On Dec. 30, 2008 Lafarge submitted a report to the NYS DEC on mercury emissions from the cement plant in Ravena.
Samples were taken and total mercury emissions for 2008 were estimated from them. The sampling protocol included 30 days of mercury mass balance data and 3 stack tests.
Using mass balance techniques, they calculated that the 2008 annual emission rate from the Ravena cement kilns was 157.2 pounds (160.47 via stack testing). This figure is based on the kilns operating at 72% capacity. The report states that normal annual capacity for the plant is usually 85%.
Notably, the report claims the type of mercury emitted by Lafarge in Ravena as 98.7% elemental mercury. This type of mercury is "markedly different" from the type of mercury normally associated with emissions from cement kilns.
Health Effects of Elemental Mercury (According to the World Health Orgainzation)
According to the World Health Organization, the main route of exposure to elemental mercury is by inhalation, and 80% of inhaled elemental mercury is absorbed through the lungs.
Elemental mercury is lipid soluable so it easily distributes throughout the body and readily penetrates biological membranes, including the blood-brain barrier. Metabolism of mercury compounds to other forms of mercury can occur within the tissues of the body.
Elemental mercury has the ability to readily cross the placental barrier. Thus, the developing fetus can be exposed to mercury from the pregnant woman’s body through the placenta.
Mercury is the second-most toxic substance known to human biology after plutonium. Specific neurotoxic symptoms include tremors, emotional lability, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular changes, headaches, polyneuopathy, and performance deficits in tests of cognitive and motor function.
CASE believes, and it appears the World Health Organization would also agree, that inhaling elemental mercury is still a serious concern with potentially serious health effects. Further, the Lafarge report does not offer any information on the types of mercury emitted by Lafarge during previous years. Nor does it include any information on any other toxic or potentially hazardous substances such as dioxins, furans, lead, or other heavy metals that may be emitted from the plant.
Dangerous levels of mercury can be measured in fractions of a teaspoon. 157 lbs is better than 400 lbs, but this is still a frightening amount that we believe remains a threat to the health and welfare of the residents of this community. Indeed, it is 157 lbs too much for our kids to bear.