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Texas Moms Testify to Keep Mercury Protections

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Mercury pollution in the United States has declined by 80 percent since 2012. The neurotoxic heavy metal has been shown to disrupt fetal brain development. (PDTillman/Wikimedia Commons)
Mercury pollution in the United States has declined by 80 percent since 2012. The neurotoxic heavy metal has been shown to disrupt fetal brain development. (PDTillman/Wikimedia Commons)
 By Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX - Producer, Contact
March 21, 2019

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Mothers from 15 states including Texas traveled to the nation's capital this week to testify against moves by the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which set limits on mercury and other toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Dee Dee Balmares, a San Antonio mom and a field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, says the standards are working, and in Texas mercury pollution has been reduced by 77 percent.

"Mercury is a very dangerous neurotoxin that can affect a woman who is pregnant, can affect her baby,” she stresses. “It has serious health impacts, so it's so important to keep those standards in place."

Mercury exposure in children is linked to delays or dysfunction in language, attention and memory well into adolescence.

The standards were implemented in 2012 under the Obama administration, and the Trump administration maintains the cost of mitigating pollution outweighs the benefits.

Opponents of the rollback, including many utility companies, point out that many plants already have installed the technology. Other experts add that the costs of installation were lower than expected.

Belmares maintains the agency charged with protecting the nation's air and water should not be prioritizing the profits of the coal industry.

She points to the EPA's own analysis, which shows that the standards have produced positive health outcomes, including the prevention of up to 11,000 premature deaths.

"Twenty-eight hundred cases of chronic bronchitis, 4,700 heart attacks,” she points out. “Their own math is saying that these standards are working, they're protecting our health, they're protecting our environment."

Monday's event was the only public hearing set for the proposed rollback, but Belmares and others are urging the EPA to allow more moms to chime in by holding additional hearings outside of Washington.

The EPA also is taking public comments on its proposal online through mid-April.

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