The Environmental Protection Agency today was given until February 21, 2011 to complete a safeguard for hazardous air pollution from industrial and commercial boilers and incinerators. The safeguard is designed to protect the 36 million Americans who live within three miles of these sources of air pollution by significantly lowering the releases of mercury, lead and other toxics that make people sick.
“Industry has done everything it can to delay these clean up measures,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “These polluters must be held accountable. Unchecked toxic air pollution from industrial plants is making our families sick.”
The EPA’s draft health safeguard for boilers and incinerators, proposed in June 2010 after a decade of delay, is expected to save nearly five thousand lives each year and prevent 3,000 heart attacks, 33,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and millions of acute respiratory problems. The benefits of the proposed health safeguard are projected to outweigh the costs by at least $14 billion every year. The safeguard could also result in the creation of up to 9,000 jobs as pollution controls and new technologies are installed, according to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.
“Every day that industry succeeds in delaying these crucial protections equates to human suffering in the form of lives lost and worsened health,” said Jim Pew of Earthjustice. “The rule undisputedly will prevent some of the unnecessary deaths and suffering caused by industrial boilers’ and incinerators’ uncontrolled emissions. Clean air saves lives, and it's time for the companies that operate these big industrial facilities to become better neighbors by keeping their toxic pollution out of our homes, our air, and our food.”
Specifically, the health safeguard will reduce the amount of dioxins, soot and dangerous metals in the air. It will also slash toxic mercury pollution from these dirty plants.
Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that can impact a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. The mercury problem in the U.S. is so widespread that each year 300,000 babies are born at risk of learning disabilities, according to the EPA. High mercury levels have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in men.
Cleaning up these industrial plants is just one part of efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower toxic air pollution overall, addressing all of the major sources of hazardous air pollution. The EPA’s action to control toxic emissions from industrial boilers and incinerators follows an Earthjustice lawsuit filed on behalf of Sierra Club. The agency has already finalized strong toxic air pollution safeguards for cement kilns, and the first ever toxic pollution limits for power plants are expected later this year.