The mining bill discussed by the Mining Jobs Committee on Tuesday to "downregulate" land and water use statewide will affect public health.

While adding jobs lessens the negative health impacts of poverty in the short term, less oversight and regulation of pollution of our water, land and air is a long-term loser for public health.

Dangerous neurological toxins such as mercury and lead released by mining activities increase developmental delays and learning disabilities in children. Air pollution from taconite mining can cause cancer and chronic lung disease.

These are examples of known long-term public health impacts of mining that lead to considerable human suffering and premature loss of life. They also contribute to greater costs for health care and public education.

Conspicuously absent at Tuesday's invitation-only hearing on the bill was our Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

It is essential we include the perspective of our public health professionals in the formulation of this mining bills as well as provide sufficient funding for public health monitoring of the communities impacted by mining.

Understanding the health impact of water and land use should be a key factor our legislators always take into account before they vote.

— Dr. Robert T. Block, Madison, member, Physicians for Social Responsibility


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