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EPA Mercury Rules Mean Possible Less Childhood Autism

Author: SafeMinds

Published: 2011-12-16 : (Rev. 2017-02-20)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Implementation of EPA regulation of air pollution from coal fired power plants means less mercury effects likely to harm childhood development.

Main Digest

SafeMinds Sees a Brighter Future from EPA's Mercury Rules - Autism's strong links to mercury mean new rules will help protect kids' brains.

Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize. It is one of 3 recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.

SafeMinds sees a brighter future after the implementation of long-overdue EPA regulation of hazardous air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Less mercury means its potent neurotoxic effects are less likely to harm childhood development. Mercury in any form and at any dose has the capacity to cause harm to infants and children if conditions of vulnerability exist - including genetic susceptibility, other environmental exposures, infections or poor nutritional status.

"Any mercury exposure affecting pregnant women, infants and children that's avoidable should be prevented. Such exposures include mercury coming from coal-fired power plants," said Sallie Bernard, President of SafeMinds.

Among the significant health effects EPA did not quantify in its analysis, was emerging evidence of airborne mercury's potential contribution to autism. With 47 peer-reviewed studies linking autism and mercury, four of them associate autism with mercury in ambient air. While two other studies question this, funding for their authors has come from utilities.

Power plant mercury adds to the exposures affecting childhood mental development. Autism is a serious developmental disorder whose prevalence has increased dramatically. It now impacts approximately one in every 100 children resulting in heavy personal, family and societal costs.

In addition to mercury, reducing power plant air pollution will also help prevent overexposure to many other carcinogenic, mutagenic and neurotoxic pollutants.

"New research confirms that the vast majority of autism cases are the result of an environmental exposure either before or soon after birth. Many substances have been implicated for increasing autism risk, but the one most thoroughly validated in scientific studies is mercury," said Eric Uram, SafeMinds' Executive Director.

Many states have already adopted tight mercury emission limits for coal-fired power plants as a matter of state law. In the majority of these states, the final mercury limits are substantially more stringent than EPA's. Based on experience, a number of demonstrated, commercially available, and cost effective control options for power plant owners are available.

"This EPA rule will help protect our children by leading the way on controlling mercury pollution," adds SafeMinds Medical Advisor, Cindy Schneider, MD. "Mercury in all forms is neurotoxic and endocrine-disrupting. We are just beginning to quantify the full health costs of mercury pollution."

SafeMinds is a non-profit 501c-3 organization whose mission is to restore health and protect future generations by eradicating the devastation of autism and associated health disorders induced by mercury and other toxicants resulting from human activities.

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