Maine Parents, Doctors, and Business Owners Tell Snowe and Collins: “No More Delays: Get Mercury and Other Toxins out of Maine’s Air!”
(PORTLAND) Monument Square was filled with parents, doctors, scientists, and sportsmen today asking Senators Snowe and Collins to take leadership in protecting Maine’s air quality at this critical time in Congress. The Lung Association, NRCM, and many public and environmental health partners called on the Senators to support a strong Mercury and Air Toxics rule and to vote against all efforts to dismantle or delay either the Mercury Rule or the new Boiler Rule, saying improved air quality standards are essential to protecting the health of Maine families and lower health costs for Maine businesses.
Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer, physician in Portland, practicing Allergy & Immunology, told the crowd, “Here in Maine, toxic air pollution is impacting our health in significant ways. And unfortunately, much of this unhealthy air comes to us from other states to the west and south of us. Calling us the tailpipe of the nation is not an understatement.”
Toxic air pollutants have been shown to cause cancer; impair brain development and the ability to learn; damage the eyes, skin, and breathing passages; harm the kidneys, lungs, and nervous system; and cause pulmonary and cardiovascular disease and premature death.
Pennoyer added, “Unhealthy air affects all of us. That’s because health costs are never just about the person affected. Health costs are spread across the system. We all pay the price for every asthma attack, every trip to the emergency room, and every heart attack that is brought about by unhealthy air. Now is not the time for delays; now is the time for leadership.
Gathering under the holiday tree, participants and passers-by watched while actors playing Santa and the Grinch each tried to fill Maine’s stocking. Santa delivered gift boxes labeled “healthy air”, “healthy kids”, and “clean water.” The Grinch tried to remove these gifts and replace them with chunks of dirty coal.
Art Cerullo, a member of the American Lung Association of Maine’s Leadership Board, told the crowd, “Will Maine receive the gift of healthy air this year? Or will we get coal in our stocking from out-of-state polluters? Senator Snowe and Senator Collins may well hold the key. Half of Maine people live in counties with unhealthy air. But it’s not just about health. It’s about our ability to create jobs and grow Maine’s economy. And let’s face it, when you think of Maine as âVacationland’, you don’t think of dirty, unhealthy air!”
Mark Conley of Raymond, a small business owner whose son Jake has asthma remarked, “No parent should have to watch their child suffer through an asthma attack. Healthy air means healthier kids and lower costs for all of us. Maine families and kids like Jake don’t want more delays. We want clean, healthy air that protects us from the toxic pollution caused by out-of-state factories and power plants. No more delays; it’s time for action. We need Senators Snowe and Collins to stand up for Maine families and businesses.”
Last month both Senators voted against a proposal that would have dismantled the Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which is designed to protect the public from toxic air pollution emitted by industrial plants in other states. Here in Maine that rule is particularly important due to the state’s geographic location and vulnerability to air currents from the south and west.
But still at issue are both a new rule on Mercury and Air Toxics and a proposal by Senator Collins to delay the implementation of the EPA’s new rule on industrial boiler emissions. The Lung Association and other health partners have expressed their concern that a delay in the boiler rule will result in more asthma attacks, emergency room visits, premature deaths, and higher health costs for everyone.
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil its new Mercury and Air Toxics rule sometime this week. Advocates hope it will represent a significant improvement in public health safeguards. Mercury pollution is known to have serious health effects and be especially dangerous to young children, nursing mothers, and women of childbearing age, including affecting a developing child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write, and learn.
Dave Evers, President and Chief Scientist at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Gorham stated, “The science on the impacts of mercury pollution is clear. All 50 states still have fish consumption advisories due to mercury, and an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 children born each year in the U.S. are exposed to mercury levels in utero that are high enough to impair neurological function. Fortunately, reliable pollution control technology exists, and research shows that the benefits can outweigh the costs by up to 13 to 1. The costs of uncontrolled emissions from power plants are simply too high to be ignored.”
Rhonda Vosmus, an Asthma Educator in Portland, remarked, “As health care providers, we can only treat the symptoms of asthma attacks, lung disease, and heart disease. We need policymakers to treat a preventable underlying cause. We’re calling on Senators Snowe and Collins to give the gift of healthy air this holiday season and support stronger rules on mercury, soot, and industrial boilers.”
As the event ended, Cerullo added, “Defending healthy air is about defending Maine’s image, its economy, lowering the health costs for our families and businesses, and committing to giving Maine’s children every opportunity to live longer healthier lives. So the question is, are we going to look ahead or look back? Are we going to take advantage of the new and cleaner technology that is out there and the jobs that come with it? Or are we going to allow out-of-state polluters to keep spewing their toxic emissions and sending them to New England â costing them nothing while Maine families and businesses pay the price?”