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Moms, health professionals, and environmental groups declare the time has come for national mercury standards

 |  12/02/11 @ 1:50pm

Today local families and environmental organizations came together to call upon President Obama to enact strong mercury standards for our country's power plants. These standards, proposed in March, would reduce mercury in our air and water by over 90% but have been delayed until now. On December 16th will President Obama stand against big polluters and protect the health of thousands of families?

Mercury is a known neurotoxin and has been linked with serious developmental disorders and learning disabilities like autism and brain cancer. At the moment our power plants are allowed to spew this toxic pollution without limits and Ohio's coal plants are among the worst offenders. Together they emit over 4,218 pounds of airborne mercury pollution every year, a leading factor in making Ohio #1 for toxic air pollution in the country.

At the rally, Theresa Davis-Bowling, a Cleveland native who's son lives with chronic asthma, is now preparing to give her son Zolar shots which cost $1200 each. "Initially he has to take a shot every week for a month and then every month thereafter, which will cost $4,800 the first month and a total of $18,000 for one year-he is only 13-you do the math."

Sadly, the experience of Theresa's son is just one of many across the country.  Every year the coal industry causes over $100 billion in health costs due to the toxic pollution of their coal plants. By reducing particulate matter by 55%, these mercury standards would help curb Cuyahoga County's extreme incidence of asthma. In 2008 the asthma rate among Cleveland school children was more than double the national average. Among adults the asthmas rate is just at bad, in Cuyahoga County 9.2% of adults suffer from asthma compared to the state average of around 4.5%. 

The families of Northeast Ohio now urge President Obama to bring us across the finish line with strong mercury standards. Nationally over 900,000 public comments have demonstrated support for strong EPA protections, while locally over 1,000 postcards have been sent to the State calling for investments in cleaner alternatives. Northeast Ohio has been and will continue to be a national leader in sustainability, but our over-dependence on coal is now holding the region back. President Obama needs to finalize these standards and help move the region and the nation beyond coal. Strong national mercury standards would result in the avoidance of 120,000 asthma attacks, 12,200 emergency room visits, and 4,500 cases of chronic bronchitis.

Sierra Club Organizer Rashay Layman reiterated, "2/3 of all airborne mercury pollution in our state comes from these old, dirty coal plants. From asthma attacks to developmental disabilities, coal makes people sick. Ohio needs President Obama to get us across the finish-line on these long awaited standards." Today's event was just one of many that are happening across the country this week and next urging President Obama to not delay and enact strong mercury rulings; the health of our families and our environment cannot afford for these standards to be further postponed.

Alistair Hall is the Field Organizer in Cleveland for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.

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