Statement Of Phil Compton
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 3, 2003
Florida Consumer Action Network
We have over 40,000 Floridians as our members, many of them are seniors. Our organization has worked for years to advocate cleaning up the air here in Florida. We are opposed to the President's Clear Skies initiative in its present form on the grounds that it fails to adequately weigh the cost of cleaning our air against the real expense of not using all currently available technology. Its real, under-estimated expense costs us in Medicare, Medicaid and private home insurance expenses. We do support EPA standards that would be based on technology that can now remove as much as 90 percent of the mercury in coal and power plant smokestacks before being released into the air. By contrast, I understand that the President's plan allows for 420 percent more mercury than under such standards. Evidence linking mercury exposures to psychological disorders has been accumulating for over six years. Mercury-contaminated fish combined with mercury amalgam fillings result in low-level mercury poisoning among many people. This can cause depression and other behavioral problems. Mercury produces such symptoms by affecting the neuro-transmitters in the brain having a (disruptive) effect on seratonin. Such symptoms are epidemic among Florida's seniors. Nearly one in six suffers from serious, persistent symptoms of depression. As many as 90 percent of depressed elderly Americans are not being treated. When seniors are treated, anti-depressant drugs are used. Adverse interactions with other medicines are more common in elderly people and the lifetime cost for such drug therapy is significant. Depression increases the likelihood of serious physical illness requiring more medical visits, tests, longer stays in hospitals. It leads to a loss of self-reliance and the ability to live independently, which, in turn, increases the cost of long-term medical care. With the aging of our population, we must do everything possible to help seniors remain in their own homes, not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because it will make an enormous difference in federal expenditures for decades to come. We can now eliminate a huge portion of the mercury that contaminates the fish we eat and contributes to depression among our seniors. Mercury introduced by coal burning power plants should be removed to the fullest extent possible using all available technology ensured by the most stringent EPA standards and enforcement. We should consider this an investment that will save many times the expense and other seemingly non-related aspects of the federal budget thereby freeing up funds that could be used to pay for prescription drugs or other less easily preventable conditions. Thank you.