Gretchen Dahlkemper-Alfonso (right) speaks to a crowd in Philadelphia about the importance of EPA's mercury safeguards. Photo credit: Sierra Club
Gretchen Dahlkemper-Alfonso is a mother of a toddler and is eight-months pregnant with her second child. When it comes to protecting her children and taking precautions on their behalf, she doesn't skip anything.
"I do not ignore the facts. I make sure to feed them healthy food, use plastic toys and bottles that are BPA-free, and baby-proof every drawer in my house down to the last knob," said the Philadelphia mom.
And yet, she's angry because despite all those precautions she takes for her children's health, "toxins from all angles are invading my body."She's disturbed that coal and oil-fired power plants release more than 386,000 tons of 84 hazardous pollutants into the atmosphere each year, according to the American Lung Association.
"Many of these air pollutants are damaging to the health of my family, and I am particularly concerned with the dangerous amounts of mercury that these coal-fired power plants release into our air and water - and into the bodies of my children."
Thankfully, last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a critical air quality standard to protect Americans against life-threatening air pollution such as mercury, arsenic and other air toxics from power plants. These power plants are currently allowed to emit hazardous air pollution without national limits.
The long-overdue and critically important mercury and air toxic standard updates Clean Air Act provisions and establishes emission limits for the nation's fleet of power plants. According to EPA, each year the new protection will save as many as 17,000 lives and prevent 120,000 cases of childhood asthma.
Also according to EPA, at least 1 in 12, and as many as one in six women of child-bearing age has enough mercury in her body to put her unborn child at risk.
Moms like Gretchen are fed up with this situation "This is a serious health issue that all mothers or soon-to-be mothers must be aware of," said Gretchen during a speech at a Sierra Club event last week. "But beyond just being aware, as mothers we should speak up about the need to reduce the amount of mercury pollution being put into our environment, which threatens our health and that of our children and future children."
She's just one example of a concerned parent speaking out against polluters and for her family's health. There are millions and millions doing the same around the U.S.
"From smog-causing asthma attacks to toxic mercury harming children's neurological development, far too many mothers like me, and our children, face a constant threat from coal's pollution in our air and water," she said. "As a mother, I am happy that the EPA is moving forward with efforts to reduce harmful pollutants from my environment."
The Sierra Club is working with Gretchen and many other parents to support this proposed EPA safeguard (and others), because of the severe health problems caused by pollution from coal-fired power plants. Will you join us?