By: Sarah McBride, Program Coordinator for Media and Public Engagement, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: May 9, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0794
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Sarah McBride. I am the Program Coordinator for Media and Public Engagement with Moms Clean Air Force, and I live in St. Petersburg, Florida. I am testifying today in strong support of EPA’s proposal to strengthen the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, and to ask that EPA finalize these standards as quickly as possible.
I grew up in Falmouth, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod, and only moved away about three months ago. Falmouth is a major destination for outdoor recreation—namely, fishing. Growing up, I remember learning about the dangers of mercury in canned tuna, but I never thought of it as an issue in the freshwater fish swimming in the kettle ponds around my home. That’s largely because it just wasn’t talked about. Many of these ponds are surrounded by woods and don’t look like what I thought of as a polluted body of water.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that it was actually only last year, after 16 years on the Cape, that I learned that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued fish advisories for the ponds I grew up swimming in due to high concentrations of mercury in the fish. Over the years, I’ve seen countless people fishing in these ponds, with coolers by their side, and I never once saw a posted advisory warning people not to eat the fish. I wonder how many people ate contaminated catch, unknowingly exposing themselves and their families to mercury.
We know that there is no safe level of mercury consumption, so any level of exposure carries potential risk. Mercury exposure can increase the risk of heart attacks and it’s a potent neurotoxin that can cause permanent damage to the brains of babies and fetuses. It’s heartbreaking to think that a family’s fishing trip could have profound, long-lasting impacts on their health.
One of the important tools we have to protect our families from mercury is to limit pollution from coal-fired power plants, which release mercury into the air that eventually falls into waterways and accumulates in the fish that we eat. We know that mercury protections have had significant public health benefits, but strong safeguards are needed to protect more people. Please finalize the strongest Mercury and Air Toxics Standards as soon as possible—we can’t afford to put this off.
Thank you for your time and consideration.