Make Your Voice Heard: Support New Mercury Standards To Protect Human Health

Posted by Erin Savage | July 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm


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.

Tell the EPA you support new mercury and toxic air pollutant standards!

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3 Responses

  1. dudley seamans says:

    Power plants won’t have the capital to make the adjustments, which would in the worst case scenario, cause many of them to close. Coal supplies nearly 30% of our nations power, can you afford to lose that? Also, the jobs will not be created, since there will be no rebuild. 5 years is a silly timetable anyway. Real jobs are not created by taking peoples taxes and making a job with it. Coal companies are in business to make money, if they will lose money by starting the absurd number, a quarter of a million jobs, then they will do something else.

  2. Erin says:

    Dudley, giving citizens a choice between jobs and their health is no choice at all. You are right, coal companies are in business to make money. At the expense of the people of Appalachia, and across the United States. We do not need to lose the power coal provides completely, though reducing our consumption would be good. We need to invest in clean, renewable energy. Closing down out-dated, dirty coal-fired power plants would be a good move. The new regulations would be one step toward internalizing the true cost of coal on our nation’s health. Furthermore, when these negative externalities are internalized, renewable energy becomes much more competitive.

  3. sandra says:

    Dudley, the other thing is that over 60% of coal-fired plants already have this technology in place. So what is happening in essence, is that this rule is rewarding those plants who were the first to install this technology and make it viable and feasible for the rest of these polluting plants. It is actually leveling the playing field for other coal plants who have done things to protect human health, decrease the number of premature death, allowed babies’ brains to function normally and give less kids asthma.

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