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Proposed EPA Mercury Rule Leads World in Wrong Direction

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, March 14, 2005

(Washington, March 14, 2005) — The Environmental Working Group (EWG) today condemns the Bush EPA's proposed rule allowing power plants to trade mercury pollution credits. It's more evidence that the Bush Administration is abdicating a leadership role on the environment, and promoting policies that allow far more pollution than necessary, particularly for this case in hot spots and sacrifice zones around coal-burning power plants.

The "cap-and-trade" plan was spawned from politically-driven science and faulty methods, according to two government investigations. It sets the U.S. forward as a poor example for the world, and does not move the country closer to the clean energy technologies of the future.

The Bush administration is not doing enough to stop pollution from power plants, EWG analysts say, and it is also not doing enough to prevent people from eating unsafe levels of mercury in tuna fish and other seafood.

Tomorrow EWG will appeal another Bush Administration decision on mercury that puts public health at risk - the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) refusal to change its consumer advisory on seafood for pregnant women. The advisory recommends amounts of mercury-tainted seafood that would be unsafe for women to eat. According to EWG's analysis of FDA data, if women follow FDA's advice on "safe" levels of consumption of mercury-contaminated seafood like white (albacore) tuna, 74 percent of American women will go over the safe level for mercury in their blood. Already 630,000 babies are born in the U.S. each year with unsafe levels of mercury in their blood.

Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at EWG, said, "The Bush administration is leading the world in the wrong direction first with pollution coming out of power plant stacks, and second with the mercury pollution we eat from tuna fish and other seafood. We have the technology now to pump less mercury into the air — we should use it, and we should give women clear and sound advice about what fish are safe to eat in what amounts."

"We can't simply trade off our responsibility for polluting newborns," said Houlihan. "The U.S. should be leading the way to less pollution through pioneering technology, not selling the rights to harm human health."

A study published last week in the National Institute of Health's peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (Please visit http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2005/7743/7743.pdf) put the annual cost of mercury's damage to babies' developing brains at $8.7 billion.

In December 2003, EWG used the Data Quality Act of 2001 to petition the FDA to change the Seafood Advisory the federal government planned to offer to women of childbearing age. In February 2005 the FDA refused to change its advice, which EWG says will result in women being exposed to mercury above safe levels. If the FDA rejects the appeal EWG files tomorrow, then EWG will sue FDA for issuing unsound advice that does not meet the standards of the Data Quality Act.

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EWG is a not-for-profit research organization that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. EWG's work on mercury in seafood and mercury pollution can be viewed at http://new.ewg.org/featured/216.

 

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