For Immediate Release (Thursday, February 9, 2006):
Donna Hoffman, Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, (512) 477-1729 or (512) 299-5776
Dr. Neil Carman, Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, (512) 288-5772
Rita Beving, Dallas Sierra Club, (214) 373-3808
Jane Kochersperger, Greenpeace Media Officer, (202) 319-2493
Christina Kreitzer, Sierra Club Media Campaigner, (415) 977-5619
Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club consists of over 25,000 members.
The Chapter spans the entire state of Texas, excepting El Paso, which
is part of the Rio Grande Chapter.
Located in Austin, the Lone Star Chapter's State Conservation Office
serves Sierrans as their grassroots communications center. We also provide
Sierrans with a full time professional activist staff employed to represent
Sierrans as we fight at the state level to protect and conserve Texas'
diverse and valuable natural heritage.
NEW STUDY: ONE IN FIVE WOMEN TESTED NATIONWIDE
HAS UNSAFE MERCURY LEVELS
Final Results of Largest Mercury Testing Project puts spotlight on Governor Perry and on TXU - the energy company proposing
the largest, mercury-emitting plant in the nation
(Washington/Austin) The results of the nation’s largest mercury hair-sampling project were released today by the Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. The testing found mercury levels exceeding the EPA’s recommended limit of one microgram of mercury per gram of hair in one in five women of childbearing age tested.
More than 6,600 women from 50 states of all ages participated in the hair tests conducted by Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Here in Texas, 15.7% of Texans who were tested were found to have dangerous amounts of mercury in their bodies.
The study comes at a time of growing concern over toxic mercury pollution in Texas while energy companies want to build 7 new, old technology coal plants in the state and Governor Perry has expedited the plants’ permitting process.
Mercury contamination is a particular concern for women of childbearing years (16 to 49 years old) because mercury exposure in the womb can cause neurological damage, developmental disabilities, and other health problems in children. The EPA has not established mercury exposure health standards for older children, men, or women older than 49.
“If the purpose of the state permitting such plants is to protect the public's health, then it seems to me that, before they ask for the public's input, they should make readily available to all the citizens of Robertson County a compilation of the very best science that would indicate the health effects of exposure to the expected emissions from this plant,” said Robertson County, landowner Paul Rolke. “This study should be a wake-up call for Texans to move to clean sources of energy in order to keep women and children mercury-free."
Rolke’s property outside Franklin north of College Station is close to the proposed TXU power plant, one of the seven newly-proposed coal plants in Texas.
“TXU ranked #1 in 2003 among all Texas companies for air pollution and its power plants produce nearly 25% of Texas industrial pollution and more than 47% of all Texas power plant pollution,” said Dr. Neil Carman, chemist and Clean Air Program Director for the Lone Star Sierra Club. “In TXU’s Oak Grove plant permit application, the company seeks to emit nearly 2,200 pounds of mercury per year which is the largest amount of mercury emissions for any power plant in the United States.”
Coal burning power plants are the nation’s biggest mercury polluter, releasing 42 percent of the country’s industrial mercury pollution. Mercury from dirty power plants falls into lakes, streams and oceans, concentrating in fish and shellfish, which are then consumed by people.
Texas ranks #1 (nearly 10,000 pounds per year) among all states for mercury air pollution from industry due to coal plants lack of smokestack controls on mercury, based on U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory data for the years 2002-2003.
Texas already has approximately twelve lakes and the Gulf of Mexico with serious methyl-mercury contamination in the fish such that the fish are unsafe for human consumption. Fish consumption advisories are increasing in Texas and the Texas Department of Health uses a weak threshold of 0.7 parts per million rather than 0.1 ppm.
“In the samples we analyzed, the greatest single factor influencing mercury exposure was the frequency of fish consumption,” said Dr. Steve Patch, Co-director of EQI and co-author of the report. “We saw a direct relationship between people’s mercury levels and the amount of store-bought fish, canned tuna fish or locally caught fish people consumed.”
“When I am long dead,” said Paul Rolke, “I would like future generations of Rolkes to be able to eat fish out of the stock tank in that back pasture without risk of mercury poisoning. “
“It only takes one gram of toxic mercury to contaminate a twenty-acre lake to trigger fish consumption advisories that the fish are no longer safe to eat,” said Dr. Neil Carman. “Multiply the mercury emissions totals for the 7 new proposed plants in Texas and you see that these energy producers are proposing to emit over one million grams of toxic mercury per year. That means millions of acres of lakes would become contaminated from toxic mercury that would spew from these new plants.”
In 2005, The Bush Administration proposed weak power plant mercury regulations that violate the Clean Air Act, according to 11 State Attorneys General. States have taken the lead in protecting Americans from mercury pollution, and, most recently, Illinois’ Governor Blagojevich called for 90% reductions in mercury. The spotlight now shifts to Governor Perry as Texans call on him to follow suit.
“Governor Perry has the power to protect Texans from mercury poisoning by stopping these coal-fired power plants,” said Lone Star Sierra Club member in Dallas Rita Beving. “As Governor, he can use his authority to clean up the plants that already exist and turn our state further toward the path to developing clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar power and to conserving fuel.”
Home hair sampling kits are available at cost via Greenpeace’s web site: www.greenpeaceusa.org/mercury. The EQI report and supporting documents will be available on the Greenpeace web site on February 8, 2006.