How Bad Is Mercury Pollution in the Great Lakes Region?
Just ahead of a major U.S. Senate vote on the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) authority to clean up mercury and other toxic air pollutants, a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report shows that the 25 worst coal-fired power plants account for more than half of the dangerous mercury pollution emitted by the total of 144 electricity generation facilities in the Great Lakes region. The report also finds that almost 90 percent of the toxic emissions could be eliminated with off-the-shelf technologies.
According to Poisoning the Great Lakes: Mercury Emissions from Coal-Fired Power Plants In the Great Lakes Region, Ohio emits the largest amount of mercury from coal-fired power plants (21 percent of the total in the Great Lakes region), followed closely by Pennsylvania (20 percent) and Indiana (16 percent). The remaining five states in the region rank as follows: Michigan (14 percent); Illinois (11 percent); Wisconsin (9.5 percent); Minnesota (6.5 percent); and New York (2 percent). Plants from outside the region also contribute to mercury pollution in the Great Lakes.
“Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that doesn’t belong in our Great Lakes," said Thom Cmar, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It puts the health of kids and pregnant women at risk and adds an unwelcome danger to eating what our fishermen catch. That’s why it is so important that we support the EPa.’s standards to reduce mercury pollution by holding polluters accountable. Even more critical is that every single U.S. Senator from the region stand up for the Lakes by rejecting reckless attempts to derail the long overdue Clean Air Act updates that can help tame this problem," Cmar said.
The Great Lakes region’s five worst coal-fired power plants for mercury pollution are: Shawville (Clearfield County, Pa.); Monroe (Monroe County, Mich.); Homer City (Indiana County, Pa.); Cardinal (Jefferson County, Ohio); and Sherburne County (Sherburne County, Minn.). (See the complete list below of the worst 25.) A dozen power plants in Ohio and Indiana—owned in whole or part by American Electric Power—accounted for 19 percent of all mercury emitted in 2010 from the total of 144 coal-fired power plants in the region.
U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), recently filed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution (S.J. Res. 37) to void health standards reducing mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants and to permanently block EPA from re-issuing similar safeguards.
Cindy Copeland, report author and formerly with the EPA. Air Program, said: “Mercury is poisoning the Great Lakes and the three states—Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania—that impose no rules are by far the worst offenders. Airborne mercury from coal-fired power plants in the Great Lakes Region harms our health, and the benefits of reducing mercury emissions are well worth the cost. With a reduction of health costs to the economy at up to $90 billion, it is hard to say no to this.”
In the Great Lakes region, there are more than 144 coal-fired power plants which pumped more than 13,000 pounds of mercury into the air in 2010. Mercury pollution from these plants region accounts for close to 25 percent of the nation’s total. The Great Lakes region is comprised of the five Great Lakes (Erie, Ontario, Huron, Michigan and Superior) and the eight surrounding states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin).
Eating poisoned fish is the primary cause of mercury poisoning of humans. Mercury is a neurotoxin that harms the brain, heart, central nervous system, kidneys, lungs and immune system. Young children and developing fetuses are most at risk, and can suffer developmental problems from mercury poisoning.
THE WORST-25 GREAT LAKES REGION COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS
- Shawville (Clearfield Cty, Pa.)
- Monroe (Monroe Cty, Mich.)
- Homer City (Indiana Cty, Pa.)
- Cardinal (Jefferson Cty, Ohio)
- Sherburne County (Sherburne Cty, Minn.)
- Muskingum River (Washington Cty, Ohio)
- Hatfield’s Ferry (Fayette Cty, Pa.)
- Walter C Beckjord (Clermont Cty, Ohio)
- Wabash River (Vigo Cty, Ind.)
- Newton (Jasper Cty, Ill.)
- Pleasant Prairie (Kenosha Cty, Wis.)
- Belle River (St. Clair Cty, Mich.)
- Clifty Creek (Jefferson Cty, Ind.)
- Columbia (Columbia Cty, Wis.)
- St Clair (St Clair Cty, Mich.)
- Rockport (Spencer Cty, Ind.)
- Gavin (Gallia Cty, Ohio)
- Bruce Mansfield (Beaver Cty, Pa.)
- South Oak Creek (Milwaukee Cty, Wis.)
- Kyger Creek (Gallia Cty, Ohio)
- State Line (Lake Cty, Ind.)
- J M Stuart (Brown Cty, Ohio)
- Tanners Creek (Dearborn Cty, Ind.)
- Boswell (Itasca Cty, Minn.)
- Joppa Steam (Massac Cty, Ill.)
The EPA recently issued nationwide rules to require coal-fired power plants to limit airborne mercury emissions and other toxic air pollutants by 2015. The technologies to meet the EPA’s mercury limits are widely available and effective.
Based on projected reductions in fine particulate emissions due to the combined benefits of various air toxic pollution controls, the EPA has projected that the benefits of its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) far outweigh the costs of pollution controls. The health benefits of the MATS are projected to be worth $37 to $90 billion in 2016 alone. The EPA has projected that the majority of the benefits would be reaped in the eastern U.S., including the Great Lakes region.
Mercury emitted into the air from coal-fired power plants is by far the leading man-made source of mercury reaching the Great Lakes and the lakes, rivers and streams of the Great Lakes region. This report lists the top 25 mercury emitting plants in the region. Mercury pollution from plants outside the region also contributes to the overall quantity of mercury found in the Great Lakes. When coal is burned to produce electricity, mercury is emitted into the air. The EPA estimates that coal-fired power plants are the largest man-made source of mercury pollution, accounting for 50 percent of mercury air emissions in the U.S.
- A streaming audio replay of this NRDC news event is available by clicking here.
- The report can be found by clicking here.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.