Toxic fish in U.S. streams tell the true cost of coal emissions

The coal lobby got a well-deserved kick in the pants yesterday when the U.S. Geological Service released study results showing shockingly widespread mercury contamination in freshwater fish. The USGS netted fish from 291 streams across the country, in the largest study of its kind to date, and the results were both depressing and staggering. Every fish caught in the study had some mercury in its body; two-thirds had amounts well above detectable thresholds. And 27 percent had levels of contamination greater than recommended safety levels for consumption by humans who eat average amounts of fish.

The main source of mercury introduced into the environment is coal-fired power plants, according to The New York Times. Mercury is a known neurotoxin that can cause birth defects, tremors, speech impairment, and brain damage, and it's hard to eliminate from the body once consumed.