Despite Local Reductions, Pollution Still Threatens Children’s Health

Environment Maryland

Baltimore—States that contribute to air pollution in Maryland rank among the most polluting in the nation, according to a new Environment Maryland report, Dirty Energy’s Assault on our Health. Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are second, third and fourth, respectively, on the top ten list of mercury emitting states.

In 2006, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Healthy Air Act—the toughest power plant emissions law in the country.  As a result of that law, Maryland has successfully reduced the amount of mercury pollution produced by power plants within the state by 80% as of 2010.

Unfortunately, however, mercury pollution produced by power plants outside Maryland’s borders continues to put our environment and our children at risk. 

“Powering homes anywhere, whether they are located within Maryland’s borders or out-of-state, should not poison Maryland’s children,” said Stephanie Sargent, Campaign Associate for Environment Maryland.” 

Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States. They emit mercury into our air, which then falls into our waterways from rain or snow, where it builds up in fish and contaminates the food chain. 

In a statement, Maryland Department of the Environment Acting Secretary Robert M. Summers said, “In Maryland, we have been working to reduce mercury emissions from all sources. But with an estimated 73% of mercury air pollution coming from outside our state’s borders, we need action at the federal level.”

“More than 15% of children born each year grow up with IQ’s lower than they would have if mercury pollution were controlled,” stated Dr. Gwen Dubois, a physician at Sinai hospital. “I strongly urge the EPA to promulgate strict regulations to control mercury pollution coming from coal-fired power plants.”

Baltimore resident Elana Ehrlich said, “As the mother three small children, I am bothered that mercury pollution from out-of-state continues to threaten the health of my children, even though technology exists to prevent it from entering the food chain and endangering my children.”

Our research found that:

  • Fish and animals that consume fish suffer from reproductive failure and mortality as a result of mercury pollution.  More U.S. waters are closed to fishing because of mercury contamination than because of any other toxic contamination problem.
  • The Maryland Department of the Environment recommends that people never eat king mackerel, swordfish and other species due to mercury contamination. Fish consumption advisories also recommend limited consumption of many other fish species, especially for women and children.
  • Mercury pollution is a widespread health risk. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one in six women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her bloodstream to put her unborn child at risk for the health effects of mercury pollution, including learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and lower IQs, should she become pregnant.

Environment Maryland’s report comes as the EPA is set to propose a standard to limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants in March, and finalize the standard by November.  Therefore, Environment Maryland is calling on the EPA to issue a strong standard that will significantly reduce these harmful pollutants from power plants, and specifically cut mercury pollution by more than 90%.

While the EPA is undertaking this rulemaking, however, Congress and industry lobbyists are working to prevent the EPA from doing its job, by threatening to introduce legislation to block this and other rules to limit dangerous air pollution.

“Maryland’s parents work hard to protect their children’s health; now it’s time for the EPA to do its part,” said Sargent. “Maryland’s Congressional Delegation should stand up for Maryland’s families and support the EPA.”