Perhaps you read about Representative Joe Barton last month criticizing Environmental Protection Agency scientific projections that stronger mercury and air toxics standards could prevent 17,000 premature deaths each year.
Rep. Barton had countered during a Congressional hearing that such estimates were “pulled out of thin air.” He also confessed that while he was not a medical doctor, “to cause poisoning or a premature death” he believed one had to “get a large concentration of mercury into the body.”
These comments were meant to thwart support of EPA’s new proposed Air Toxics standards intended to greatly reduce power plant toxic emissions. [Note: As I wrote after the proposed standards were announced, Texas stands to greatly benefit since it houses seven of the nation’s top 25 mercury-emitting coal plants.]
You can certainly guess my reaction to his comments. However, in this case, a joint letter from some of our nation’s most respected health organizations says it best.
In the letter, doctors – representing the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American, and Physicians for Social Responsibility and American Thoracic Society – write that they were “shocked at such statements.”
Based on scientific literature as well as the patients they treated, the doctors responded with a strong, declarative statement, “that air pollution makes people sick and cuts lives short.”
The letter goes on to explain the very real, proven health impacts of mercury, especially for children. It also reiterates what we all know, that “industrial emissions, especially from coal-fired power plants, are the leading source of environmental mercury.”
Our politicians should not be permitted to grossly mislead the American public with unsubstantiated statements meant to confuse and obfuscate. When it comes to air quality, who will you believe? One uninformed politician? Or a consensus of credentialed, medical doctors?