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It's Official: 93% Reductions in Mercury from Cement Kilns!

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
09 August 2010, 12:00 PM
After a decade of litigation and activism, EPA makes pollution cuts

One of the first issues I worked on when I started at Earthjustice in 2004 was a lawsuit we filed to compel the EPA to take action on mercury and other toxic air pollution from cement kilns. This was during the Bush years, and despite winning in court, the EPA did next to nothing to abide by the law and clean up the air for dozens of communities living around these big polluters.

Today, we all finally have reason to celebrate. After thousands of emails, dozens of press releases, phone calls, meetings and your support, the EPA announced plans that will cut more than 16,000 pounds of mercury from our nation's cement kilns every year, starting in 2013. The rule also cuts thousands of pounds of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride and other pollution, and promises to prevent up to 2,500 premature deaths each year.

From today's press release:

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that interferes with the bran and nervous systems, resulting in birth defects, loss of IQ and developmental problems. Particulate matter causes serious health impacts on lungs and breathing, including decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty in breathing. Hydrogen chloride also causes respiratory problems such as coughing, irritated nose and throat, and hearing problems.

It is a great victory that I can honestly say would not have been possible were it not for your actions to email the EPA, call their offices, attend public hearings and maintain a strong drumbeat that we want clean air and we deserve a healthier environment. Earthjustice attorneys are proud to represent in court the reasons federal agencies must follow the law. But it's often when these agencies begin to hear directly from the public that change really starts to happen. So take a deep breath and say congratulations to all of us on a great clean air victory. We certainly deserve it.

I live in Maui, Hi. The air pollution out here in the ocean furthest away from any land mass is at times shocking. We have sugar cane fields - producing tons of sugar every year (that's another whole conversation). The practice is to plant the cane in mono-crop rows, cover the ground with black plastic to keep weeds down, then pesticide the heck out of it and after the crop is harvested, guess what?
They burn the cane stubble along with the chemical ridden black plastic sheeting which creates what is known here on Maui as black snow. Before they get to harvest during planting the ground is covered with red dust also impregnated with the chemicals they use on the crops, and when they drive the equipment over the fields it stirs up huge red dust clouds that cover a large portion of the island, especially landing on densely populated areas like Paia, Kahalui and Kihea..people report heavy lung and respiratory congestion several times a year.
Coupled with the influx of volcanic ash from the volcano on Big Island often blowing here it's truly amazing to see what could be some of the cleanest air on Gaia turn into nasty black plastic smog mixed with volcanic ash called VOG. What will our clean air act do to protect Maui citizens and how do we find out what health risks have already been taken by just living in paradise?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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