Monday, February 28, 2005

With some senators still pushing the industry-friendly “clear skies” plan and the EPA apparently ready to move forward with an equally industry-friendly – and probably illegal – approach to mercury, I thought you might be interested in the new study, below, on the massive health toll that toxic mercury exacts on children.

This study is further evidence that we need to take aggressive steps to clean up mercury from power plants. The industry-friendly approach in the “clear skies” plan would permit power plants to continue spewing unnecessarily high levels of mercury for too long – and continue to harm the health of children.

Embargoed For Release Contacts:
Lucia Lee (212-241-9200)
Monday, February 28, 2005, 8AM EST
Lauri Boni (212-241-7840)
Reductions in IQ due to mercury pollution affect between 300,000 and 600,000 American
children each year and will cost the United States an estimated $8.7 billion in lost earnings
annually (range: $2.2-$43.8 billion), according to a new study by scientists at the Mount Sinai
Center for Children’s Health and the Environment in New York, released today in
Environmental Health Perspectives (, the peer-reviewed journal of the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The Mount Sinai study, “Public Health and Economic Consequences of Methyl mercury
Toxicity to the Developing Brain,” is the first study ever to be published in a peer-reviewed
medical journal that has examined the magnitude of the impact on America's children of the loss
of intelligence (IQ) caused by mercury pollution. It also the first study to ever quantify the
economic costs of these impacts.
The loss of IQ due to methyl mercury toxicity affects between ten and fifteen percent of the four
million children born in America each year. While not all of this damage can be prevented, the
study found that coal-fired power plants which produce 41% of mercury emissions nationwide
cause some $1.3 billion of the economic loss.
Throughout the 1990’s, the Environmental Protection Agency made steady progress in reducing
mercury emissions from power plants. However in 2003, citing the high costs of pollution
abatement, the Bush Administration backed away from this good work and proposed the “Clear
Skies Act.”
Passage of the “Clear Skies Act” would relax controls on power plant emissions and permit
twenty-six tons of mercury to be released each year into the atmosphere through 2010, a total of
156 tons or 312,000 pounds. Current provisions under the Clean Air Act allow only five
tons/year of mercury emissions from power plants by 2008. The uncontrolled emissions that
would be allowed under “Clear Skies” will contaminate rivers, lakes and the oceans, keep
mercury levels in fish high, and leave children vulnerable.
“As pediatricians, we worry about the potential damage to each affected child,” said Dr. Leo
Trasande, the study’s lead researcher, and Assistant Director of the Center. “Moreover, beyond
the harm to individual children, lie enormous socioeconomic consequences. The significant
impact that “Clear Skies” could have on the economic health and security of the United States
should be considered in a careful debate on mercury pollution controls before “Clear Skies”
becomes law.”
“If mercury emissions are allowed to remain at high levels,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, Director
of the Center and Chairman of Community and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai, “children
will continue to suffer loss in intelligence and disruptions of behavior. Most of these effects will
last a lifetime and are likely to cost this nation far more than the costs of installing flue gas filters
to prevent mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.”
The Center for Children’s Health and the Environment is the nation’s first academic research and
policy center to examine the links between exposure to toxic pollutants and childhood illness.
CCHE was established in 1998 within the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine
of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The mission of the Center for Children’s Health and the
Environment (CCHE) of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine is to protect children against
environmental threats to health.
The Mount Sinai Medical Center
The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of
Medicine. The Mount Sinai Hospital is one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary
hospitals. Founded in 1852, Mount Sinai today is a 1,171-bed tertiary-care teaching facility that is
internationally acclaimed for excellence in clinical care. Last year, nearly 48,000 people were treated at
Mount Sinai as inpatients, more than 72,000 received care in the emergency department, and the
outpatient department recorded nearly 470,000 visits. Mount Sinai School of Medicine is internationally
recognized as a leader in groundbreaking clinical and basic-science research, as well as innovative
approaches to medical education. Mount Sinai ranks 9th among the nation’s 125 medical schools in the
percentage of graduates who go on to faculty positions in medical schools across the country. Mount
Sinai also is in the top 25 in receipt of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants with a total of more than
$154 million during Fiscal Year 2003. Information about Mount Sinai can be found online at: and

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Inhofe threatens state critics

As if things weren't ugly enough in D.C., the staff of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is now asking for tax records of people who want clean air -- specifically, the association that represents state and local air pollution control officers.

This is, of course, a blatant attempt at intimidation as well as retaliation against the association, which has come out on record against the corporate air pollution plan sometimes called the "clear skies initiative."

There's an excellent editorial cartoon on this in today's Sacramento Bee newspaper.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

EPA Career Staff: Science May Support Tougher Fine Particle Pollution Standards

Dear friends,

The US EPA’s career staff has performed an evaluation of the emerging science involving fine particle pollution. (The agency is reviewing the controversial standards set in 1997 and officially put into place only recently.)

The results seem pretty interesting – especially since the Bush administration and its corporate allies are promoting a plan that could delay achievement of the current standards.

Here is an excerpt (from Chapter 5) from the new EPA staff report:

While the limitations and uncertainties in the available evidence suggest caution in interpreting the epidemiologic studies at the lower levels of air quality observed in the studies, staff concludes that the evidence now available provides strong support for considering fine particle standards that would provide increased protection from that afforded by the current PM2.5 standards. More protective standards would reflect the generally stronger and broader body of evidence of associations with mortality and morbidity now available in this review, at lower levels of air quality and at levels below the current standards, and with more understanding of possible underlying mechanisms.

The full report is available by clicking here.