On his radio show today, Glenn Beck discussed what he falsely claimed was "an ad done now by the federal government," which depicts a woman feeding a baby out of jars labeled "arsenic" and "mercury." The ad was produced by an independent group called American Family Voices to combat Congressional efforts to halt various Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Beck and his side-kick Pat Gray repeatedly mocked the notion that the EPA is under attack and that people need to be warned about the threat of toxic substances. Beck said, "Darn it. I didn't know that we weren't supposed to feed our kids arsenic ... who knew that arsenic was bad?" This thoughtful response continues for more than six minutes. Here's the audio (warning: listening to this will make you dumber):
Fox News also covered the ad today and correspondent Steve Centanni responded by saying, "[A]t issue, of course, are not poisonous heavy metals like arsenic but a common bi-product of human respiration, carbon dioxide."
But that's not accurate. Proposals to block EPA from addressing carbon dioxide emissions are just one part of the Republican campaign to bind the agency tasked with keeping our air and water clean and safe. In fact, two EPA administrators who served under Reagan and Bush recently wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that "the agency President Richard Nixon created in response to the public outcry over visible air pollution and flammable rivers is under siege." They went on to criticize a House bill that will "impede [EPAs] ability to protect our air and water."
Beck's been busy ranting about how revolutions in the Middle East will lead to the fall of America, so it makes sense that he didn't notice when the House passed a spending bill that, as NPR reported, "would slash the EPA budget by nearly a third -- more than any other agency" and would gut "programs that prevent air and water pollution and enforce environmental laws."
Mother Jones further noted that the House bill included measures to "block the agency from issuing regulations on particulate pollution, emissions from cement plants, and emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. The riders would also restrict oversight of mountaintop-removal coal mining, block pending regulations on coal-ash disposal, and bar the EPA from moving forward with its plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and other national waterways":
The continuing resolution--the seven-month measure to fund the federal government, which the House passed on February 19--included 19 separate riders that have almost nothing to do with cutting the deficit and everything to do with derailing the EPA's regulatory clout. These provisions would block the agency from issuing regulations on particulate pollution, emissions from cement plants, and emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. The riders would also restrict oversight of mountaintop-removal coal mining, block pending regulations on coal-ash disposal, and bar the EPA from moving forward with its plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and other national waterways.
The most immediately consequential, should it become law, is the Republican rider blocking the EPA from issuing new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants. The rule, which the EPA is under a court order to issue by March 16, would mark the next stage in a 20-year fight; the Clean Air Act amendments that were passed in 1990 identified 189 hazardous pollutants, but exempted coal-fired utilities from the emissions standards that other large industrial sources were required to meet. The courts threw out a Bush-era bill that would have dealt only with mercury pollution in 2008, forcing the Obama EPA to issue new, more comprehensive rules for these power plants.
Coal-fired power plants are responsible for more than 40 percent of mercury pollution in the US and 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year, according to the EPA. Public health advocates have high hopes for the new EPA rules on toxic emissions, which would be the first federal standards. Without limits on those pollutants, says Janice Nolen, assistant vice president for national policy and advocacy at the American Lung Association, "People die. Bottom line."
And there's evidence that children and babies are particularly vulnerable to pollution. An 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement says "numerous studies are finding important health effects from air pollution at levels once considered safe. Children and infants are among the most susceptible to many of the air pollutants. In addition to associations between air pollution and respiratory symptoms, asthma exacerbations, and asthma hospitalizations, recent studies have found links between air pollution and preterm birth, infant mortality, deficits in lung growth, and possibly, development of asthma." The EPA estimates that Clean Air protections prevented 230 infant deaths from particulate pollution in 2010.