Economist joins Natalie Portman, scientist moms to reduce toxic pollution

Lea-Rachel Kosnik, associate professor of economics at UMSL and new mother, joined forces with actress Natalie Portman and five other scientist mothers to ask the EPA to impose harsher regulations on companies disposing of toxic air pollution.

University of Missouri–St. Louis economist Lea-Rachel Kosnik is far from the glitz and glam of Hollywood. But she shares a common goal with one big-name celebrity. Kosnik has joined actress Natalie Portman and five other scientist mothers to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to impose harsher regulations on companies disposing of toxic air pollution. Kosnik is an associate professor of economics at UMSL and new mom to Vincent.

Over the next few months, the EPA will draft new rules limiting mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants and large industrial facilities. Portman, an Oscar-nominated actress and soon-to-be-mother, teamed up with members of Environment America and the Union of Concerned Scientists to urge the agency to set the strongest possible standards to protect public health.

Earlier this month, Kosnik, along with Portman and five other scientists, released a letter to Lisa Jackson, an EPA administrator and mother, asking her to support stringent standards for limiting mercury pollution.

“In our most important role, as mothers, we are concerned by the myriad threats to the health of our children and children around the country posed by unsafe levels of air pollution,” the letter states. “As you work to prepare and finalize limits on air toxics, we urge you to make these new standards as strong as possible to protect children across the country for generations to come.”

Mercury, which is emitted from burning coal, is a potent neurotoxin that is particularly damaging to developing brains. An estimated one in six women of childbearing age in the United States has enough mercury in her bloodstream to put her child at risk of developmental disorders and learning disabilities should she become pregnant.

In addition to Portman, Kosnik, a resident of University City, Mo., and expert in hydropower and renewable energy sources, is supported in this request by colleagues who have expertise in a range of disciplines related to climate science and environmental health. They are: Leslie A. Duram professor of geography and environmental resources at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale; Katharine Hayhoe, research associate professor of geosciences at Texas Tech University in Lubbock; Juliette Rooney-Varga, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell; Lisa G. Sorenson, adjunct assistant professor of biology at Boston University; Lisa Sorenson, research assistant professor of biology at Boston University; and Jennie C. Stephens, assistant professor of environmental science and policy program at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

Environment America is a federation of state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organizations. The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world.

More information:
ucsusa.org
environmentamerica.org
umsl.edu/~kosnikl


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