The EPA has proposed new standards for mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal and oil-fired power plants. You have until August 4th to make your voice heard at the EPA. Even if you are not concerned about the effects of mercury on your own health, you should be concerned for your future children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and all unborn children. Here’s why:
Mercury emitted from power plants enters the air and then accumulates in our environment through atmospheric deposition. Atmospheric mercury spreads around the country, which means that concentrations in the air are thankfully not that high. The problem is that mercury bio-accumulates in fish when the mercury settles out of the atmosphere and is washed into our rivers, lakes and oceans. As fish live in mercury-contaminated water, they progressively accumulate greater amounts of mercury in their tissues. When we eat these fish, we consume the accumulated mercury.
The developing fetus is most susceptible to adverse effects of mercury consumption, making fish consumption by pregnant women very dangerous. Mercury exposure in children can lead to neurological deficits, including problems with attention, fine motor function, language skills, visual-spatial abilities and verbal memory.
Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions in the country. The proposal from the EPA would seek to reduce mercury emission by 91%. The additional standards for other toxic air pollutants would, according to the EPA, prevent “as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year. The new proposed standards would also provide particular health benefits for children, preventing 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. The proposed standards would also avert more than 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions and 850,000 fewer days of work missed due to illness.”
Coal companies are fighting the rule by claiming the new regulation would lead to the early closure of coal-fired power plants and the loss of jobs. Can we really claim that preventing the closure of out-dated, dirty power plants outweighs protecting the health of our children? Furthermore, a study by CERES and Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts shows that this regulation and the Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR) will create a combined total of over 290,000 jobs.