Lower IQs in mercury-exposed children cost U.S. billions, study says

The effects of mercury on fetal development are costing the U.S. economy $8.7 billion a year, says a new study. Some 317,000 to 637,000 children born in the U.S. each year have been exposed to unsafe mercury levels in the womb, and many of them sustain diminished IQs, researchers reported in a National Institutes of Health journal. Using methods from studies on the economic impacts of lead exposure — similar to those of mercury contamination — researchers were able to calculate that even a 1.6-point decline in IQ could result in a lifetime loss of $31,800 due to missed educational opportunities or jobs. The report stated that $1.3 billion — or almost 15 percent — of the economic loss can be directly linked to coal-fired power plants, the country’s largest source of human-made mercury emissions. Remember that the next time you hear about “jobs vs. the environment.”