Historic Limits on Toxic Mercury Become Final

NWF President and CEO Larry Schweiger Hails Conservation Victory Championed by President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

12-21-2011 // Tony Iallonardo
Girl with caught fish

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized new air pollution standards that will result in the first-ever national limits on the amount of mercury spewing from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. Over 20 years in the making, the new pollution limits on power plants will cut mercury emissions by 91 percent, while also cutting acid gas, arsenic, lead and nickel emissions.

Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation president and CEO:

“Our children and grandchildren will inherit a safer world thanks to the leadership of President Obama and Administrator Jackson. At long last, these prudent and overdue limits on unchecked mercury and toxic air pollution will ensure our fish will be safe to eat, and our children can breathe easier.”

Each year EPA’s new air toxic pollution rules will prevent 11,000 thousand premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 cases of childhood asthma and 6,300 cases of acute bronchitis. And it will prevent mercury exposure to children that can adversely affect their developing brains – including effect on their ability to walk, talk, read and learn.

The rules will also provide employment for thousands. The updating of older power plants with modern air pollution control technology will support 46,000 new short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs.

Also, combined with Cross State rule:

  • 46,000 premature deaths
  • 540,000 cases of asthma
  • 24,500 emergency room visits

Investment in rules will return $380 billion in longer and healthier lives and reduced healthcare costs.

Mercury also poses a massive threat to wildlife. Mercury pollution spewing from power plants settles in lakes and rivers where microscopic organisms convert the inorganic mercury into methylmercury, a toxin that moves up the food chain in fish and then other into other animals when they eat fish.

Every state has issued a fish advisory of some type because of unsafe mercury levels according to the National Wildlife Federation’s recent report, Game Changers. Roughly half of U.S. lakes and reservoirs have mercury amounts exceeding safe levels and nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury, according to EPA. Over half of human-caused mercury in the U. S. comes from coal-fired plants.

Over 900,000 Americans commented on the proposed rule, the vast majority of whom urged EPA to press ahead with mercury limits, including hundreds of hunting and fishing groups.

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