Mercury pollution has dropped precipitously over the last decade in the US—thanks to improvements in pollution control technology and strong Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for coal plants.
But there are still many coal plants across the country releasing significant amounts of mercury into the air and putting families’ health at risk. Some coal plants that burn the dirtiest coal—lignite coal—don’t have to comply with the current standards.
That’s why we need EPA to close the “Lignite Loophole.” This is a crucial update to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that will better protect children and communities from the health harms of mercury pollution.
Children are especially vulnerable to the health effects of mercury, which can interfere with normal brain development, causing learning and behavioral problems. And frighteningly, pregnant women can pass mercury through their placenta into the brains of their developing babies.
Hundreds of thousands of newborns born in the US each year are at risk of learning disabilities due to prenatal exposure to mercury.
As a social worker, I supported families of children with intellectual disabilities for many years. It is difficult for a child and family to thrive while coping with the stigma, daily life challenges, and expense of supporting a member with an intellectual disability. Preventing learning and intellectual disabilities is a worthy investment!
Mercury exposure that can lead to intellectual disabilities is a particular problem in communities that rely on seafood for their livelihoods, including coastal communities and Indigenous communities.
The disproportionate impact of mercury pollution on people who traditionally rely on fish and marine mammals for food is unfair. And the burden of avoiding mercury contamination needs to be shifted from fishers and those who eat fish to the common source—power plants.
Please read our resources to learn more:
- Fact Sheet: Mercury 101 (2022)
- Map of worst-polluting coal plants (EDF, 2022)
- Overview: The Health Benefits of Mercury Standards Are Much Larger Than Estimated (2019)
- Illustrative Fact Sheet: How Mercury Poisoning Works (2018); click here to view in Spanish (Cómo Actúa el Envenenamiento por Mercurio)