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    Letter: Wrong to belittle mercury threat

    After reading “To describe mercury as ‘toxic’ is an overstatement,” let me pose a question.

    Is Mr. Vic Arnold familiar with Lewis Carroll’s satirical tale ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and the character of the “Mad Hatter?” Does he know why the Hatter was mad? The cause of his madness was mercury poisoning. You see Mr. Arnold, hat makers during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used elemental of metallic mercury in “felting” hats. They did not know that mercury vapors were toxic. As a result, these early hat makers developed severe neurological defects and, in many cases, died prematurely. In the first decades of the twentieth century, Danbury, Conn., had a hat making industry where “felting” with mercury was employed. The hat makers became afflicted with the “shakes.” That is how the word “Danbury Shakes” entered the vernacular.

    In the 1940’s mercury “felting” of hats was abolished in both Connecticut and New Jersey.

    Mr. Arnold’s specious argument that metallic mercury toxicity is overstatement is absurd. Given the opportunity, Mr. Arnold and his right-wing cohorts will pounce on government and public institutions with a any hollow pretext of bureaucratic malfeasance. Whether it’s public education, public transportation, public health, and now, public safety, right-wing opinion has an issue with the word ‘public.’ The concern over the “so-called panic” of a small mercury spill at the Westerly High School was just an exercise in erring on the side of caution.

    When I was in primary school, in chemistry class we learned the properties of this “liquid metal.” Our experiments were interesting and a lot of fun, however, at the same time, we were warned of its potential hazards. In both chemistry and math classes, we learned the difference between the volumetric ‘fluid ounce’ and the weight of an ounce. In English class, we also had the opportunity to read ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It seems to me that I had better teachers than Mr. Arnold.

    Ramon Garcia

    Westerly



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