It appears that Jeremy Piven, the star of HBO’s Entourage series, is being poisoned by coal. Piven “split from the critical and commercial hit Broadway revival of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, citing doctors’ diagnosis that he’s suffering a high mercury count,” causing Mamet to quip that Piven quit to “pursue a career as a thermometer.” Piven’s doctor, Carlon Colker, explained that his mercury poisoning was caused by a high-sushi diet:
Dr. Colker said that an initial battery of tests on Mr. Piven had shown normal results. But after Mr. Piven said he was a frequent sushi eater who consumed fish about twice a day, and that he used herbal remedies, Dr. Colker tested him for heavy metals. Dr. Colker said that these tests revealed “a very, very elevated level of mercury” in Mr. Piven’s blood, adding that it was five to six times the upper limit that is typically measured.
Organic mercury poisoning from fish consumption causes nervous system damage with symptoms similar to cerebral palsy. Mercury in fish has reached alarming levels. In the United States, about “one in six women of childbearing age now have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood” and “between 300,000 and 600,000 children are at serious risk of severe neurological and developmental impairment from mercury exposure each year.”
But why is sushi such a poisonous threat?
Mercury dissolved in water accumulates in the muscle tissues of fish. As the Natural Resources Defense Council explains, “Many of the fish chosen for sushi are the apex predators of the fish food chain, which means they can bear high concentrations of mercury.”
The mercury comes from the same toxic polluters responsible for global warming pollution, particularly coal-fired power plants, as coal is naturally contaminated with high levels of mercury. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury air emissions worldwide, responsible for about 1500 tons of mercury added to the atmosphere each year. In the United States alone:
Coal-fired power plants emit around 60 tons of mercury into the air annually.
Gold mining releases about 10 tons of mercury annually.
Waste incineration emits 10 to 12 tons of mercury annually.
The Bush administration bought the U.S. electric industry a decade of inaction. Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants have remained the same for eight years despite the development of new technologies that could reduce them by about 90 percent.