MCT REGIONAL NEWS
By Taylor Kuykendall
The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.
Jan. 27--A new study ranks West Virginia fourth in mercury pollution, a chemical closely tied to a number of health risks.
According to the findings in the report, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are responsible for more than 35 percent of all power plant- based mercury pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency is set to propose stricter standards for various air pollutants by March and finalize them by November.
"Powering our homes should not poison our kids," said Shelley Vinyard, toxics advocate for Environment America. "Mercury pollution from power plants puts our kids and our environment at risk, and we need the Environmental Protection Agency to force these facilities to clean up."
The news comes as many politicians, especially in the West Virginia delegation, have been calling for increased scrutiny of the EPA.
"America's parents do everything they can to protect their children's health; now it's time for the EPA to do its part," Vinyard said. "Congress should stand up for America's families, and support the efforts of the EPA."
The report, entitled "Dirty Energy's Assault on our Health: Mercury" comes from Environment America, a federation of state-based environmental advocacy organizations.
Dr. Carlos Lucero, a Beckley pediatrician and chairman of the environmental committee for the West Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said he has seen an increase in neuropathical disorders that may be caused by increased exposure to mercury.
"The biggest concern is the water contamination," Lucero said. "Especially in pregnant women, the fetus is going to be exposed, and it will cause some degree of brain injury."
Lucero said depending on the levels of mercury, children could suffer from seizures, cerebral palsy, autism, learning disabilities and other conditions.
Exposure to mercury has also been linked to mental retardation, birth defects, cardiovascular issues, blindness and even death. In a news release from Environment America, Jerome A. Paulson, M.D., an environmental health expert urges the reduction of mercury emissions.
"Mercury from power plants limits our children's potential to succeed," Paulson said. "Power plants should reduce mercury emissions as much as is humanly possible to protect our children's health and their future."
One of the biggest sources of mercury pollution in the United States is coal-fired power plants. The report points out that pollution from oil and coal burning plants have contributed to the deaths of many.