Health Care Without Harm Praises EPA for Mercury and Toxins Standard
Calls MATS “A Major Step Toward Protecting the Environment and Public Health.”
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, Health Care Without Harm praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for handing down new standards that would greatly reduce mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, acid gases and other toxins from our atmosphere. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants will, for the first time ever, place limits on these pollutants power plants, keeping 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted to the air, reduce 88 percent of acid gas emissions from power plants, and cut 41 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants beyond the reductions expected from other new EPA regulations. Currently, there are no national limits on the amount of mercury and other toxic air pollution released from power plant smokestacks.
“This is a major step forward for mercury elimination in the environment,” stated Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm. “Considering the setbacks this year for protections to our health, we congratulate the EPA for moving forward on this important, live-saving standard.”
Chronic illnesses, many of which are related to or exacerbated by air pollution, such as asthma, heart diseases, and respiratory illness, consume approximately three-quarters of all U.S. health care expenditures, more than $1.3 trillion annually. EPA estimates that the new standards will prevent 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. Together, MATS and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule are estimated to provide annual benefits of $150-$380 billion when fully implemented.
“Power plants are notorious polluters, and while we are disappointed that greenhouse gases from power plants did not get regulated this year, mercury and other pollutants are of deep concern,” said Eric Lerner, director of the U.S. Health Care Without Harm Climate and Health Program. “This new standard is a major step toward protecting the environment and public health.”
In the United States, approximately one-third of the nation’s lakes and a quarter of all rivers and streams are so polluted by mercury that warnings have been issued to consumers, especially pregnant women and children, to avoid eating fish from the waters. Mercury interferes with the developing brain, including effects on memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills. Most of the mercury in streams comes from coal-burning power plants or incinerators.
Other toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium and nickel will also be reduced, along with fine particle pollution, which is linked to asthma and respiratory illness. These toxins are suspected to cause cancer, and other serious health ailments.
HCWH is an international coalition of more than 500 organizations in 53 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH, see www.noharm.org.
SOURCE Health Care Without Harm