Thousands of Babies Clapping: Lisa Jackson Brings Mercury Home

by Rena Steinzor | March 16, 2011

My bet is that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will do a little victory dance in her office before going home this evening. She’s earned it. After 20 years of false starts, EPA is issuing today the first proposed rule to control poisonous mercury emissions from power plants. They’re doing it despite a concerted blast of coal company and electric utility lobbying at the upper levels of the White House. Jackson’s achievement is testimony to her exemplary leadership of EPA in difficult times, but more than that, it’s a huge win for the babies of America, an estimated 630,000 of whom are born annually with blood mercury levels in excess of what experts consider safe.

The Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was the first widely recognized victim of mercury poisoning. When Carroll was writing, mercury was used to keep hats stiff, giving rise to the expression, “mad as a hatter.”  Highly toxic in very small amounts, mercury poisoning disrupts the neurological development of babies in utero and breast-fed infants. Fish consumption is the primary pathway for such exposure, and mothers who are nursing or pregnant are counseled to watch their intake of fish at the higher end of the food chain—tuna, swordfish, and large-mouth bass, for example.

EPA was on the cusp of issuing a rule requiring power plants that burn coal to install equipment that would capture mercury before it vaporizes up the stack in 2005 when ...

In Coming Utility MACT, EPA Has Clean Air Act Authority to Make Big Strides in Protecting Americans from Mercury Pollution

by Catherine O'Neill | March 11, 2011
By Wednesday of next week, EPA is due to publish its long-anticipated rule controlling mercury emissions from coal-fired utilities.  This is how we ought to judge the rule: does it follow the mandate of the Clean Air Act (CAA)? For too long, utilities have managed by various means to fend off regulation required by the CAA. Assuming EPA’s rule at long last complies with Congress’s directives, Americans may look forward to a day when they can again eat fish without serving their families ...

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