President Obama said in his State of the Union address, "I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution." Of course, no one is asking him to back down. There is no movement in favor of exposing kids to mercury poisoning. It was like boldly proclaiming opposition to organized dog fights.
Mr. Obama was obliquely referring to his support for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule issued late last year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a December presidential memorandum, Mr. Obama claimed that "by substantially reducing emissions of pollutants that contribute to neurological damage, cancer, respiratory illnesses and other health risks, the MATS Rule will produce major health benefits for millions of Americans - including children, older Americans and other vulnerable populations." MATS is the most expensive EPA rule revision in history, and compliance will cost power plants $10-18 billion a year. These costs will be passed directly to consumers.
Some critics have charged that hyping mercury poisoning in MATS was just a cover for the EPA to ramp up its regulatory assault on the coal industry. Trace amounts of mercury from coal-fired power-plant emissions affect a small number of Americans, chiefly those who live near the emissions sources. At the same time, however, the Obama administration has been trying to force Americans to accept even greater mercury risks by insisting that traditional incandescent light bulbs be replaced with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).
The mercury vapor in CFLs is at a much more dangerous concentration than anything coming out of power plants. The associated risks are magnified because the toxic vapors and dust from a broken bulb would be contained in a room or enclosed area. The same EPA that is sounding the alarm about mercury emissions from power plants has written a detailed guide explaining how to respond to a broken CFL. It involves, among other things, evacuating the room in which the breakage occurs, shutting down central heating and air conditioning, airing out the room, carefully collecting bulb fragments and dust with rolled up duct tape, and placing all cleanup materials in airtight bags in a protected area outdoors pending proper disposal. Who knew that dropping a light bulb would instantly turn a home into a HAZMAT zone?
If Mr. Obama had his way, fluorescent lights would be in every home and school in America. The administration was set to enforce the ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs that passed in 2007 and was to begin this year, but a provision was included in the budget bill passed in December that would prohibit the Obama administration from spending any money to enforce the light-bulb ban. Energy Secretary David Chu mocked this as "a choice that continues to let people waste their own money." But it might also let them better protect their kids.
Remember when you are handling a CFL that it contains potentially deadly poisons. You can recognize the bulbs because they are twisty, like Mr. Obama's policy logic.
The Washington Times
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