Ethics in Medicine

Getting Rid of Mercury, Good News for Once

Kristen Sparrow • December 22, 2011

Tremendous health news. EPA will regulate mercury from coal plants. This is to be filed in the “First Do No Harm” file, but is a tremendous victory for regulation and standing up to moneyed interests. I will link you to Paul Krugmans’ blog post on the subject. But I especially like that he says “This is actually a much bigger issue, when it comes to saving American lives, than terrorism.” I always look at the numbers and there are a lot preventable causes of death and disability that are more dangerous than terrorism, yet it is terrorism that gets all the attention, and, of course, money. No money in prevention, lets face it. I’ve cut down the post, so feel free to link to the full one.

The Meaning of Mercury

Let me repeat part of that: it will save tens of thousands of lives every year and prevent birth defects, learning disabilities, and respiratory diseases. This is actually a much bigger issue, when it comes to saving American lives, than terrorism.

As Roberts explains, we’ve known about these costs of mercury pollution for decades, yet it took until now to get something done. The reason is, of course, obvious: special interests, hiding behind claims of immense economic damage if anything was done, were able to block action.

It’s worth noting that these claims of economic harm from pollution regulation have always been proved wrong when the regulation finally came. Ozone regulation was supposed to cripple the economy; so was acid rain regulation; neither did.

Oh, and if we’re going to have to scrap some power plants and replace them, it’s hard to think of a better time to do it than now, when the workers and resources needed to do the replacing would largely have been unemployed otherwise…

Info on the practice here.