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Women and Environments International. 2003 Fall; (60-61):19-22.At current levels of mercury and methylmercury contamination in the environment, acute poisoning scenarios like those seen in Japan and Iraq are less likely to occur. But what is known about mercury's effects at levels that are currently observed in our environment? Children are at greater risk than adults due to mercury's mode of toxicity and their state of development and increased metabolism. They consume more food, water and air per kilogram of body weight corn- pared with adults. They are also exposed in utero and during breastfeeding. Their behaviour in early childhood makes them vulnerable to increased exposure; they crawl in the dirt, they put their toys and their hands in their mouth. A study published in Pediatrics in March 2003 from researchers in the Philippines followed 48 mothers and infants from a gold mining community over a two-year period. At birth, infants had a greater burden of mercury compared to their mothers, indicating that mercury was accumulating in the fetus. This study, along with studies in the Inuit, Cree, and New Zealand populations, found physical and mental developmental delays in children exposed to mercury during pregnancy. A study from the Faeroe Islands found that despite high levels of mercury in mother's breast milk, the developmental benefits of breastfeeding outweighed that of the toxicity of the mercury. A study in the Seychelles Islands found no observed adverse effect in children with relatively high maternal mercury levels measured in the hair. (excerpt)
In: The global possible: resources, development, and the new century, edited by Robert Repetto. New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Press, 1985. 457-73. (World Resources Institute Book)If certain institutional conditions are upheld, markets can provide supplies and allocate use so that minerals and materials will satisfy our needs for a very long time, likely forever. These conditions include internalization of environmental damages, worldwide trade access to raw materials, access to the earth's crust for exploration, and prevention of market control by either sellers or buyers. Contrary to popular belief, primary mineral supplies are indeed infinite since they flow to the world economy at a cost that will support their demand as influenced by supplies from scrap. Rarely do interruptions in supply justify government interference in mineral markets. Technology tends to provide new supplies or changes material demands. For example, in the mid 1970s in Zaire, the military prevented cobalt supplies from reaching the markets. Manufacturers of jet engine turbines and high temperature magnets asked the US government to open up strategic cobalt stockpiles to meet their needs. The government did not do so since no state of emergency existed. Cobalt prices increased. This predicament forced research and/or development of new technologies: Cobalt-free magnets and use of other materials such as ceramics for turbine blades. Many people do not consider the large mineral deposits in the seabed because of the tremendous costs to extract them. Technological development is need to identify means to explore and extract them. Mineral and material demand are not always in those countries where the deposits exist so international trade is very important. Thus policies permit efficient trade, production, and use should be promoted. The market works.