The power plants that provide electricity to run our homes, businesses, and factories are also the single largest source of mercury air pollution in the United States, responsible for more than 40 percent of all human-caused mercury emissions nationwide.
Mercury is a highly toxic metal, and once released into the atmosphere, it settles in lakes and rivers, where it moves up the food chain to humans. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, roughly half of the nation’s lakes and reservoirs have levels of mercury that exceed safe levels. Despite years of promises, the electric power industry has barely made a dent in its mercury emissions this decade. Each year, more than 300,000 newborn babies may have an increased risk of learning disabilities due to in utero exposure to mercury compounds.
Americans do not need to live with these dangerous risks. Pollution controls that dramatically reduce mercury emissions are widely available, and are already being used at many power plants. But, until the public and policymakers hold the electric power industry to its promises to shut down or clean up the nation’s oldest and dirtiest plants, Americans will continue to bear unnecessary health and environmental costs.