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EPA Moves to Limit Mercury Emissions

Decision Could Reduce Up To 17,000 Premature Deaths by 2016, says Agency

WASHINGTON - The federal Environmental Protection Agency pressed ahead today in its effort to reduce Americans’ exposure to hazardous chemicals, announcing a long-awaited new standard to reduce the amount of mercury emissions allowed from power plants in the U.S.

“Many power plants could have taken simple steps years ago to reduce mercury emissions into the environment, and with this new rule those that haven’t yet will finally be required to act,” said Environmental Working Group senior research analyst Sonya Lunder. “A number of plants in the U.S. have already installed the necessary equipment to decrease the emissions of this potent neurotoxin, but many have dragged their feet while millions of people, including children have been exposed. This common-sense standard will result in incredible cost savings as measured in less illness, fewer sick days and fewer air pollution related deaths.”

Mercury is one of the most toxic substances commonly found in the environment and people, causing permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. Much of the mercury found in the environment comes as a result of coal-fired power plant emissions, where it finds its way into the food chain and our bodies. One in 6 American women have mercury exposures high enough to adversely impact the developing brain and nervous system of the fetus during pregnancy.

“This new emissions rule has been in the works for more than a decade, only to be stalled by political shenanigans,“ added Lunder. “Administrator Jackson and the President deserve credit for this major victory for children’s health.”

In 1997 the Environmental Working Group’s analysis, “Contamination of America's Food,” concluded that fish from more than 1,660 U.S. waterways were so contaminated with mercury that they should be eaten sparingly if at all. In 2004, EWG found mercury in all 10 umbilical cord blood samples it had tested for hundreds of industrial pollutants. A similar EWG-funded study conducted 5 years later found that all 10 samples of cord blood of minority babies had mercury present as well.


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The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.

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