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Protect our Kids from Mercury

Background and Resources

A fact sheet on the health effects of mercury

Washington Post: Proposed Mercury Rules Bear Industry Mark

Analysis: How a lobbying firm representing the energy industry got its language into the EPA proposal.

New York Times: Questions About a Market System for Mercury

More information on the Bush administration's proposals

President Bush is the top recipient of both utility industry campaign contributions and of energy industry campaign contributions more generally.

The Causes and Dangers of Mercury Pollution

Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause severe neurological and developmental problems in unborn fetuses and young children.

Smokestacks spew mercury pollution into the air, where it rains and snows down into our waterways, accumulating in fish. People eating contaminated fish are then exposed to mercury.

The EPA and forty-four states have now issued advisories warning people, especially women and children, to avoid or limit eating local fish because of mercury. This table shows the advisories that are in effect where you live.

Even with these warnings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 4.9 million women of childbearing age in the U.S. -- that's is 8 percent! -- have mercury levels in their blood that are unsafe. According to the EPA, 630,000 infants are born annually who are at risk for learning disabilities and other medical problems from exposure to mercury.

The best way to protect women and children from mercury is to eliminate it from its largest unregulated source: power plants. But the electric utility and coal industries are pressing hard to avoid limiting their mercury pollution, and the Bush administration has now proposed to weaken those standards.

Source: Clear the Air coalition.

The Bush Administration Picks Campaign Contributors over Kids

In December, the EPA announced a mercury plan that will expose our children to far more mercury, for far longer, than what the agency itself has said is achievable and cost-effective. The proposal also is less stringent than was recommended by the majority of the EPA's own panel of experts who spent more than two years working on this problem.

Last year, the EPA announced that it was considering a rule that would require every plant not already in compliance to install equipment to reduce mercury pollution. Industry says it would cost them $6 billion a year, but it potentially would reduce mercury pollution by as much as 90 percent by 2008. Naturally, the industry urged the Bush administration to delay and soften the rule.

The EPA has now proposed to establish a less stringent program which would allow companies to buy pollution "credits" and would not require mercury reductions from all plants. The EPA says that this proposal would reduce emissions by nearly 70 percent by 2018 -- a stretch-out of 10 more years.

While pollution trading systems can be useful in reducing some kinds of pollution, like greenhouse gases or sulfur emissions, it is inappropriate and dangerous to use these systems for reducing toxic pollutants like mercury. The proposed system would allow some facilities to continue releasing harmful levels of mercury, leaving people in the surrounding communities at risk.

Source: Clear the Air coalition.

The Bottom Line

The Bush administration must protect children's health by reducing power plant mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2008 and ensuring that these reductions occur at each and every power plant.

Click here to send your comments to the EPA.