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UPDATE: An earlier version of this post left out Illinois. Can you believe that? Thanks to Barry Matchett for the heads-up.

You may have noticed a couple of stories over the last couple of days about mercury emissions. Yesterday, MinnPost reported that power plants in Minnesota pumped 1,664 pounds of mercury into the air in 2009. On Wednesday, the Portage Daily Register reported on Wisconsin’s 2,720 pounds of mercury from power plants.

The numbers, compiled by Environment America, are from the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, which tracks a wide range of pollutants. Environment America’s full report (PDF) contains concise data from all 50 states.

So I thought I’d list the mercury pollution for all of the Midwest states, in order. And because the only thing we’re more terrified of than freezing to death in our electric cars is breaking a light bulb and killing our entire family with mercury poisoning, I thought I’d express the figures in CFL bulbs as well (using a conversion factor of 2.5 milligrams per bulb).

1. Ohio, 9,518 lbs (1.7 billion CFLs)
2. Indiana, 6,046 lbs (1.1 billion CFLs)
3. Illinois, 4,973 lbs (902 million CFLs
3. Michigan, 4,012 lbs (728 million CFLs)
4. Missouri, 3,957 lbs (718 million CFLs)
5. North Dakota, 3,012 lbs (546 million CFLs)
6. Iowa, 2,735 lbs (496 million CFLs)
7. Wisconsin, 2,720 lbs (494 million CFLs)
8. Nebraska, 2,353 lbs (427 million CFLs)
9. Kansas, 2,046 lbs (371 million CFLs)
10. Minnesota, 1,664 lbs (302 million CFLs)
11. South Dakota, 328 lbs (59 million CFLs)

All total (as long as we’ve got the spreadsheet open), that’s just shy of 8 billion CFL bulbs* worth of mercury emitted from the region’s power plants in a single year.

* sharp readers will notice that this number doesn’t jibe with the 10 billion CFLs I calculated earlier for the entire U.S. – that’s because I was using a higher figure of 4 mg of mercury per bulb, which a commenter pointed out wasn’t accurate

Ken Paulman

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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