By: Vanessa Lynch, Pennsylvania field coordinator, 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
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Vanessa Lynch. I am an organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, and I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a state with a history of coal extraction and numerous coal-fired power plants, including one near my home, I support this administration’s proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. With two of the biggest mercury-polluting coal-fired power plants located in my state—the Keystone and Conamaugh electric generating stations—swift action is needed.
The health of pregnant women in the United States, and my home state of Pennsylvania, should not be considered an afterthought. So many women have experienced again and again how difficult it can be to get doctors to take seriously women’s health concerns, often being told issues are not a problem or due to stress. With 86% of women in the country having had at least one child, the health needs of pregnant women, the caretakers of our future generations, shouldn’t be relegated to a do not eat list.
Like so many other women, I distinctly remember the dire conversations with my OBGYN about why I could not eat fish while pregnant. And I had to wonder, if fish is this toxic for pregnant women, what about small children, the elderly, and other vulnerable communities? What about those who rely on local fishing to feed their families? The answer is, these communities are especially vulnerable to the ravages of this toxic metal. The heaviest burden of air pollution disproportionately falls to low-income communities and communities of color.
And what I further learned was, mercury is especially dangerous for developing babies and children. After ingestion, mercury can cross the blood-brain and placental barriers, leading to toxic effects on fetal and infant brains. When pregnant women eat contaminated fish, mercury can cause long-term losses in IQ scores, impaired motor function, learning impairments, and behavioral problems in their children. Moms spend so much of our time and energy trying to protect our children, it can be terrifying to think simply what you eat could jeopardize your child’s health.
The good news is we know mercury safeguards significantly decrease mercury pollution with huge health benefits and low costs. You need to place women’s health and the health of their babies at the forefront as you work toward restoring the legal foundation of MATS.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to testify today. I support the proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of MATS and urge you to further strengthen MATS to protect the health of those most vulnerable to mercury pollution.