14 Nov '11, 10am

The hidden cost of the boom in #gold prices: mercury poisoning

The hidden cost of the boom in #gold prices: mercury poisoning

Trembling and irritable, at times psychotic, the hat makers of 19th
 century England were know to be a bit odd, at best. Separating fur from animal skins, they washed them in a compound
 called mercury nitrate, a process that released vapours into steaming 
air already choked with fumes.

 In the poorly ventilated workshops of the industrial revolution, 
prolonged exposure led to mercury poisoning and eventually the phrase,
'as mad as a hatter'.

 The types of conditions that put industrial workers at risk of mercury 
poisoning have long been banned in the west, with the EU going as far
as forbidding the sale of mercury thermometers to the public in 2008.

 But in Africa, hazardous conditions still exist.

 Small scale miners use mercury to extract gold across the continent,
 with the numbers rising as the precious metal has tripled in price, 
from $513 an ounce in 2005 to...

Full article: http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/1122019/th...

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