Coal Means Mercury—Nothing Clean About That!

BY ON June 13, 2012

Mother helping son with asthma inhaler

This is a guest post written by Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff:

My family and I live near the freeway. Step into my backyard—day or night—you hear the rush of cars less than a mile away.

Glass-half-full Angelenos like to refer to this sound as “just like the ocean,” but it just sounds like traffic to me.

Given this fact, air quality is something I spend a lot of time thinking about: There are plants and air purifiers in every bedroom.

But I was surprised to learn that when it comes to pollution, traffic is only part of the problem

Take mercury, for example. It’s a neurotoxin—meaning it messes up our brains—and is especially dangerous for kids, affecting memory, attention and IQ.

Yet for decades, coal-fired power plants have been spewing it into the air without any limitations—leading to high levels in our food and water. Today, as many as 400,000 infants are born each year with high levels of mercury in their blood.

Clean coal? Not exactly.

So it was great news when President Obama signed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule last December. The rule put limits on power plants that were emitting mercury, as well as arsenic, chromium and nickel, which can cause cancer.

It was projected to prevent as many as 130,000 asthma attacks—asthma is now the most common childhood disorder, affecting as many as nine million children in this country. That’s one in 10 kids.

But this week, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, announced his intention to use the obscure Congressional Review Act to prevent implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule.

Organizations like Moms Clean Air Force, of which I’m a member, are fighting back. We’re sharing information about Senator Inhofe, such as the wee fact that his single-largest donor is Koch Industries, a petroleum and chemical company conglomerate.

And Moms Clean Air Force started a petition to encourage Senator Inhofe to rethink his attack on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule—and our children’s right to clean air.

Will you sign the petition? I just did. Because plants and air purifiers just aren’t enough.

Thank you, Rachel!

Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff blogs as, founded, appeared on “Today” and “CNN,” is the former Executive Director of Healthy Child Healthy World & was editor-in-chief of Children magazine—before she had kids. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

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How Mercury Works

Mercury Q & A

Photo: Glad Childhood


TOPICS: Coal, Mercury Poisoning, Motherhood, Politics, Pollution