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The EPA is proposing new rules that would roll back regulations for mercury air pollution, which disproportionately endangers the Latino community.
Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), established in 2012, aimed to drastically decrease toxins produced by coal-burning power plants from polluting the atmosphere. These protections have reportedly resulted in averting heart attacks, asthma complications, and premature deaths by the thousands.
Experts say the proposed rollback by EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler could boost levels of mercury, soot, and other hazardous pollution in our air, water, food, and communities.
Fortunately, you can speak up!
Dear EPA Chief Wheeler,
I support current Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which aim to ensure the safety of all families, including Latinos, who are disproportionately affected by air pollution. I have serious concerns about the EPA’s proposed rule, which would roll back those safeguards.
The current protections stop about 90% of the mercury produced by power plants from contaminating our air.
They also prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks, and asthma attacks.
Roughly 40% of Latinos live near coal-fired power plants. Mercury exposure can result in cancer, asthma, pregnancy complications, and developmental issues in children. The proposed rule would detrimentally impact their lives.
Do not put the people you were appointed to protect in danger. Mercury pollution poisons men, women, and children, who might not have any alternative to escape that exposure. I urge you to ensure the safety of Latinos and all other Americans.
Pollution Dangers Latinos Face
The risks of cancer and other adverse health issues already excessively impact the Latino community. Latinos face some of the highest levels of exposure — approximately 40% live within 30 miles of a power plant.
With the removal of the current clean air regulations, they would once again be subject to even more harmful exposure to toxins released by coal-burning power plants.
“Instead of keeping and strengthening standards that fight this deadly domino effect at its source, Wheeler’s plan threatens to boost levels of mercury, soot, and other hazardous pollution in our air, water, food, and communities,” wrote Dr. Elena Rios, the president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, in an editorial featured in The Hill.
Of the mercury exposure side effects, asthma is a massive problem for Latinos.
Other atmosphere pollution had caused 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children and 2,000 asthma-related emergency room visits in adults, according to a Clean Air Task Force study.
Arguments at Hand
The EPA’s rationale for rollbacks stems from the cost burdens experienced by power plants when following MATS guidelines. They also do not deem the gasses in question to be dangerous enough for regulation, according to their recently published Fact Sheet.
“After taking account of both the cost to coal- and oil-fired power plants of complying with the MATS rule and the benefits attributable to regulating hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from these power plants…the Agency proposes to determine that it is not ‘appropriate and necessary’ to regulate HAP emissions from power plants,” their statement reads.
The Fact Sheet goes on to say this new rule would “correct” previous findings and regulations established by the previous administration.
Those statements, however, have received backlash from advocates and health professionals.
“This reckless attempt at rolling back the mercury safeguards is just the latest in a long line of anti-science, anti-health attacks from Wheeler,” Rios stated.
The EPA is accepting public comments on the mercury rule until April 17, 2019.
Email EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler before it’s too late!
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America! and the Hoffman Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) program at UT Health- San Antonio. To find out if you are TILTed due to exposure to everyday foods, chemicals, or drugs, take a self-assessment or learn more about TILT.