Newspaper article Roll Call

Mercury Safeguards Are a Necessary Regulation

Newspaper article Roll Call

Mercury Safeguards Are a Necessary Regulation

Article excerpt

Regulation. It's become a dirty word in Washington, D.C. Why? In large part because industry fears the kind of regulations that are designed to stop the dumping of dangerous chemicals into our air and water.

It may not be popular, but I'm going to say it: We need regulations.

Regulations are what keep drunken drivers off our roads. They're what keep cigarettes out of our kids' mouths. They're the safety net that ensures the recklessness of one individual or industry doesn't saddle the rest of us with disease and injury.

That's exactly the kind of safety net that the Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards would provide. The goal of these standards is to keep dangerous chemicals out of the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. Pretty basic.

The standards would require our nation's biggest polluters -- coal plants -- to scale back on the staggering amount of chemicals they pump into our air and water. Mercury is among the worst of these. It poisons pregnant women, impairing fetal development and causing birth defects. Coal plants emit a whopping 48 tons of mercury each year. Just one gram of mercury can contaminate a 20- acre lake, making it too dangerous to eat its fish.

And poor people and communities of color bear the brunt. Because they're most likely to live near coal plants, they suffer disproportionate rates of asthma, heart disease and early death. I know this all too well -- I grew up in a poor, polluted community and struggled with childhood asthma as a result.

I wasn't alone. Too many Americans are suffering as a result of unchecked pollution. According to the EPA, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will prevent nearly 4,700 heart attacks and 11,000 premature deaths per year. The illnesses caused by these plants are completely avoidable. We just need the political will to enact basic common-sense safeguards -- yes, regulations -- that will protect all of us, especially kids and people of color. …

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