Health Care Without Harm Calls Passage of Bill to Delay EPA Regulations Limiting Pollution from Cement Plants “Unconscionable”
“Reducing Health Care Costs Associated with Pollutants will Benefit Economy,” Cohen Says
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Health Care Without Harm strongly opposed the passage in the House today of one a bill intended to weaken the EPA’s ability to protect the nation’s air supply under the Clean Air Act. H.R. 2681, passed today by the House, would delay new EPA emissions restrictions on air pollutants from cement plants. The bill blocks regulations that would reduce significantly the amount of mercury and other pollutants emitted by the cement industry.
Despite the known health effects of air pollutants, many Republicans have made rollback or delay of EPA regulations a priority and a focus of their efforts to distinguish themselves leading into the 2012 elections. However, the nation’s increasing cost of health care due to chronic illness, much of which is caused by or exacerbated by environmental pollutants, is of growing concern.
“We find the House of Representatives’ cavalier attitude toward mercury contamination and other air pollutants to be unconscionable and not supported by the facts,” stated Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm. “We need to stop blaming health protections for the nation’s economic situation. Preserving the health of the nation is paramount in developing and keeping a strong workforce. And reducing health care costs associated with pollutants will certainly benefit the economy.”
Mercury contamination is dangerous to the developing fetus. Women who are pregnant are urged to consume fish very judiciously, because of high levels of mercury found in fish from waters of the majority of U.S. states, including the Great Lakes. Mercury contamination is a problem with ocean fish as well, and most Americans are advised to eat canned tuna sparingly. Cement kilns are the fourth-largest source of mercury pollution and coal-fired power plants are the largest source.
In late September, the House voted to delay regulations limiting mercury and other pollutants from coal fired power plants.
Particulate matter is one of the most dangerous of all air-borne pollutants, because the smallest particles can penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can be absorbed directly into the blood stream. Particulate matter is implicated in asthma and in exacerbation of heart and lung disease. Other pollutants associated with cement plants are hydrocarbons, associated with ozone production; hydrochloric acid, associated with eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation and pulmonary edema in humans; sulfur dioxide, associated with asthma and other respiratory ailments; and nitrogen oxides, associated with decreased lung function.
The EPA has estimated that reducing mercury and other emissions from the nation’s cement plants would prevent between 620 and 1600 deaths a year and reduce health care costs by between $4.4 billion and $11 billion per year. The agency estimates that meeting the standards would cost the cement industry between $222 million and $684 million.
“With the nation facing an epidemic of chronic disease, much of which is environmentally related, it is incomprehensible that some members of the House are intent on dismantling protections that would not only reduce the incidence of disease, but significantly reduce the cost of health care as well,” stated Cohen. “These measures will not help the economy.”
HCWH is an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH, see www.noharm.org.
SOURCE Health Care Without Harm