, beta, delta and gamma...) usually go on sale from time to time; and the  
- selenium; moderately — from high quality selenomithionine / yeast derived supplements (in small quantities)
- And last but not least: regular, safe sauna use. When hydrated and healthy. (i.e. No chest pain, discomfort, or light headedness.) I get a good sweat going (which helps expel heavy metals), shower, and rehydrate.

Again, the best historical example I've come across of a similarly complex, polarized public health debate — that also took many decades to build a reasonable scientific consensus — is the eerily similar story of Claire Patterson and company versus unbridled commercial lead.

And again, it's profiled nicely (in idealized broad strokes) in the 7th episode of the 2014 (Seth McFarlane produced) 'Cosmos Spacetime' reboot.

 [ Unindexed Bootleg Link ]

Margaret Heffernan:

Whistle blowers are often regular people, fiercely loyal, and deeply concerned about protecting the very organizations about which they disclose.

Thanks for your interest,

 And stay tuned.    ←    ←