The Natural Resources Council of Maine has launched a door-to-door education campaign in selected towns and cities, including Brunswick, to inform the public about the urgency of mercury pollution.
Door to door? It’s enough to make one think that this is a serious issue.
And it is.
Mercury has contaminated Maine’s air, water and wildlife — a fact that’s getting harder to ignore.
Tuesday, the New England Zero Mercury Campaign released its annual report card on progress made toward the governors’s 1998 pledge to eliminate mercury emissions throughout the region. Maine received the highest grade, a B+, due in large part to mercury-containment laws passed by the Legislature.
But the report also cites studies that show the mercury crisis is worse than previously thought. In fact, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management calls mercury exposure “one of the most critical public health threats in our region today.”
The NRCM’s “Project Mercury” team wants to warn residents about the dangers — especially to children and pregnant women — of eating mercury-contaminated fish. The Environmental Protection Agency now estimates that one in six U.S. women of childbearing age have unsafe mercury levels, which translates to more than 630,000 children born at risk for learning disabilities and health problems from mercury exposure.
The team also wants us to understand where the pollution comes from: the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. The foul emissions they belch travel on prevailing winds to Maine, which is why our state has been dubbed “the tailpipe of the nation.” In addition to brochures, Project Mercury has postcards for those who want to send comments to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt. Under the Bush administration, the EPA has rolled back or side-stepped a host of regulations, to the benefit of industrial polluters and the detriment of the people. Here’s an opportunity to pressure the federal government to require modern pollution controls on power plants, so that Maine’s environment and its people — especially the children — are protected from harm.