More than seven years after a federal court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate toxic mercury pollution from cement kilns, no action has been taken to curb these dangerous and rapidly growing emissions from over 150 plants located across the nation. A major new study to be released on July 23, 2008 by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) will document the severely underestimated problem of mercury emissions from cement kilns and the EPA’s failure to control them.
Cement kilns produce cement, the main ingredient in concrete. The unregulated kilns are found in many major U.S. urban areas, including cement plants in AL, CA, IA, IL, MD, MI, MT, NY, OR, SC, and WA state (which are highlighted in the report).
Mercury pollution has impaired rivers, lakes, streams and even oceans, making certain fish unsafe to eat. The Earthjustice/EIP study will show that the toxic mercury emissions from cement kilns far exceed EPA estimates. It also will raise major questions regarding the adequacy of cement companies’ mercury reporting. The report from the two groups outlines the steps that federal and state officials should take now to deal with this major public health threat.
Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system. According to the report, kilns are considered the top unregulated source of dangerous a pollutant that acts as a neurotoxin.
Exposure to mercury can be particularly hazardous for pregnant women and small children. During the first several years of life, a child’s brain is still developing and rapidly absorbing nutrients. Prenatal and infant mercury exposure can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness, and blindness.The EPA estimates that 15% of women of childbearing age, or one out of every six, have enough mercury in their blood to put a baby at risk of cognitive and developmental damage.
Mercury poses a threat to adult men, as well as women and children. In adults, mercury poisoning can adversely affect fertility and blood pressure regulation and can cause memory loss, tremors, vision loss, and numbness of the fingers and toes.
An online news conference will be held on July 23, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. EDT in conjunction with the release of the report. Anyone interested in participating in the news conference (with full, two-way Q&A) can call 800-860-2442 and ask for the “cement kiln toxic pollution study” news event.
News event speakers will be:
* Earthjustice staff attorney James Pew;
* Environmental Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer; and
* Marti Sinclair, chairperson, Sierra Club National Air committee (Cincinnati, OH).
For those unable to participate in real time, the event will be available online as of 6 p.m. EDT on July 23, 2008.