It only takes a little bit of mercury to cause a lot of death, cancer and brain damage.
But every year, coal-fired power plants alone pump 50 tons of this potent neurotoxin into our air. Mercury exposure is so widespread in this country that as many as 1 in 6 women of childbearing age has mercury levels in her blood high enough to put a baby at risk of mercury poisoning,
Mercury has been totally unregulated by the EPA, until now. The EPA just announced a significant rule to reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, led, dioxins, acid gasses, and six dozen other toxic chemicals that power plants are now able to freely dump into our air.
It's the most important clean air rule since the Clean Air Act was updated in 1990 -- and the EPA is predictably under tremendous pressure by the coal industry and other polluters to weaken it.
For decades, the electric industry has successfully fought requirements to reduce these toxics.
They've kept releasing mercury into our air, where it finds its way into the vast majority of our lakes and waterways, into our fish, and then into our bodies, where the poison accumulates, causing deadly disease and impairing fundamental brain functions like the ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn.
Now we have a chance to change that. According to the EPA, reduced emissions from this new air toxics rule will save as many as 17,000 American lives every year by 2015, and will prevent up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma.
These health benefits will also provide tremendous monetary benefits of between $60 billion to $140 billion annually, at a substantially lower cost of less than $11 billion for the polluters.
With no sense of irony, they claim this is too expensive a cost for them to bear -- as they reap billions of dollars in profit and heap substantially higher health costs onto the public. But the cost of the new regulations is a bargain, and the requirements are very reasonable: power plants have 4 years to install or upgrade to technology that already exists and is in use at many power plants nationwide.
As we have seen with the repeated attacks on the Clean Air Act's ability to regulate climate pollution, industry efforts to weaken this air toxics rule will be fierce, and these powerful utilities have many friends in the congress who are more than happy to do this dirty work.
We need to display a massive show of support to encourage the EPA to keep this landmark rule as strong as possible. CREDO is standing with numerous other environmental organizations to deliver many hundreds of thousands of comments to the EPA. Please add your voice now.
Tell the EPA: Don't bow to industry pressure. Keep the air toxics rule strong to protect Americans from dangerous air pollution. Submit your public comment now.
(By submitting this form, your name, address and comments will be filed with a public agency and become public record.)
In addition to mercury and arsenic, power plants emit lead, other heavy metals, dioxin and acid gases. Even in small amounts these extremely harmful air pollutants are linked to health problems such as cancer, heart disease, brain damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death.
Without strong protections, thousands of people will continue to suffer. EPA needs to adopt the strongest air toxics protections possible and stand its ground against industry pressure to weaken the proposed standards.