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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
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May 26, 2011

Contact: Sean Sarah, (330) 338–3740

Residents Flood EPA Hearings, Demand Safeguards from Coal Pollution

Hundreds Testify about the Dangers of Toxic Mercury

As the Environmental Protection Agency held hearings on mercury safeguards, hundreds of Americans came together to ensure that the EPA understands that it must adopt strong safeguards against mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. At hearings on Tuesday in Chicago and Philadelphia and today in Atlanta, hundreds of concerned residents gathered to let the EPA know that coal is making them sick.


"Americans sent a clear message to the EPA this week. Coal is making us sick. Illnesses caused by coal plants can be prevented by keeping toxic chemicals out of our air and water. We know how to prevent thousands of cases of birth defects, asthma attacks, and heart disease. We owe it to our kids to cut coal pollution and clean up our air," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune

Toxic mercury is especially dangerous to the health of young women, children and developing fetuses. Even small amounts of mercury exposure have been linked to developmental disorders and learning disabilities. According to the EPA, at least 1 in 12 – and as many as 1 in 6 – American women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their bodies to put their baby at risk. 

On March 16, the EPA proposed a strong air quality standard to protect Americans against life-threatening air pollution such as mercury, arsenic and other air toxics from power plants, which are currently allowed to emit this hazardous pollution without national limits. Dirty coal-fired power plants are the number one source of mercury pollution in the United States, emitting more than 130,000 pounds of toxic mercury pollution in the year 2009 alone, according to Environment America.


In support of the proposed EPA safeguards, the Sierra Club and its allies took to the streets, and the hearing rooms, in Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta and brought supporters with them. Activities included:

  • Mercury Hair Testing: Men, women and children headed to a local barber shop in Atlanta to see if they had dangerous levels of toxic mercury in their systems
  • Testimony: Mothers, doctors, experts and concerned residents gathered under the banner of public health to urge the EPA to implement stronger safeguards• Baby Buggie Bridgades: As a show of concern for their children's health, mothers marched with their children in strollers at each of the hearings.
  • Public Education: The Sierra Club and its allies worked hard to inform the public of the dangers of mercury and other byproducts of coal plants with seminars, videos and press conferences. 

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