December 21st, 2011

New Mercury and Air Toxics Rule Released Today (breathe deep, American families)

(first posted at Non-Toxic Kids)

Can you hear it?  If you listen very, very closely, you might hear a huge sigh of relief from parents everywhere, across America.

Parents of children with asthma.  They will likely have to take fewer trips to the emergency room.

Pregnant mothers, trying to make the right choices to limit their exposures to harmful mercury and other toxins.

Parents of all children, everywhere, who think about the power plant in the next town, or the next state.  Parents worrying about the air where they work, or nearby where their children go to school, and the exposures their family faces everyday from just living.

Today was a monumental day in the fight for clean air. According to the EPA:

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. The standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America’s children grow up healthier – preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.”

Can you hear the sigh of relief now? I know that I am deeply thankful that this long awaited rule will have such positive health outcomes for our nation’s children, for our economy, and for our collective future.  Tonight I am thankful for each and every person who worked on this issue:  President Obama, Lisa Jackson, the EPA, but also every member of the Moms Clean Air Force, and the deep and wide coalition of environmental, public healthbusiness, religious and medical groups who supported this important new rule.

Luckily, due to an early release day at school, I had the chance to watch the press conference live.  I learned that Lisa Jackson herself has two sons who struggle with asthma.  She shared how she spent a Christmas, 15 years ago, in the hospital with her son after an asthma attack.  There are real people behind these statistics whose lives are dramatically altered by preventable air pollution.

We know the devastating effects of these toxins on developing bodies, but let’s review it.  According to the Environmental Defense Fund:

“Mercury exposure can cause brain damage in infants, and can affect children’s ability to walk, talk, read and learn. Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of babies are born each year with potentially unsafe levels of mercury in their blood.

Many of the other toxic pollutants also controlled by the new rules — such as chromium, arsenic, dioxin and acid gases — are known or probable carcinogens and can attack the brain, lungs, liver, and kidneys.”

The Mercury and Air Toxics Rule is a giant leap toward protecting America’s families from pollution and toxins in our air. I couldn’t think of a better holiday present.  Tonight, I am thankful and hopeful.  What about you?

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