CLEVELAND, Ohio —
New federal standards will regulate toxic air and water emissions from coal-fired power plants, which doctors say put locals — especially children — at risk.
“The mercury and our toxic standards were at least 20 years overdue, so keeping this promise to keep children from mercury pollution is extremely important,” said Susan Hedman, regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The new rules will stop 90 percent of mercury and 80 percent of acid base emissions, leading to better quality fish, Hedman said.
“In the Great Lakes region, people eat a lot of fish and eating fish should be healthy,” she said. “So if you have high level of contaminants like mercury in fish, it really creates a problem.”
The Ohio Department of Health advises that all people limit eating fish caught from all waters in Ohio to one meal per week.
Young children and pregnant women are at the greatest risk for long-term health risks.
According to the EPA, up to one in six women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their body to put a developing baby at risk.
“A developing fetus exposed to unhealthy levels of mercury may have impacts later on in live such as cognitive difficulties, developmental delay, (there have) been some reports of cerebral palsy,” said Dr. Aparna Bole, pediatrician and sustainability manager at University Hospitals.
Hedman said people of all backgrounds are affected.
The new standards will save as many as 11,000 lives nationwide and 500 in Ohio, she said. They could also prevent as many as 130,000 asthma attacks in children and prevent 4,700 heart attacks each year.
The new rules will go into effect by 2015 and will cost power plants up to $10 billion each year. Companies like First Energy have already announced plans to shut down four locals plans because of the ruling.
Yet, Hedman says for every dollar companies spend to comply, it could save families $3 to 9 in healthcare and give them a chance to enjoy local resources more.
“It’s important because the people want to eat the fish, because they like it, because it’s good for them,” she said. “But especially for children, it can be a real, real risk.”