STATEMENT

Statement of Congressman Mike Capuano Regarding the Dangers of Mercury Pollution

September 22, 2003

Mercury pollution is a significant environmental danger and poses major health risks, particularly for children. We must find ways to reduce the hazards of mercury in our air, water and aquatic life. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration's "Clear Skies" initiative does not do nearly enough to control mercury air pollution and protect the public health. In fact, the President's plan seeks to weaken existing provisions of the "Clean Air Act". Instead of requiring power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of toxic mercury by the end of the decade, the President's plan actually gives these polluters more time to reduce mercury emissions - decades longer than the existing law. This makes little sense, given the fact that coal-fired power plants account for one third of industry-related mercury air pollution. If we're going to make changes to existing environmental la ws, we should be strengthening them, not turning back the clock.

That is why I support "The Clean Power Act" because it represents a real effort to protect the environment. Under this legislation, introduced by Senators James Jeffords (I-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), we can reduce the amount mercury and other dangerous pollutants by making sure that all power plants meet tough new pollution control standards. I commend Senator Jeffords for sponsoring this listening tour, which shines a spotlight on the hazards of mercury pollution.

It seems that every day, we learn more and more about the dangers of eating mercury-contaminated fish. This is a particular problem for children, whose nervous systems are still developing, and women who are of childbearing age. In fact, pregnant women are advised not to even eat certain fish because the potential mercury contamination is so high, and this dangerous substance can be passed on to the developing fetus. Exposure to mercury can result in impaired memory, impaired visual and motor function, and the inability to process information.

That is why it is so important to reduce mercury contamination in our air and water. Not only is it good for the environment, it represents a critical step in protecting the public health, especially in our children.

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Contact: Alison M. Mills (617) 621-6208