Natalie Portman and Scientist Mothers Call on EPA to Protect Public Health and Set Strong Limits on Pollution

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over the next two months, the Environmental Protection Agency will draft new rules limiting mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants and large industrial facilities.  Mothers from two professions – acting and science – are joining Environment America and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) to urge the agency to set the strongest possible standards to protect public health.

Today, Natalie Portman and six scientists—who have expertise in a range of disciplines related to climate science and environmental health—released a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson – also the mother of two boys -- asking her to support stringent standards for limiting mercury pollution.

“In our most important role, as mothers, we are concerned by the myriad threats to the health of our children and children around the country posed by unsafe levels of air pollution,” the letter states. “As you work to prepare and finalize limits on toxic chemicals, we urge you to make these new standards as strong as possible to protect children across the country for generations to come.”

Mercury, which is emitted from burning coal, is a potent neurotoxin that is particularly damaging to developing brains. An estimated one in six women of childbearing age in the United States has enough mercury in her bloodstream to put her child at risk of developmental disorders and learning disabilities should she become pregnant.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of mercury in the country, according to UCS. The average coal plant emits 170 pounds of mercury annually, as well as 225 pounds of arsenic, 114 pounds of lead, and 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The EPA has an opportunity in the coming months to set limits on such dangerous pollutants as mercury. However, the coal and oil industries and their allies in Congress are pushing to weaken these clean air standards.

“The desire to protect the health of our families is universal,” said Courtney Abrams, global warming advocate for Environment America. “The women who signed this letter are among millions of Americans who want cleaner air for their families. The White House and Congress must do everything they can to protect our health by setting strong clean air standards and not caving in to dirty energy lobbyists.”