Steve Milloy, Anti-Science Tobacco Apologist, Now Denies Coal Plant Pollution Kills People

By Sam Parry, Director, Online Membership and Activism, EDF

In a falsehood-filled Washington Times op-ed, Steve Milloy attacks the EPA and EDF for supporting tough new clean air standards for coal-fired power plants.

Asking EPA to “show us the bodies,” Milloy questions public health estimates that these standards will prevent up to 17,000 premature deaths every year.

Some might find it odd to question decades of research by innumerable scientists and public health professionals. But, for Steve Milloy, notorious climate denier and tobacco apologist, it’s something of a personal trademark.

Had he done any actual research for his hit piece, he may have come across a May 10, 2011, letter written by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Thoracic Society, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the Physicians for Social Responsibility to Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX).

In that letter, these public health professionals challenged Rep. Barton’s bizarre “hypothesis” in an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing that there are no substantial health threats from air pollution. They write:

“The health impacts of short-term exposure (over hours to days) of particulate matter were found to include: death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes, including strokes; increased risk of cardiovascular harm, including acute myocardial infarction (heart attacks) and congestive heart failure, especially among the elderly and in people with cardiovascular disease; inflammation of lung tissue in young, healthy adults; increased hospitalization for cardiovascular disease, including strokes; hospitalization for asthma among children; and aggravated asthma attacks in children.”

At the end of the letter, they cite 30 scientific and public health studies, which are but a sample of the decades of scientific literature on public health threats from air pollution.

But, this isn’t really about facts or science or the hundreds of public health studies available to anyone who has access to a Google search engine. This is about Steve Milloy and his Zelig-like ability to question all kinds of pollution and public health science.

You see, in Steve Milloy world mercury pollution isn’t a threat to human health. Of course, in the real world, prenatal caregivers warn every pregnant woman in America to avoid eating certain kinds of fish. Does Steve Milloy think every prenatal caregiver is in on the conspiracy?

In Steve Milloy world, U.S. power plants are responsible for negligible amounts of mercury pollution. In reality, coal-fired power plants are responsible for about half of all mercury emissions in the U.S. And the mercury emitted from power plants burning coal is released into our air, where it easily spreads throughout the environment and bioaccumulates up the food chain. Natural sources of mercury, on the other hand, are typically not released into the air and therefore typically don’t spread throughout the environment.

In Steve Milloy world, the polluters are merely asking for a “reasonable” delay in implementing clean air standards. Of course, in the real world, we have been waiting on these regulations since the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act. Utilities have had more than two decades to prepare for them. And the EPA is under court order to follow the Clean Air Act to produce these standards.

Maybe in Steve Milloy’s world, the courts and the 1990 Congress that passed the Clean Air Act with overwhelming bipartisan support are all also in on the conspiracy.

Steve Milloy complains about “EPA oppression” and having to “withstand a final bare-knuckles assault by EPA’s enviro allies.” You see, in Steve Milloy world, he and the polluting industries that rake in billions in annual profits are the victims and those of us who speak out for the millions of American kids with asthma and the thousands of Americans who die prematurely every year from exposure to dangerous air pollution are the oppressors.

Of course in the real world, smart public health and environmental standards not only save lives and improve public health. They also create powerful incentives to spur innovation and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in broad economic benefits to the American economy – from improving public health and productivity to generating new environmental technologies, which have grown into a $300 billion per year industry.

But, for Steve Milloy, this is all part of his grand conspiracy theory. And everyone – from doctors to scientists to public health experts to the EPA to members of Congress to courts to dreaded environmentalists to real families with real kids who have real asthma attacks – all of us are in on it.

By the way, Steve Milloy, the TV ad you attack in your hit piece features a video of a real girl in a real hospital suffering from a real respiratory illness. In Steve Milloy world, that may not matter. But for that girl, and millions like her, it very much does.

Sam Parry directs the Online Membership and Activism program at Environmental Defense Fund. The views expressed here are his own.

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