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Books I recommend:

edtrait

The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child (Dynamos, Discoverers and Dreamers)

 

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Beyond ADD: Hunting for Reasons in the Past & the Present by Thom Hartmann

 

The Minds of Boys:
Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life

The ADD Nutrition Solution

More   books...

 

 

rice krispies box.jpg (78676 bytes)Mercury Poisoning and ADHD
click on photos to enlarge

Mercury has been contaminating our environment for years.  The two largest sources of mercury in the environment are coal-fired power plants and municipal waste incinerators which burn consumer products containing mercury (like some of the toys found in Rice Krispies).  Mercury is a metallic element that cannot be broken down by any method, and it is unusual for a metal because it is liquid at room temperature and evaporates very quickly when heated.   Mercury escapes readily up the smokestack and is spread widely by winds before it falls to earth.  There, it is bioconcentrated in the fatty tissue of animals, just like PCBs and DDT.  This is especially true in fish that are higher up in the food chain, like tuna or swordfish.  Most states in the U.S. have inland fish advisories because of widespread mercury contamination.    The contamination of tuna is particularly worrisome because some people eat a lot of it.

Mercury is a well-known neurological poison that causes all the symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity and poor concentration.  Ironically, fish oil contains essential fatty acids that are crucial for proper brain function -- deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids have been linked with ADHD.  Yet, in a catch-22, an increase in fish consumption may lead to brain damage from mercury poisoning.

What you can do: Children and women who may become pregnant or who are nursing should be very careful about what types and how much fish they eat.  Consumer Reports recommends no more than 3 oz of tuna per week, based on US EPA assessments.  Because of influence by the tuna industry, the U.S. Federal Government has been slow to publish tuna advisories, with the very first advisory made in the spring of 2004.  That advisory recommends no more than 6 oz of tuna per week. Bear in mind that the official advisory is based on a political compromise between science and the tuna industry.  I'd go with the Consumer Reports recommendation of 3 oz.  They also recommend that children and pregnant women not eat Albacore at all, because it has higher levels of mercury.

If you routinely eat locally caught freshwater fish, contact your regional or state environmental protection agency to find out how safe the fish in your area are to eat, but most states in the US have some kind of advisory out.   The concentration of mercury varies quite a bit by species, so that top predator species like bass will have higher levels of mercury than sunfish.  Oily fish tends to have more mercury than other species, because the mercury binds to the oil, yet the oil is what makes fish otherwise very healthy to eat. Sardines and farm-raised salmon are oily fish that have lower levels of mercury and are safer to eat.   The fatty acids found in fish oil are very healthy, so keep eating fish, just be sure to eat the right kinds! 

Other types of fish to avoid: king mackeral, shark, swordfish and tilefish.

Consumer Reports lists alternatives to tuna that have lower levels of mercury.  I'll list these in increasing order of mercury:  clams, oysters, pickerel, shrimp, whiting, salmon, tilapia, sardines, freshwater trout, anchovies, catfish, flounder, mullet, scallops, sole, blue/king/snow crab, pollock, American shad, squid, and whitefish.  Fish sticks and typical fish sandwiches are OK.

Kellogg's Rice Krispies, Now with Mercury!

rice krispies box back.jpg (108199 bytes)The frustrating aspect of mercury poisoning is the flippant attitude by U.S. corporations about the use of mercury, even as government agencies try to eliminate the use of it.   A case in point is Kelloggs, which in 2004 has been putting mercury-containing toys in each box of Rice Krispies.  I only know this because my home state of Connecticut recently required all consumer products containing mercury to be labeled.  Connecticut has some of the highest fallout rates of mercury in the nation, partly because most of our waste is incinerated.   The official goal in Connecticut is to eliminate the use of mercury in household products.  

mercury warning.bmp (169254 bytes)

Thanks to Kelloggs, I now have three cheezy Spiderman toys which I'm not supposed to throw away in the trash. Instead I'm supposed to save them until my town has a household hazardous waste day, which is once a year.  I can't even take the batteries out of the toys (the mercury is contained in the batteries), because the access screws have a triangular head.  So I have to save the toys in their entirety.   Then, my town has to pay for the disposal of these toys. Mercury cannot be recycled from batteries.  mercury toy.bmp (2153166 bytes)Therefore, the batteries, and the whole toy really, must be secured in a hazardous waste landfill for all eternity.  This is all for something I didn't even want and didn't realize I was buying -- I thought I was buying CEREAL, not mercury-containing toys!   Plus, there will be extra mercury in our environment because I know perfectly well that most of these toys will end up in the trash incinerator, and the mercury will go right up the stack. 

kelloggs warning.jpg (13988 bytes)

So why did Kellogg's use mercury-containing batteries, anyway?  Because they last a really long time, which is obviously really critical in a disposable toy for young children who get bored with each toy after about 20 minutes.    Button batteries containing mercury are understandable for hearing-aides (which is what they're mostly used for) or even watches, but disposable toys?  How frivolous can you get?  There are button batteries out there without mercury. C'mon Kelloggs!  Use some common sense and get some ethics. 

I emailed Kelloggs about this and they dismissed my complaint (below) and continued to ship thousands of boxes containing these toys to Connecticut and everywhere else.

 

merc-spiderman toy.jpg (79300 bytes)Dear Ms. Gallagher:

Thank you for contacting our company.

Responding to your concerns, may I assure you that the Spider-man 2 (TM) Spidey-Signal toy is approved for children of all ages and does not present a hazard to your family or a food quality concern to your product. The statement "Battery in toy contains mercury, dispose of properly," has been included to comply with State of Connecticut legislation regarding all products containing mercury and Connecticut's battery disposal legislation. The button cell battery in this toy is typical of retail batteries sold in many toy products. For more information on the State of Connecticut labeling and disposal requirements, visit http://www.dep.state.ct.us/wst/mercury/mercury.htm

I hope this will respond to your concerns and reassure you of our good faith in this regard.

We appreciate your interest in our promotions and products.

Sincerely,

Cathy
Consumer Specialist
Consumer Affairs Department
MAB/cl
006062707A
Kellogg North America
PO Box CAMB
Battle Creek, MI 49016-1986

___________________________

Update

I'm not the only one who took offense at Kellogg's:

 

Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Asks Kellogg Company To Immediately
Remove Spider-Man Toy From Cereal Boxes

June 30, 2004

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today sent a letter to Kellogg Company, urging them to immediately stop selling cereal boxes that include a Spider-Man toy that contains batteries with mercury. Even in small amounts, mercury is toxic and poses a significant health and environmental hazard.

The Spider-Man toy – dubbed “Spidey-Signal” – can be wrapped around a child's wrist, and projects a web-shaped light. And the toy comes with the ominous warning: “Battery in toy contains mercury, dispose of properly.” The battery is not easily removable and not replaceable. The toy recently debuted in specially marked Kellogg's cereal boxes, including Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies, in anticipation of today's Spider-Man 2 movie premiere.

Connecticut's Mercury Reduction Act and the Child Protection Act establish a clear public policy against the use of mercury and other hazardous substances in children's toys. Kellogg's use of mercury batteries in cereal boxes may constitute a violation of unfair or deceptive trade practices under state law. Blumenthal also urges any supermarket, or other business that sells these products, to immediately remove products containing these toys from shelves.

"No healthy breakfast begins with mercury," Blumenthal said. "Clear, common sense law in Connecticut bans mercury from most consumer products – and all children's toys – because it is so highly toxic. The health risks are real and immediate, particularly to children, if the batteries are damaged or dismantled, or disposed of improperly."

"Mercury dangers cannot be sugarcoated. Mercury-free batteries are easily available. Kellogg should remove all cereal boxes containing toys with mercury batteries from store shelves immediately. If it fails to stop selling this product, we will take prompt action. We will inform the stores of their legal obligations and seek their cooperation."

Click here to read the Letter to the Kellogg Company

 

All BTE pages were written by Teresa Gallagher unless otherwise noted and may be photocopied (but not reprinted) without permission.  BTE Web Design now creates websites for small businesses. Perhap "BTE" really means "Born to Entrepreneur..."