Environmental Defense Report Names Top 10 U.S. Mercury 'Hot Spots'

December 9, 2003

(9 December 2003 — Raleigh, NC)  Environmental Defense today released a report that uses U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientific analysis to document the public health threat of mercury “hot spots,” created when local emissions of the dangerous neurotoxin fall to the ground and enter soil and water bodies.  “Out of Control and Close to Home: Mercury Pollution from Power Plants” analyzes EPA state-of-the-art air pollution modeling, not widely available, to show that mercury pollution often has harmful impacts locally, leading to contaminated water, poisoned fish, and brain damage in unborn children, infants and toddlers.  The report is available at www.environmentaldefense.org/go/mercurypowerplants.

According to the report, the top 10 states for mercury hot spots (ranked by the most severe hot spot in each state) are Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Tennessee

“Mercury hot spots sound the alarm for strong national limits on dangerous mercury pollution,” said Michael Shore, Environmental Defense senior air policy analyst.  “EPA’s weak stance on mercury ignores the agency’s own scientific assessment and puts profits of the utility industry ahead of children’s health.  Affordable technology exists to protect our children from toxic mercury pollution and it is the government’s legal and moral responsibility to put those tools to work now.”

“America’s children can’t afford for the EPA to get a failing grade on the cleanup of toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.  Other polluters have already been required to reduce their mercury emissions by 90%, and coal-fired power plants should not be let off the hook.  States with mercury hot spots should vigorously pursue strong standards to protect water quality, ensure fish are fit to eat, and prevent brain damage in children,” said Shore.

In 9 out of 10 hot spots states, more than 50% of mercury contamination comes from local sources.  The problem of mercury-contaminated fish is widespread, with 43 states issuing advisories to limit consumption.  EPA is expected to announce new mercury standards this month.