Latinos and Mercury Poisoning and Other Maddening News

BY ON July 6, 2011

 Elisa BatistaAs a proud Cuban and Puerto Rican and lover of the great outdoors, I am particularly passionate about advocacy that helps clean the air and water in our communities.

You could say I was distressed by a report by the non-profit Sierra Club that mercury poisoning is disproportionately affecting Latinos. The primary culprit of this poisoning? Mercury emissions by coal plants that enter the food supply and is then ingested by unsuspecting Latino families, including children and pregnant women.

Read on:

“Representatives from the Sierra Club warn that ‘Hispanics in the United States should be especially concerned about the fish that they catch, since many local waterways have high levels of mercury pollution.’ Additionally, according to poll results: one-third of Latinos fish in freshwater lakes, where mercury pollution levels are significantly higher, thus increasing the likelihood of mercury exposure.

“According to the report, 76 percent of Latinos eat the fish that they catch and 64 percent share what they catch with their families, which often include children and women of childbearing age – two of the most vulnerable populations at risk of mercury poisoning.”

As I have mentioned before, I grew up fishing with my dad in Miami, and our family ate what we caught. It is one of my fondest childhood memories of family meals together. Now, I cannot fathom feeding fish to my children, much less taking them fishing and eating what we caught. How sad.

Besides advocate for clean air on behalf of Moms Clean Air Force, I have also testified in Sacramento, California, to (unsuccessfully) change a rule practically mandating toxic flame retardants in baby products. The flame retardants, which animal studies have linked to cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders, are sprayed in practically every foam product from couches to nursing pillows. These flame retardants easily leach onto dust, pet hair, and the crumbling foam of old products — surely, I am not the only one who used second-hand baby products! — making them easy to ingest by children.

I was turned onto this issue as an advocate for MomsRising.org, but have continued following and writing about it even after that particular project expired. As a mom, it is disturbing to me that not only are companies allowed to pollute in our neighborhoods, but they are even allowed to sell us products with toxins like flame retardants. You could imagine my dismay when I learned that two states have passed laws increasing the amount of flame retardants in the foam of…school buses.

According to a recent e-mail by the Green Science Policy Institute, which is headed by a scientist whose work contributed to the phasing out of a cancer-causing flame retardant in children’s pajamas in the 1970s, the Bromine industry has succeeded in passing legislation for “severe flammability standards” for school bus seats in Maryland and in Nevada.

“The…fire test of upholstered furniture required is typically met with levels of 40% or more of halogenated flame retardant chemical in foam and additional chemicals padded on the fabric.

“Children would be exposed to the toxic chemicals all the time they ride on school buses, while the fire safety benefit appears to be low. Children don’t smoke and in a large fire the retardants eventually will burn to produce high levels of toxic gases.”

Wow. If there is any silver lining in these news stories, it is that parents ARE paying attention. I know that I am paying attention and acting. If you haven’t done so already, please join me and sign up at Moms Clean Air Force to let companies as well as legislators know that we are ALL paying attention. Dads are welcome too!

TOPICS: Activism, Coal, Dads, Latino Community, Mercury Poisoning, Pollution, Social Justice

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