Guest post by Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign
We are more thankful than ever for the recent mercury and air toxics protections released by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and the Obama Administration.Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – some polluters filed legal challenges to the new mercury protections on the very day they went into effect. While some are attacking these standards on behalf of big polluters like the coal industry, we are joined by hundreds of thousands of Americans who want these protections to keep them safe from mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants, such as arsenic, nickel, selenium, cyanide and acid gases. Some of those grateful Americans are featured in the above thank you video we’re releasing today. As a mom, I’m especially aware that mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin, poses a particular threat to pregnant women and young children. Exposure affects a developing child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. The Centers for Disease Control, along with EPA, estimate that as many as 1 in 6 women of childbearing age have high enough mercury levels in their blood to harm a developing fetus. Additionally, this protection will reduce exposure to a host of other health-threatening toxics. These strong new standards will ensure that more than 90% of the mercury from coal-burning plants is cleaned up, and each year will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks. Now we are on the verge of seeing EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standards. Carbon pollution poses serious threats to Americans’ health, our economy and the future of our children, but there are currently no federal limits on the amount of carbon being spewed into the air by the nation’s largest sources of carbon pollution – dirty coal-fired power plants. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that warming temperatures caused by industrial carbon pollution worsen smog pollution, which in turn triggers asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. Doctors, nurses, scientists and other experts say that this increased smog pollution is especially dangerous for children because it permanently damages and reduces the function of children’s lungs – again, a major concern for all my fellow parents out there.
And of course, as with the mercury safeguards, big polluters are lining up in advance to challenge these protections. In response, we started running a new TV ad this week in several states that asks this simple question: What if polluter lobbyists in Washington were replaced with asthmatic children?