A Long Awaited Victory for Children, Families, and Our Future
December 23, 2011
By Adrianna Quintero This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post on 12/23/11. This week, the EPA announced the adoption of historic safeguards against mercury and other toxic air pollution which will help to protect our children from increased risk of brain damage, cerebral palsy and other neuro-developmental problems. The Mercury and Air Toxics standard, or MATR is a major new measure to protect kids and families from mercury, toxics and other pollution from power plants. Among the most dangerous of these pollutants is mercury, a neurotoxin that damages the developing brains and nervous systems of fetuses and young children. Mercury exposure can lead to delayed developmental milestones, delayed speech and other language problems, reduced IQ, problems with motor skills, and a laundry list of other health issues. As the mother of two young children, I truly am grateful for this important action. Nothing could be more devastating to a family than a child with preventable brain damage. Not only have EPA and the president taken decisive action to protect future generations, they have also helped to prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks, and serious respiratory illnesses, thus saving struggling families enormous health care costs, work days lost and much suffering. This historic rule will benefit our nation as a whole and Latino families everywhere who are in the line of fire from air pollution preventing the harmful effects of these pollutants, such as respiratory diseases, developmental problems and heart attacks in our communities. This rule protects our health while also creating thousands of jobs from the manufacturing, engineering, installation and maintenance of pollution controls to meet these standards, potentially including 46,000 short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs. This is an important move to protect the public health while ensuring a brighter future for our communities. Each year EPA's new air toxic pollution rules will prevent 11,000 thousand premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 cases of childhood asthma and 6,300 cases of acute bronchitis while preventing mercury exposure to children that can adversely affect their developing brains -- including effects on their ability to walk, talk, read and learn. This rule and these cost-savings are especially important to the Latino community because according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Latino children have higher levels of mercury in their bodies compared with non-Hispanic white children. With 39 percent of Latinos living within 30 miles of a power plant, emissions controls are a critically needed and welcome safeguard. For this reason numerous Latino organizations have expressed their gratitude for this important rule in a letter (read the letter at www.vocesverdes.org). There are about 1,350 coal- and oil-fired units at 525 power plants across the country. These are the largest industrial sources of mercury in the United States and emit approximately 80 toxic pollutants in all, such as arsenic, lead and other heavy metals as well as acid gases. They not only poison the air we breathe but also pollute our lakes, rivers and streams -- and the fish we eat from those bodies of water. So even those of you who feel immune because a dirty power plant isn't in your back yard may still be at risk if you decide to eat fish.