Dear Mental Health Trust Board:
Alaskans’ health is threatened by widespread mercury pollution from increased coal combustion overseas, a result of exporting Alaska coal from proposed strip mines in the Chuitna Watershed and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. We respectfully demand that the Mental Health Trust stop all investment in coal development to reduce the threat of mercury exposure to our most vulnerable population – developing children.
Mothers Against Mercury
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Why is this important now?
Alaska is facing increasing pressure to mine coal for foreign export, yet numerous medical studies show that coal development is hazardous to human health. Throughout the cycle of coal mining, transportation and combustion, coal pollutants cause adverse effects on human respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems.
Pollution from coal comes back to affect Alaskans even after the coal has been shipped away. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, coal-fired power plants and coal combustion are the leading sources of anthropogenic mercury in the environment today. Some of the emissions from Asian coal-fired power plants poison the local communities, but much of the toxic cloud is transported to Alaska on atmospheric and oceanic currents. Mercury and other hazardous compounds precipitate out of this cloud and contaminate our air, water and fish. Eating mercury-contaminated fish is the most common exposure route. Coal development here for export to Asia will increase the mercury content of subsistence foods and commercial fisheries throughout Alaska.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that causes learning disabilities and developmental disorders in infants and children, and also contributes to cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disturbance and suppressed immune systems in humans of all ages. Mercury contamination required Alaskans to face fish consumption advisories for the first time in 2007; these advisories recommend restricting consumption of certain fish (due to mercury levels) for women who are or can become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under 12. Wild Alaska salmon are currently one of a few fisheries on the planet with low mercury levels; this is a food and economic resource that should be protected, not polluted.
Mothers—and everyone who knows and loves a child–are keenly aware of the health effects of mercury. Mercury and related compounds are potent neurotoxins that can cause serious, long-term, adverse health effects in humans, especially young children. Mercury exposure causes developmental disorders in children, such as learning disabilities, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and impaired memory and motor function; and also contributes to cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disturbance and suppressed immune systems in humans of all ages.