Hundreds of Moms, Doctors, Concerned Midwest Residents Gather to Demand Protection from Toxic Mercury at EPA Hearing

Chicago hosts one of only three public hearings nationally on proposed federal standards for toxic air pollution from power plants

Chicago, IL – Today, hundreds of mothers, medical professionals, community leaders, fishermen, and concerned citizens gathered in downtown Chicago for a public hearing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on proposed federal standards for life-threatening air pollution from power plants. The EPA’s “Mercury and Air Toxics” standards would protect Americans from toxic mercury, arsenic, and other hazardous air pollutants emitted by dirty coal-fired power plants.

Currently, there are no national limits on the amount of air toxics that power plants can spew into the air. While Illinois follows the 90% emissions reduction guidelines, residents are asking the EPA to clean up mercury and coal pollution on a national level, and have safer air, water and fish across the country.

“Here in Illinois, our coal plants have made efforts to reduce mercury emissions. However, we are not protected from the fish we eat and we are not protected from the mercury pollution that crosses state boarders,” said Sarah Hodgdon,  Sierra Club director of Conservation. “We need EPA to protect us from mercury pollution, with national limits for power plants”

Pregnant women and children are at greatest risk from mercury exposure, especially if they consume large amounts of fish and seafood. Exposure to mercury can contribute to severe birth defects, including learning disabilities, delayed onset of walking and talking, and cerebral palsy. Mercury can make its way to our dinner tables via contaminated fish. Once ingested, mercury acts as a potent neurotoxin and can damage the brain and nervous system.

Stephanie Theirl of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a three year old daughter and is planning for a second child. “Before I became pregnant, I became aware of various toxins and their effect on developing babies. Like most mothers, I wanted to do everything I could not only to get pregnant, but to hold the pregnancy and nurture my child from the very start,” said Theirl.  “Obviously, my job as a mom is to do everything in my power to ensure my child’s health and safety. Mercury is just one example of toxins we encounter every day, but a particularly troubling one.”

In addition to mercury, power plants emit arsenic, lead, other heavy metals, dioxin and acid gases. Even in small amounts these extremely harmful air pollutants are linked to health problems such as cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death.

“No one deserves to breathe toxic air pollution and no power plant should be allowed to emit toxic pollution that harms people’s health.  EPA’s proposal to regulate dangerously toxic air pollution from dirty coal power plants is already over a decade overdue and counting,” said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs at Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.  “Simply by doing what the Clean Air Act legally requires, the EPA can save thousands of lives every year and prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks.”

The EPA can create getter Mercury and Air Toxin safeguards for the entire nation that would reduce emissions by 90% across the country, and not just in the state of Illinois and they can protect the health of Illinois residents by making sure other states to cut dangerous coal pollution.

“Powering our homes should not poison our kids,” said Catie Krasner, Field Organizer for Environment Illinois. “After decades of dirty energy lobbyists getting their way, EPA has finally issued a rule that is a major step toward clean air and healthy Americans. It’s about time dirty coal companies are required to clean up their act.”

For more information about the dangers of coal pollution, visit The event planners for this gathering include: Sierra Club, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Greenpeace , Faith in Place, Environment Illinois, Union of Concerned Scientists


CONTACT: Claire Orphan, Sierra Club
312.251.1680 x146 or 708.837.4529


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