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February 25, 2008

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a fat chemist

While the U.S. likes to point fingers when it comes to the environmental impact of industrial growth (like at China's current problems), we as a country are not exactly leading the pack (Kyoto anyone?). It wasn't until this past year that legislation was introduced by Barack Obama (Illinois) and Thomas Allen (Maine) to limit the export of waste mercury. Why am is this relevant? Well, it turns out that the US likes to sell and ship this neurotoxic metal on an industrial scale over seas to countries with a mining industry and less than rigorous environmental protection laws. Mercury is used to dissolve gold, aiding in it's extraction from rock, sand, and other metals. The result is that the US makes a profit in the disposal of the metal, while mine workers (already working in harsh conditions) suffer from mercury poisoning.

mar

I'm glad you mentioned the mercury - I was surprised to read yesterday that it is still used in gold extraction but I was worried about going on too much of a rant. I was worried actually that I had flubbed up my account of manganese and that you were going to thoughtfully correct my murky humanist account of alloy creation. Mining platinum and gold here just seems to be so destructive in so many ways... and in some ways it seems like the benefits of it (I'm thinking less in terms of jewelry and more in terms of the electronic/industrial applications of the metals) rarely benefit the miners or general population of SA.

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