More Than 600,000 Americans Support Strong Mercury Pollution Safeguards

Comments support the EPA in their efforts to curb dangerous mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

07-19-2011 // Miles Grant
Factory smoke stacks

The National Wildlife Federation joined with a coalition of public health, faith, and conservation groups today to deliver more than 617,000 letters from Americans supporting strong mercury safeguards to the Environmental Protection Agency Region One office in Boston. These comments, collected from every state in the nation, support the EPA in their efforts to curb dangerous mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. A coalition of more than 200 health, environmental and social justice organizations worked together to make this impressive show of support possible.

"This tremendous response signals that Americans know how important it is to cut down on mercury, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants in the air we breathe," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 1 office in Boston. "Not only will these safeguards prevent thousands of premature deaths and cases of asthma and other illnesses, they will level the playing field for power plants already using widely available clean technology. We're relying on the continued input of New Englanders, and all Americans, to help us make these vital safeguards a reality."

Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury pollution, arsenic and acid gases, and account for 25 percent of all toxic metal emissions in the United States. Furthermore, coal-fired power plants are responsible for 99 percent of all mercury emissions from the power sector in the United States.

“EPA must move forward and finalize a strong mercury and air toxics rule to protect public health, natural resources, and treasured wildlife from toxic pollution,” said Carol Oldham, the National Wildlife Federation’s Northeast regional outreach coordinator.  “It’s long past time for these facilities to be held responsible and accountable for their preventable toxic emissions.

The mercury safeguards proposed by the EPA represent a strong standard that will for the first time cut mercury emissions from power plants nationwide by 91 percent, reduce arsenic and acid gases by 91 percent, prevent 12,200 trips to the hospital, and save up to 17,000 lives each year once it is implemented.

Threats Are Dangerous and Widespread


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.

Mercury can also affect the human nervous system. At certain levels, mercury is particularly dangerous to babies and young children. In adults, mercury can harm peripheral vision, cause muscle weakness, affect coordination and impair speech, hearing and walking.

More than 200 organizations have encouraged the EPA to ensure that their proposed mercury safeguards remain strong enough to protect the health of children and mothers. Some of the national organizations who participated were: Alliance for Climate Protection, Democracia, Inc, Environment America, Environment Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Interfaith Power and Light, League of Women Voters, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, The Sierra Club and U.S. Climate Action Network.

Related Resources
  • Take Action
    If you have not yet written to the EPA to support strong mercury pollution controls, you still can join those more than 600,000 people – visit NWF's Action Center to submit yours before the August 4th deadline.


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