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Port Botany Residents Group Information Briefing on Mercury Presented by: Hg Recoveries Pty. Ltd. 1 11 th December, 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "Port Botany Residents Group Information Briefing on Mercury Presented by: Hg Recoveries Pty. Ltd. 1 11 th December, 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 Port Botany Residents Group Information Briefing on Mercury Presented by: Hg Recoveries Pty. Ltd th December, 2012

2 MERCURY The chemical symbol for Mercury is Hg 2

3 Hg: Chemical Forms & Physical Properties Mercury - most toxic naturally occurring element known with exception of radio-active substances. It is the only element that exists as a liquid at normal temperatures and pressure on earth. Elemental (liquid) Mercury evaporates easily to form a gas: At 20 0 C 30% mass evaporates; at 60 0 C >80% mass evaporates. Mercury’s unique physical properties and high reactivity causes extreme toxicity in all mammalian life: - by ingesting any chemical form, or from vaccines that contain Hg - from bioaccumulation & consumption of contaminated food/water 3

4 Orica Chlor Alkali Plant Operated 1944 to 2002 Depending on the operational cell numbers – between 7 kg and 14 kg mercury per hour evaporating through the roof vents. Large amounts of metallic mercury spilled or lost into the soils 90+ tonnes minimum per year of anode sludge’s heavily contaminated with mercury dumped somewhere 4

5 Orica Chlor Alkali Plant (CAP) Somewhere between 145 tons and 290 tonnes of gaseous mercury emitted Somewhere between 5200 tonnes and 10,400 tonnes of mercury contaminated sludge’s Unknown but obviously large amount of mercury contaminating the earth under the plant 5

6 Gaseous Mercury A % of the mercury lost from the CAP would have gone into the stratosphere under some atmospheric conditions A large % would have formed into liquid mercury in the vicinity of the plant or within about 5km of the plant This liquid mercury then gets into water ways and soil and is subject to chemical reactions Some of the mercury would stay in the soil and over time can be transported as dust and soil into houses and cars. In confined spaces this mercury can be highly dangerous 6

7 Confined Spaces The U.S EPA Mercury Response guidebook gives the following action levels for gaseous mercury in the air of confined spaces e.g a house or apartment; Level 31.0 µg/m 3 or less - No action Level 2≥ 1.0 µg/m 3 but less than 10.0 µg/m 3 schedule relocation ASAP Level µg/m 3 or greater – Relocate Immediately 1.0 µg is 1/1,000,000 th of a gram There are 1000 grams in a Kg and 1000 Kg in a ton 7

8 Resident Risk Issues The Orica site is mainly exposed earth A number of areas of waste land, and portside storage areas Significant construction and demolition activity coupled with high truck movements Significant wind turbulence in the area due to proximity of the ocean. Many other toxic materials and wastes on the Orica site 8

9 Health Risks PBM – Particle Bound Mercury created by releases of gaseous and liquid mercury from the CAP can be easily transported by humans into houses, offices, shops and schools. THE CAP has lost hundreds of tons of mercury and it only takes 10/1,000,000 of a gram in a cubic meter of air to cause problems in confined areas 9

10 The key issue with mercury is that it bio- accumulates through the environment. It is not unusual for fish in lakes, rivers & streams and the ocean to have 3-6 million times the mercury level of the water & sediments in those sources Invertebrates, vertebrates and plants all bio- accumulate mercury There has been no detailed study of this issue in Australia – (unlike North America) 10

11 Metallic Mercury The key action to prevent mercury bioaccumulation through the food chain is to remove all mercury from the environment 11

12 Health Risks There is an active recreational fishing culture in the Port Botany area and the constant exposure of the recreational fish catch to mercury entails a serious health risk to the community but especially women of child bearing age and young children 12

13 Environmental Risks The mercury in the Port botany area will be bio- accumulating through the land based food chain as well Mercury pollution of soil in gardens will impact the safety of vegetables and fruit grown in the area Predatory such a Sea Eagles, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Owls, Hawks, Falcons and Kookaburra’s will be unable to lay viable eggs due to mercury in their food 13

14 14

15 Hg: Chemical Reactions in Biological and Environmental Systems 1. Hg 0 (liquid or vapour) Hg Hg 0 2Hg 1+ (Hg 2 2+ ) Hg 0 + Hg 2+ 3.Hg 0 Hg 2+ bacteria (CH 3 )Hg 1+ bacteria (CH 3 ) 2 Hg 4.(CH 3 ) 2 Hg (CH 3 )Hg 1+ Hg 2+ Hg 0 15 The above reactions are a Scientist’s way of showing how a single form of mercury present in biological systems can be created from, or be converted into, any other mercury form. Biologically, these reactions can occur over and over in the same life form; explaining mercury’s extreme toxicity, and particularly in human beings. (CH 3 )Hg 1+ & (CH 3 ) 2 Hg – are different forms of Methylmercury; the most toxic of all mercury substances.

16 Molecular Mimicry of Hg Compounds Proteins form compounds which are crucial for larger protein synthesis, cell function, production & repair and toxin removal R R R MeHg binds to sulphydryl groups on blood plasma proteins and is actively transported through cell walls bound to L-Cysteine by SHS S the large neutral amino acid carrier. SH Structurally, the Hg: L-Cysteine complex S Hg mimics the amino acid L-Methionine. R In blood Methyl Mercury (Normal process) R S attaches to cysteinyl residues (Abnormal) on the haemoglobin molecule R and is slowly distributed from blood to the target organ. R can be Glutathione (C 10 H 17 N 3 O 6 S); Cysteine (C 3 H 7 NO 2 S); Methionine (C 5 H 11 NO 2 S) 16

17 Hg Species & Target Organs in Humans Hg Primary TargetAbsorption Elimination SpeciesOrgansRate:Half-Time: Hg 0 Liq. Skin, GutL, L 1. – 1%?, X Hg 0 Vap. Brain, CNS, Epi CellsEH VH2+Yrs, ≈60days Hg 0 Vap. Lungs, BloodEH EHSpont Mins Hg 2+ Brain, CNSM H2-10 yrs, ? Hg 2+ Kidney, Liver 3. VH H days months MethylHg Kidney, Liver, IntestineVH H≈70 Days, ? MethylHg CNS, Brain; Lungs 2 EH H?; Spont. EthylHgSame as for MeHg?, but >mobility

18 A New Look at an Old Problem ‘Maternal Transfer of Hg to the Developing Embryo/Fetus:’ Is There a Safe Level? (A Peer reviewed scientific paper published in UK Journal of Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, September, 2012) I an A Brown B Sc (Ap Chem), Dip Ap Chem, Dip Ap Sc, Dip Gem FGAA Technical Director Hg Recoveries Pty. Ltd. Warragul, Victoria & Associate Prof. David W Austin, PhD Swinburne Autism Bio-Research Initiative and Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre Swinburne University of Technology Hawthorn, Victoria,

19 Mercury exposure is ubiquitous in modern society via vaccines, fish/crustacea, dental amalgam, food, water, and the atmosphere. Examines primary Hg exposure to pregnant women & secondary exposure experienced by their unborn babies. Babies in utero are at risk of higher mercury exposure than adults (on a dose/wt. basis) - through maternal mercury transfer via the placenta - are more vulnerable to toxic effects of mercury. Regulatory advisories around maximum ‘safe’ mercury exposures do not presently - account for pregnant women - or secondary exposure that children in utero can experience. Study focuses on embryonic and fetal mercury exposures via exposure to the pregnant mother of two common mercury sources: - parenteral vaccines - and dietary fish 19

20 Fetal mercury exposure (µg/kg) as a function of maternal exposure and placental clearance following a single influenza vaccine administration or fish consumption event. 20

21 ‘Maternal Transfer of Hg to the Developing Embryo/Fetus:’ Is There a Safe Level? Current mercury exposure advisories do not account for (or offer protection of) developing embryos and fetuses. Data suggests fetal Hg exposure is intolerably high even under conservative scenarios of maternal exposure and placental transfer. Critical perusal of data demonstrates that Hg passing the placenta throughout entire gestation period is orders of magnitude higher than US EPA Standard for MeHg even under the most conservative exposure and placental transfer scenarios. There is, therefore, no safe level of maternal transfer of mercury to a developing embryo/fetus. 21

22 Australian Regulatory Limits for Mercury. Drinking Water (ADWG 2011) - Hg 1 µg/L max. Fish & Crustacea (ASNZ ) - Hg 1 mg/kg (w/w) 1, 2. max. 1: Hg in Fish & Crustacea is present wholly (>95%) as Methyl Mercury 2: Hg in statistically sampled commercial fishing lots max. limit is 0.5 mg/kg µg is 1/1,000,000 of a gram; 1 mg is 1/1000 of a gram 22

23 Port Botany Residents Can you really afford to continue ignoring what is ‘hiding in plain sight’? The Hg issue will not go away by itself! It must, therefore, be totally removed from the environment! As residents, YOU owe this to the Health & Wellbeing of Our Future Generations 23


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