Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can harm young and old through our air and water, primarily caused by coal plants. Mercury has been linked to harming children’s brain development, including effects on memory, attention, language, and fine motor skills. In adults, high levels of mercury have been associated with increased risk of heart attacks, endocrine disruption, diabetes risk, and compromised immune function.
Most of the coal-fired power plants in the United States are over 40 years old. Many do not use pollution controls such as scrubbers or catalysts to limit emissions, so they pour mercury, lead, arsenic, and acid gases into our air. That pollution settles on surface waters, such as the Great Lakes, where it can become embedded in fish and magnified up the food chain. By the time we ingest mercury through fish it is significantly more harmful to human health.
Throughout the Midwest, ELPC works with state leaders to shape strong common-sense air and water quality standards, to protect the public from dangerous toxins like Mercury. For example, the Illinois Mercury Pollution reduction Standard, adopted in 2006, required a 90% reduction in mercury pollution by 2009. Plant owners unwilling or unable to follow the law were urged to shut down, which is what happened with Chicago’s Fisk & Crawford plants in 2012 and a dozen other coal plants.
The national Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) have been a major success story, reducing mercury pollution from power plants by 81% since the rule was passed in 2011. Unfortunately, the EPA under the Trump Administration is trying to roll back this successful rule, even though there is nothing to be gained from reversing course, as industries have already invested in clean infrastructure, as required. ELPC is fighting to save MATS to protect our communities and the environment of the Midwest.