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Santorum takes on EPA over mercury limits rule
January 3rd, 2012
07:15 AM ET

Santorum takes on EPA over mercury limits rule

Speaking to voters in Iowa Monday, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania ripped the Environmental Protection Agency's new rule placing first-ever limits on the amount of mercury that coal-fired power plants can emit into the air.

The GOP presidential contender claimed the new regulations would shut down 60 coal fired power plants in America, and he charged the EPA with basing its study on a philosophy of: "We hate carbon, we hate fossil fuels, we hate blue-collar Americans who work in those areas."

He specifically took issue with the agency's cost-benefit analysis, calling it "absolutely ridiculous" and "not based on any kind of science."

But the EPA's cost-benefit analysis cites peer-reviewed studies extensively in its 510-page "Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Final Mercury and Air Toxics Standards," which has been two decades in the making.

Santorum did not address the health dangers of mercury and other hazardous pollutants that could be limited by the new regulations. His campaign did not respond to questions by CNN.

"Everyone from the EPA and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to the National Academy of Sciences have found mercury to be dangerously toxic - especially to children. For someone who claims to be so pro-life, Santorum's baseless statement shows he isn't pro-healthy-life," says Heather Taylor-Miesle, director of the NRDC Action Fund, which is affiliated with the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group.

"He needs to get the facts because right now he just sounds like he is pandering to rich polluters."

The benefits of the new regulation include preventing up to 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma attacks every year, according to the EPA.

In terms of dollars, the new rule is estimated to save as much as $9 in health benefits for every dollar spent on installing new technologies to meet new emission limits.

There's a long list of benefits, however, both to human health and the economy that the EPA says it cannot accurately estimate, and therefore leaves outside of the official cost-benefit summary.

For example the established effects of methylmercury beyond IQ loss - such as changes in memory, behavior and the cardiovascular system - and the cancer-causing effects of some hazardous air pollutants are not included. Effects on vegetation and wildlife are also described, but not quantified.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.