Limits on Hazardous Air Pollutants Save Lives and Protect Health
Twenty years after Congress updated the Clean Air Act, the Southern Environmental Law Center welcomed today’s announcement from EPA proposing maximum limits for more than 80 hazardous air pollutants by large power plants and called on the government to follow through implementing strong protections for the American people. Studies estimate that these pollution limits will save 17,000 people each year from premature death and cases of childhood asthma symptoms each year.
“Limiting the amount of hazardous pollutants put into the air we breathe by power plants saves lives and protects the health of every American, our most vulnerable citizens – babies, children, and the elderly” said John Suttles, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “EPA’s proposed rule relies on available, demonstrated technologies which will reap public health benefits that far exceed any costs to industry.”
Power plants are the largest sources of hazardous air pollutants in the United States, emitting over 386,000 tons per year of hazardous pollutants into the air, including mercury, acid gases, volatile organic compounds, dioxins, radioactive materials, arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals which threaten human health. Infants, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to these pollutants.
“EPA’s proposal of strong limits is in contrast to attempts by some in Congress to undermine the Clean Air Act,” said Nat Mund, legislative director at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We’re working to educate Congress on how vital these protections are to infants and children and the health of families across the United States.”
Mercury puts children at risk for impaired brain function, neurological problems, and reduced IQ. Hundreds of thousands of American children born every year already are at risk of developmental damage because of elevated mercury levels in their mothers’ bodies.
In addition to saving lives and health of people in the United States, the new regulations will generate 31,000 new short-term jobs and 9,000 new long-term jobs.
People in the Southeast are particularly at risk from hazardous air pollutants with several states ranked among the top twenty in the nation for risk of death due to air pollution from power plants. Based on emissions from power plants and associated medical studies, Virginia ranks sixth, Tennessee, eighth, North Carolina, ninth, South Carolina 13th, Alabama 14th and Georgia 17th.
Each year, air pollution from power plants also contributes to hospital admissions and heart attacks in the Southeast (an estimated 487 hospital admissions and 912 heart attacks in N.C., 477 hospital admissions and 896 heart attacks in Virginia, 396 hospital admissions and 728 heart attacks in Georgia, 340 hospital admissions and 640 heart attacks in Tennessee, 200 hospital admissions and 377 heart attacks in Alabama, 193 hospital admissions and 363 heart attacks in South Carolina).