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Mercury Pollution Causing Brain Damage & Lowering IQ's of 500,000 U.S. Children Annually

From: Environmmental News Service <>

Mercury Damages IQ of U.S. Children, Billions in Earnings Lost

NEW YORK, New York, March 1, 2005 (ENS) - Reductions in intelligence due to
mercury pollution affect between 316,500 and 637,200 American children each
year and will cost the United States an estimated $8.7 billion in lost
earnings annually, according to a new study by scientists at the Mount Sinai
Center for Children¹s Health and the Environment in New York, released
Monday in "Environmental Health Perspectives" (, the
peer-reviewed journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health

The Mount Sinai study, ³Public Health and Economic Consequences of
Methylmercury Toxicity to the Developing Brain,² is the first study 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 quantify the economic costs
of these impacts.

Pediatricians Philip Landrigan, Clyde Schechter, and Leonardo Trasande, the
principal researchers on the study, said that the loss of IQ due to methyl
mercury toxicity affects between 10 and 15 percent of the four million
children born in America each year. "This lost productivity is the major
cost of methylmercury toxicity," they wrote.

"Of this total, $1.3 billion each year is attributable to mercury emissions
from American power plants. This significant toll threatens the economic
health and security of the United States and should be considered in the
debate on mercury pollution controls," the doctors said.

The doctors said the Bush administration's "Clear Skies" legislation that
would substitute a cap-and-trade system for the existing Clean Air Act to
reduce mercury from U.S. power plants has the potential to damage American
children. The Clean Air Act would reduce mercury more quickly than the Bush
plan, many scientists and environmentalists have said.

³If mercury emissions are allowed to remain at high levels,² said Dr.
Landrigan, director of the Center and Chairman of Community and Preventive
Medicine at Mount Sinai, ³children 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.²

³As pediatricians, we worry about the potential damage to each affected
child,² said Dr. Trasande, the study¹s lead researcher, and assistant
director of the Center. ³Moreover, beyond the harm to individual children,
lie enormous socioeconomic consequences. The significant impact that ³Clear
Skies² could have on the economic health and security of the United States
should be considered in a careful debate on mercury pollution controls
before ³Clear Skies² becomes law.²

But Scott Segal, executive director of the Electric Reliability
Coordinating Council, which represents the power generation industry,
continued to defend the "Clear Skies" approach, although he acknowleged the
toxic nature of mercury. "The power industry has never challenged the notion
that mercury is a neurotoxin," he said.

"A well-designed cap and trade program like the Clear Skies proposal
remains the most appropriate response to dealing with mercury emissions from
power plants," Segal said.

There is no mercury control technology that exists today that can achieve
the reduction levels proposed in the mercury rule, let alone the 90 percent
reductions advocated by some activists," he said. "Technology is still being
developed to get repeatable, robust, high-level mercury removal on different
plant configurations and coal types."

"The cap-and-trade mechanism creates substantial economic incentives for
superior mercury control but remains sensitive to real technological
constraints," Segal said.

He warned that if coal-fired power plants must switch to natural gas to
reduce mercury emissions, power prices would go up.

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