The data from the new EnSafe report makes it clear: During cremations of bodies with numerous fillings, mercury concentration will rise above safe levels in areas surrounding the proposed crematory. (You can download the entire EnSafe November 2011 Report here.) Despite the report’s stated conclusion that “the risk of adverse public health impacts” is low, examining the data from a new EnSafe report commissioned by the City clearly shows specific instances when mercury concentrations will be far higher than levels considered safe.
According to EnSafe’s own report, mercury concentrations could reach a staggering 283% and as much as 367% of safe levels in some locations under the right circumstances. While cremations containing 3 or fewer mercury amalgam fillings will produce mercury concentrations generally considered low and relatively safe, that’s not the case for cremations containing larger numbers of mercury fillings. The highest levels in the report would be reached in situations where the body contained the equivalent of 17 mercury amalgam fillings.
However, the data in the report reveals that in some areas safe levels could be exceeded by cremations with as few as 4.7 mercury amalgam fillings. We asked the question, “If it takes 17 mercury fillings to reach a whopping 367% of safe levels, how many fewer mercury fillings would it take to just exceed safe levels?” The data to produce such calculations is available in the EnSafe report, and reveals the following:
- Every time a single body with 12.7 or more fillings is cremated, Mercury concentration in the Witt Hill neighborhood will rise above the 1-hour acute reference exposure level — that’s the level below which immediate adverse health effects are not expected to occur for adult humans. Just one cremation with 12.7 fillings exceeds that safe level.
- Every time there are three cremations in any 8-hour period, and those bodies contain an average of 4.7 mercury fillings each, levels in EnSafe’s “entire modeling domain” will rise above the 8-hour acute reference exposure level and could produce immediate health effects for adult humans in the vicinity.
- Every time three cremations occur in any 8-hour period that contain an average of 6.2 or more fillings per body, levels in the Witt Hill neighborhood will rise above 8-hour acute reference exposure or “safe levels” and should be expected to produce immediate health impacts for people who live there.
- Every time three cremations happen in any 8-hour period that contain an average of 8.1 fillings or more per body, levels at the First Baptist Church will rise above the 8-hour acute reference exposure or “safe levels” and adverse health effects should be expected for people exposed.
We’re the first to admit that these scenarios will probably not happen every day. But they WILL happen, the question is merely HOW OFTEN? At first, we should expect that such scenarios might only happen a few times a year — that’s still enough to produce adverse health effects. But as the cremation rate rises and business grows, the frequency at which the crematory will produce dangerous levels of mercury will grow.
And here’s the kicker: The safe level for children is likely far lower. The exposure levels above are for healthy adults, the actual levels of mercury concentration needed to affect children or other sensitive populations is conceivably far smaller (EnSafe documents this reality, see pg. 18 of the study).
Oh, and if that’s not enough, EnSafe has this to say about the short-term reference levels used in their calculations, “Mercury accumulates in the body, so short-term repeated exposures could result in toxic effects that are unanticipated by the OEHHA short-term REL which could result in an understatement of risks” (pg. 18). Let me translate: Continual low-dose exposure to mercury might produce health effects even if the short-term “safe level” is never exceeded.
Is this crematory safe? Sure, some of the time. But as Citizens for a Better Spring Hill has stated since June, there are circumstances under which it’s not safe, and sensitive populations for whom it’s rarely safe. Our position has been the same, and the EnSafe report validates our concerns.
We hope you’ll join us THIS MONDAY, 7:00 p.m. at City Hall for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session. We have the evidence. It’s now confirmed that this proposed crematory is a danger to citizens of Spring Hill. Join us as we request that BOMA either requires mercury filtration or else rejects the proposal outright.