National medical, nursing and public health groups file suit


In an unprecedented action, national medical, nursing and public health groups will file suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, June 14 in D.C. Circuit Court to force it to strengthen its official rule on mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The rule, finalized on March 15, 2005, fails to protect the health of the current generation of America's children. It delays significant reductions in mercury pollution from power plants by at least 10 to 15 years, and allows dangerous levels of mercury to spew unabated with a 'cap and trade' pollution control standard.

The EPA is required by the Clean Air Act to protect public health to the greatest extent possible. With its mercury rule, the EPA fails to comply with the law. These national groups, representing more than 300,000 public health professionals, are filing suit to prevent future injury among another generation of children.

The lawsuit will be prosecuted by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It will demand that the EPA address the public health implications of a 15-year delay in reducing current mercury emissions from power plants, the risks of hotspots, and the EPA's decision to favor industry by removing mercury from power plants from its official list of hazardous air pollutants.

Unlike recent litigation by major environmental organizations and 11 State Attorneys General, the litigation will focus specifically on the medical and public health impacts of mercury pollution on children and other vulnerable populations, articulated by health professionals who practice medicine or support population health and patient care.

Widely accepted scientific research shows that mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can harm developing fetuses in the womb, young children, and at higher doses, adults. Once consumed through fish and other sources, mercury travels through a mother's bloodstream, crosses the placenta and can harm healthy brain development in the fetus EPA scientists estimate that one in 12 women of childbearing age has mercury levels in her blood that are high enough to damage the developing brain of her child, potentially impacting IQ and learning of 630,000 newborns each year.

According to research by the Mt. Sinai Center for Children's Health and the Environment, "The resulting loss of intelligence causes diminished economic productivity that persists over the entire lifetimes of these children, impacting the future health and economic security of the U.S. This lost productivity is the major cost of methyl mercury toxicity, which amounts to $8.7 billion annually. Of this total, $1.3 billion each year is attributable to mercury emissions from American power plants."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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