The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments mandated EPA to control toxic air pollutants more than 20 years ago. Since then, EPA has taken action to reduce mercury emissions from all the highest-emitting sources – except power plants.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that passes through the placenta and poisons fetal brain development. It also has been linked to harming children’s developing brains, including effects on memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills.
Coal-fired power plants emit approximately half of atmospheric mercury, with natural sources such as volcanoes responsible for the remainder. An estimated two-thirds of human-generated mercury comes from stationary combustion, mostly of coal. There are about 1,100 coal-fired units and about 500 power plants in this country. About half of these units are more than 40 years old, and about three-quarters of them are more than 30 years old. Of these 1,100 units, 44% do not use pollution controls such as scrubbers or catalysts to limit emissions, and they pour unlimited amounts of mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gases into our air.
ELPC Report: Reducing Mercury Pollution in Illinois
In June 2011, ELPC released this report about why federal air toxics safeguards are needed to protect public health. Download a free copy today!