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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mercury pollution dangers aired

Bush rules rapped: Speakers touch on vaccines, fish

By A.J. Goldsmith

HIGHLAND PARK — Many of the estimated 250 people who attended Tuesday night's Mercury Forum at the Highland Park Country Club were astounded when one of the principal speakers warned that common flu shots are preserved with Thimerosal that contains mercury.

Dr. Anju Usman is the director of the True Health Medical Center of Naperville and specializes in discovering and treating such underlying causes of diseases as the presence of heavy metals in the body.

"Ask your doctor for a flu shot without Thimerosal," she recommended, noting that as a vaccine preservative, Thimerosal is thought to be a culprit in the onset of neurological problems in very young children who are normally given vaccines.

Autism, for example, manifests itself within the first three years of a child's life.

There is a correlation between "the increase in reported autism cases and apparent parallels to the increase in number and frequency of Thimerosal-containing vaccines in the 1990s," indicated David Kirby, author of "Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy." He was the keynote speaker at the forum, sponsored by state Rep. Karen May, D-Highland Park.

Kirby readily admits that the link between mercury-containing vaccines is not conclusive, but he said the inferences are substantial.

For example, the link shown by new biological research is not substantiated by research sponsored by the federal government. Kirby cites a recent discovery of data from the Centers for Disease Control "showing a shockingly high correlation between Thimerosal exposure and autism, ADD and other childhood disorders."

He recognizes that there are other sources of mercury, also. For example, prenatal fish consumption by an expectant mother could transmit mercury through breast milk.

Speaker Bruce Nilles, representing the Sierra Club, told the audience Illinois and 44 other states have issued fish-consumption advisories because of high levels of mercury in native species.

Much of the mercury found in both freshwater and saltwater species come from pollution generated by coal-burning utilities that now have until 2018 to install scrubbers that would remove mercury. Mercury is a heavy-metal element that is found naturally in the Earth's crust. Methyl mercury and ethyl mercury are toxic substances.

"There is no leadership in our national level, so there is no reason not to look to minimize pollution on the local level," said Nilles.

Ann Alexander, environmental counsel to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, scored the federal government's clean air initiatives.

"It is not true that the Bush administration put forth the first rules to limit mercury from power plants," said Alexander. "They have backtracked from the mercury standards set during the Clinton administration. They have failed to consider the evidence of risk."

Alexander said Illinois and 14 other states are in the process of legally challenging the federal mercury rule.

"The plan to trade credits for mercury pollution just doesn't work," she said, adding the Bush administration traded a 90 percent reduction in mercury pollution in 2008 for a 70 percent reduction in 2018.

The current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Alexander says, gave a preference to high-mercury-content coal from Western states over lower-mercury-content coal from Illinois, for example.

Furthermore, in looking at mercury-containing fish, the EPA only considered freshwater sport fish and ignored freshwater commercial fish, aquaculture, marine commercial fishing and marine sport fishing.

Kevin Greene, manager of the Illinois EPA Office of Pollution Prevention, spoke about how his office helps businesses, institutions and local governments adopt environmentally sound practices that reduce waste generation, eliminate the use of toxic materials and conserve resources. His office also promotes alternatives to mercury and other harmful substances in manufacturing.

Posted by Becca

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