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The Beat

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
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No Cap and Trade for Mercury On 23 February 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling to dismiss a Bush-era appeal to support a controversial plan to establish a cap-and-trade program for mercury emissions. Most U.S. mercury pollution derives from coal-fired power plants, cement kilns, and incinerators. Utilities had supported the plan, believing it would foster innovation in pollution control; but critics argued that the tradable credits could enable polluters to actually increase their mercury emissions. The 1,100 facilities that would have benefited from the plan account for the largest unregulated industrial source of mercury pollution nationwide. Lead: Down but Not Out Public health efforts to reduce lead exposure have resulted in a dramatic drop in average blood lead levels for U.S. children. A report in the March 2009 issue of Pediatrics now concludes that the number of children with blood lead above the CDC’s level of concern of 10 μg/dL has dropped by 84% since 1988. Although this estimate includes children in historically high-risk groups, the report also notes that levels continue to be disproportionately elevated in these groups—notably non-Hispanic blacks living in housing built before 1950. Indeed, most U.S. children continue to have low-level lead exposure. Because no safe blood level has been established for lead, the authors point to the need to continue identifying and managing sources of lead, the single most important step in controlling blood lead levels. B Vitamins May Cut AMD Risk Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in elderly Americans. Recent research has associated levels of homocysteine—a metabolic by-product linked with meat intake and blood vessel damage—with elevated risk of AMD. A report in the 23 February 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine now suggests that treatment with certain B vitamins—namely B6, B12, and folic acid—may

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