By: Almeta E. Cooper, Community Rx Manager, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: February 24, 2022
About: Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants: Proposed Reaffirmation of the Appropriate and Necessary Finding, Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2018–0794
To: Environmental Protection Agency
My name is Almeta Cooper, and I am a field manager for Moms Clean Air Force. Moms Clean Air Force consists of more than 1 million moms, dads, friends, and supporters nationally.
I live in Fulton County in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, and have lived here for seven years.
During this public hearing you have heard testimony from multiple Moms Clean Air Force members, supporters, and staff from across the country. We have a common message: Moms Clean Air Force has been fighting for more than a decade to cut toxic mercury pollution from power plants because there is no amount of mercury that is safe for a child's brain. Therefore, I am asking the EPA to reinstate the legal foundation of the Mercury and Air Toxics standards that limit mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants. This proposal is appropriate and necessary. I urge you to further strengthen the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to protect public health.
I am here today as a mom and member of my community. I care deeply that mercury pollution affects human health and the environment. As an African American woman, I am concerned that mercury pollution is also a health equity issue and threatens African American communities.
There are multiple health effects of mercury pollution, and I want to highlight the burden upon African American communities. Importantly, researchers reported large quantities of mercury pollutants from electric utility sources in a study done between 1993 to 2011. They found a concentration of pollution sources in multiple states, most notably, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and others at the expense of African American communities.
Additionally, elevated doses and other sources of toxic mercury have been associated with children in the African American community in some areas, and especially among Black women, more than other consumers at levels surpassing the normal thresholds.
African Americans are more likely to suffer health effects from air pollution through mercury, and part of the reason has much to do with our dwelling places and land use planning. Because African Americans are more likely to live near power plants and waste sites, this proximity to these sites increases the likelihood of exposure and health risks.
In terms of the African American burden, close to 33% of all mercury contamination in the country emanates from sites with threatening impacts on nearby Black communities. Given that African Americans are more likely to reside near toxic industrial sites and consume more fish than Caucasians, they are more vulnerable to elevated forms of mercury exposure.
In addition to highlighting the burden on African American communities, I want also to share another example of how mercury pollution can affect health as it applies to Georgia. Mercury pollution affects fish in Georgia’s rivers and lakes. It can be eaten by fish and moved up the food chain to humans. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources publishes a 48-page booklet containing Guidelines for Eating Fish From Georgia Waters. The department tested for 43 separate contaminants, including metals, organic chemicals, and pesticides. Four contaminants—arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and thallium—were frequently detected in significant amounts in a few species from some bodies of water in Georgia. Because of this there are a range of restrictions on eating this fish from no restriction to 1 meal a week to 1 meal a month or do not eat.
In closing, I reiterate my support as a parent for the EPA to finalize its proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and I urge you to go further and strengthen MATS to help protect families from the pollution that can cause cancer, lung disease, brain damage in children, and other serious health harms, including disproportionately burdening African American communities.
Thank you to the EPA and its staff for inviting public comment and permitting digital and remote testimony to allow for increased participation in these public hearings.
C. Merem, J. Wesley, P. Isokpehi, E. Nwagboso, S. Fageir, S. Nichols, M. Crisler, M. Shenge, C. Romorno, G. Hirse, The Growing Issue of Mercury Exposure and the Threats in the African American Community, Frontiers in Science, Vol. 6 No. 1, 2016, pp. 1-16. doi: 10.5923/j.fs.20160601.01.
Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Fish Consumption Guidelines, 2021, https://epd.georgia.gov/watershed-protection-branch/watershed-planning-and-monitoring-program/fish-consumption-guidelines