Protect the Great Lakes from Toxic Mercury Pollution

by Mallory Carter

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Last week a report on mercury contamination in the Great Lakes was released by the Great Lakes Commission. They study concluded “the nature and extent of the region’s mercury problem is more severe that was previously known”.  Star Tribune reporter Josephine Marcotty discusses the report in an article “Mercury in Great Lakes Wildlife Rises.”

The report presents the facts on mercury contamination and what it could mean for the future health of the Great Lakes and the toxicity to wildlife and humans. One of the most startling facts revealed that six out of the fifteen most common fish consumed by humans in the Great Lakes had levels of mercury higher than what the EPA recommends for consumption.

This report was released at the same time Congress is trying to block the EPA from setting new standards to take mercury out of coal-fired plants.

Not only is mercury killing wildlife in the Great Lakes but it is toxic to humans as well. Excessive intake may cause brain damage and at least 1 in 12, and as many as one in six women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her body to put her baby at risk of neurological and developmental problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to excessive Mercury being a health and safety risk it may pose as an economic threat. According to the Star Tribune article, sport fishing supports 190,000 jobs and generates more than $20 billion. If the wildlife in the area die off because of  toxic levels of mercury then jobs will be lost and the economy will be greatly impacted. On the other hand, if mercury safeguards are put into place many jobs will be created as a result of the installation of pollution-control equipment on outdated power plants and will save people money on healthcare.

Reducing mercury pollution from coal plants would be in the best interest of the general population as it would keep the Great Lakes healthy, create jobs, and ensure the health and safety of families. Mercury and other toxic air pollution needs to be regulated by the federal government and congress needs to let the EPA do its job and address this important issue. 

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