New rules on mercury will improve Americans' health, environment, EDF says in Senate testimony

March 20, 2012


Jennifer Andreassen, 202-572-3387,

(WASHINGTON – March 20, 2012) New rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will save thousands of lives and protect children’s health and the environment, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said in testimony before the Senate today.

In an oversight review of EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which place the first-ever federal limits on mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants in the United States, EDF’s General Counsel Vickie Patton said these standards provide vital heath protections for millions of Americans.

“The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are long overdue safeguards to protect the most vulnerable in our society, our infants and children, from the largest sources of toxic air pollution through proven, cost-effective solutions,” Patton said in her testimony.

“When implemented, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will annually prevent as many as 11,000 deaths each year, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, over 500,000 missed work days due to illness, and over 3 million unhealthy air days, delivering vital human health protections valued at $37 billion to $90 billion each year they are carried out,” Patton said.

Patton testified today in support of the new rules at an oversight review by the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, under the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Mercury and Air Toxics rules, which were published by EPA on Feb. 16, 2012, have broad public support and will deliver vital human health protections valued at $37 billion to $90 billion each year by deploying commonly available and widely implemented cost-effective clean air solutions.

Coal- and oil-fired power plants are the nation’s single largest manmade source of major toxic air contaminants, responsible for half of all mercury pollution, 77 percent of acid gases, and 62 percent of arsenic emissions. Mercury exposure can cause brain damage in infants, and can affect children’s ability to walk, talk, read and learn. Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of babies are born each year with potentially unsafe levels of mercury in their blood. 

Many of the other toxic pollutants also controlled by the new rules — such as chromium, arsenic, dioxin and acid gases — are known or probable carcinogens and can attack the brain, lungs, liver, and kidneys.


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Testimony of EDF General Counsel Vickie Patton [PDF]