By Fredrica Syren:
It’s a new year and new fights for a healthy planet, beginning with a major one, are on the horizon. The U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has announced that the EPA will start to relax the rules for mercury and air toxins standards. Mercury and Air Toxin Standards (MATS) were the very first federal standards issued in 2011 that required power plants to limit their release of toxic gasses. Before MATS went into effect, the coal industry was the biggest mercury polluter. These standards have made a huge difference and, since 2011, emissions from the coal industry have decreased by 85%. It is estimated that 11,000 lives will be saved each year, thanks to MATS.
In the U.S., mercury pollutes air, food and water; and the majority of people exposed to mercury are exposed through consumption of fish and other seafood. Mercury,a type of toxic metal,has serious negative effects on human health. It can harm major organs: brain, kidneys, heart, lungs — even the immune system. Women and children are most vulnerable to mercury exposure in their bloodstreams. High levels of mercury exposure may harm a developing fetus’s nervous systems through the mom’s placenta.
Here some facts about mercury pollution in the U.S.:
- Coal fired power plants count for almost 1/3 of all mercury air pollution in the U.S.
- Since 2012, mercury standards have helped to dramatically lower mercury emissions from coal plants.
- Every state in the U.S. has issued warnings about the existence of mercury in fish.
- Even trace amounts of mercury can contaminate a very large area.
The mercury-related benefits of The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards outweigh the costs of the standards because it isa lifesaving and effective pollution prevention program that specifically protects pregnant women and babies from harm.
So, what can you do?
’s clean air forceis one of my favorite organizations. They are fighting for The Mercury and Air Toxic standards (MATS). You can find out ways to help by going to their website.