Mercury is a dangerous toxic metal that can cause severe neurological and developmental problems in unborn fetuses and very young children whose brains are still developing. People are exposed to mercury mainly by eating fish. The EPA and forty-three states have now issued advisories warning people, especially women and children, to avoid or limit eating local fish because of mercury. But even with these warnings, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and the EPA estimate that 1 out of 6 U.S. women of childbearing age have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood due to fish consumption.
The best way to protect women and children from mercury is to eliminate it from its largest source: power plants.
Smokestacks spew mercury pollution into the air, where it rains and snows down into our waterways, accumulating in fish and making them unsafe to eat. Amazingly, power plants have yet to be regulated for mercury pollution under federal clean air standards.
After years of work by us and other public health advocates, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now under a deadline to reduce the dangers of mercury from power plants.
Two years ago, the EPA's own scientists said current technologies could achieve a 90 percent reduction of mercury from power plants. But the electric and coal industries are pressing hard to avoid limiting their mercury emissions.
On December 30, the EPA's initial weak proposal to reduce the danger posed by mercury from power plants was released. Amazingly, they are indicating they'll reclassify mercury so that it's not considered a "toxic pollutant," despite long-standing, clear evidence of mercury's effects as a developmental toxin. This will allow them to avoid requiring power plants to use the best available technology to reduce emissions, as stipulated by the Clean Air Act.
While the Bush administration seems to be acting contrary to public health and the prevailing science, all hope is not lost. Part of the Bush administration's decision may be based on the fact that they're hearing only from the big polluters affected by the rule, not the public who will be left at risk.
Now a sixty day public comment period on the EPA proposal starts. This is our chance to show the Bush administration that they should act without further delay to cut mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent by 2008.
Please take a moment to let the EPA know you support reducing mercury pollution by participating in the official comment period. Then ask your family and friends to help by forwarding this e-mail to them.
To take action, click on this link or paste it into your web browser: http://pirg.org/alerts/route.asp?id=223&id4=ES
PIRGIM Field Director office - 734-662-6597
MOwens@pirgim.org cell - 734-730-5725