JunkScience.com is calling on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to publicly retract her false and inflammatory statement regarding mercury made on national TV last week.
While being interviewed last Thursday (May 19) by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and in the context of the EPA’s recent proposal to regulate mercury emissions from power plants, Jackson said:
Mercury is a neurotoxin. It destroys our children’s brains, oftentimes before they are born.
This statement is patently false because:
- There is no evidence that mercury emissions from U.S. power plants, about one percent of global emissions, have caused any harm to any child’s brain, before or after birth; and
- Mercury has not “destroyed” anyone’s brain in any reasonable interpretation of that word.
- Outside of several rare instances of mercury poisoning, typical exposures to mercury are not known to cause any adverse health effects whatsoever;
- If mercury is a neurotoxin, as Jackson claims, then water should also be classified as a neurotoxin, too, since overhydration can cause fatal disturbance of brain function. Although there are documented cases of water as a neurotoxicant to children, there is no documented example of ambient mercury as a neurotoxicant to anyone;
- Most ambient mercury is emitted from natural sources;
- The vast majority of ambient mercury in U.S. air, particularly in the West and Midwest, comes from Asian sources; and
- The largest potential exposures to mercury faced by Americans come from EPA-endorsed compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
As the chief government official for environmental regulation, it is outrageous that Jackson would make such recklessly false and inflammatory statements, especially to a national TV audience. Her calculatedly hysterical statement, scaring Americans about the air they breathe, is akin to shouting fire in a crowded theater.
We call upon Administrator Jackson to retract her comments about mercury destroying children’s brains and to commit to science-based dialog on public health matters. The requested retraction and commitment should be made publicly and, preferably, on The Daily Show.