By: Tracy Sabetta, Ohio State Coordinator, 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 today. My name is Tracy Sabetta, and I am a state field coordinator for Moms Clean Air Force in Columbus, Ohio. Moms Clean Air Force strongly supports EPA’s proposed new protections against mercury and other forms of air pollution coming from coal-fired power plants. These standards are critical for protecting children’s developing brains from mercury and other toxic heavy metals, and they will help hold coal plants accountable for their pollution. We call on EPA to finalize the strongest possible safeguards to protect the health of children and families by the end of the year.
Mercury protections also limit the release of other toxic air pollutants from power plants, helping to prevent exposure to air pollution that has been linked to cancer, respiratory illnesses (like asthma), premature death, and other dangerous health problems. Because communities of color and low-income communities bear the heaviest burden of air pollution, reducing mercury and air toxics pollution is an issue of environmental justice.
Most mercury exposure happens through the consumption of fish. People who eat fish more frequently, like recreational fishers, are at higher risk for experiencing health impacts from mercury.
In May of last year, the Ohio Department of Health, in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued the 2022 Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory Table. The table lists 201 bodies of water in Ohio with consumption advisories for mercury in certain breeds of fish. These bodies of water span from Lake Erie to the Ohio River to smaller bodies of water like Conneaut Creek where it is recommended you eat fish from that creek less than one time per month because of mercury and other pollutants.
When pregnant women eat contaminated fish, mercury can cause long-term impacts such as impaired motor function, learning impairments, and behavioral problems in their children.
It was 24 years ago that my obstetrician cautioned me not to eat fish during my pregnancy. Having grown up on the shores of Lake Erie, fish had been a staple in my diet my entire life. But I did heed the warning and changed my eating habits. Now here we are on my daughter’s 24th birthday, and we are still working to reduce mercury pollution. While my daughter may receive the same warning should she decide to start a family, I’m hopeful that someday stronger standards will reduce this threat to our children’s health.
Strengthening the mercury and air toxics standards will mean requiring continuous emissions monitoring for coal plants, with facilities tracking their pollution at all times rather than just for short, periodic emissions tests. In a state that continues to rely so heavily on coal, that will go a long way in Ohio.
Once again, on behalf of the 89,000 Moms Clean Air Force members in Ohio, I strongly support EPA’s proposal to strengthen the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and ask that EPA finalize these standards as quickly as possible. Thank you.