Nearly everyone has heard the term "mad as a hatter" but few know its origin. First a few facts about mercury poisoning: Exposure to mercury affects the nervous system. The symptoms of mercury poisoning are extensive running the gambit from death to headaches. Anti-social behavior of aggressiveness and mood swings are also associated with mercury in the blood stream.
Now back to our mad hatters: In the USA, until 1941, when the United States Public Health Service banned its use in the processing of felt, mercury was used in the making of hats. Consequently, the continued inhaling of mercury vapors caused mercury poisoning in the hatters' blood, altered their behavior, and to the onlookers of those days, the hat makers appeared insane -- thus "mad as a hatter".
In our modern age, while we may think we are safe due to the 1941 law and other laws put through by the federal government, nearly every GOP presidential candidate has vowed to eliminate the EPA -- which must mean they propose to have the states and local governments ensure the public's safety instead. Consequently, all laws currently in effect nationally would fall to each state's decision to enforce them or not.
The Good News: Cutting Mercury & Protecting America’s Children
EPA (Lisa P. Jackson EPA Administrator)
Last week, we finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, a rule that will protect millions of families and, especially, children from air pollution. Before this rule, there were no national standards that limited the amount of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases power plants across the country could release into the air we breathe. Mercury is a neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to children, and emissions of mercury and other air toxics have been linked to damage to developing nervous systems, respiratory illnesses and other diseases. MATS will require power plants to install emissions controls that will also reduce particle pollution, which has been linked to premature death and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards