EPA Conveniently Disregards Mercury Study

You probably recall a study I posted last week about the direct link between an increase in cases of autism in Texas and rising mercury emissions. This study hit the news on the heels of new rules governing mercury emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Rules, the EPA claimed, that couldn't be more aggressive as the price tag to industry was excessively high in relation to the health payoff.

Guess again...

Those new rules were called into question this week when it was discovered research done by Harvard University -- paid for and reviewed by the EPA -- had reached a much different conclusion. An EPA staffer revealed information from the Harvard study that showed health benefits 100 times greater than the federal agency originally disclosed was deleted from public documents. Factoring the study into the rule would've meant more stringent regulations.

According to the Harvard study, mercury controls like the ones proposed by the EPA could save nearly $5 billion annually in terms of related health costs. Conversely, agency officials said the estimated health gains would amount to no more than $50 million each year while industry would take a grossly larger hit ($750 million).

As you'd expect, EPA officials blasted the Harvard report, saying it had come too late to be considered and crucial parts of it were flawed anyway. Fact is, EPA officials had already been briefed about the Harvard report's methodology late last summer and they received a final version by an agreed-upon Jan. 3 deadline.

The EPA's argument: The science on mercury isn't solid enough to weigh possible benefits from fewer cases of heart disease and cleaner ocean fish. Moreover, the Harvard study assumes each pound of mercury coming from plant smokestacks will wind up in the ocean, a conclusion counter to what EPA researchers found.

This continuing disregard for the public's safety contributes greatly to the reasons why it is nearly impossible to find fish that is not contaminated with mercury, PCBs and dioxins.

Times-Picayune March 23, 2005

Washington Post March 22, 2005

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