ScienceDaily, April 25, 2008
[Rachel's introduction: A new study links mercury emissions from coal- fired power plants to autism in children.]
How do mercury emissions affect pregnant mothers, the unborn and toddlers? Do the level of emissions impact autism rates? Does it matter whether a mercury-emitting source is 10 miles away from families versus 20 miles? Is the risk of autism greater for children who live closer to the pollution source?
A newly published study of Texas school district data and industrial mercury-release data, conducted by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, indeed shows a statistically significant link between pounds of industrial release of mercury and increased autism rates. It also shows — for the first time in scientific literature — a statistically significant association between autism risk and distance from the mercury source.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated environmental mercury releases at 158 million tons annually nationwide in the late 1990s, the time period studied by the Texas team. Most exposures were said to come from coal-fired utility plants (33 percent of exposures), municipal/medical waste incinerators (29 percent) and commercial/industrial boilers (18 percent). Cement plants also release mercury.
So, there are forces pushing to build more mercury spewing coal-fired utility plants, municipal/medical waste incinerators, commercial/industrial boilers, and Cement plants. Why? The answer is short-term gain for the few and let the next generation deal with the environmental problems.