All this week, Americans have been holding events showing their support for nationwide protections against toxic mercury from coal plants. Those safeguards are expected to be announced by the Obama Administration in the next week.
As part of Mercury Awareness Week, everyone from moms to college students to union members and more are educating the public about the dangers of mercury.While Big Coal and Big Oil are lobbying hard to block these commonsense safeguards, Americans know how critical these protections are. Exposure to mercury is especially dangerous for pregnant women and young children, as it can cause developmental problems, learning disabilities, and delayed onset of walking and talking. Alarmingly, as many as 1 in 6 American women have enough mercury in their bodies to put a baby at risk. That means that over 300,000 babies are born each year at risk of mercury poisoning.
From a mercury-free lunch rally in Little Rock to a mercury awareness parade of strollers in Seattle, citizens are finding creative ways to urge President Obama to stand up to polluters and to protect pregnant women and children from this toxic pollution:
Denver, Colorado: On December 1, residents held a rally (despite near-blizzard conditions) with a dozen people waving our colorful placards, banners and hand held signs outside Colorado Attorney General John Suthers’ office asking for him to join the Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama Administration to "cross the finish line" on these mercury protections. Afterwards, some members of the group went up to Suthers’ office (see the photo at the top of this post) and asked for an answer as to why he signed a letter seeking a delay on the standards. His staff did not have an answer.
Austin, Texas: On Tuesday, Sierra Club members and supporters gathered for a "teach-in" about the dangers of mercury pollution, hearing from air pollution specialists, a physician, and a resident of Fairfield, Texas, home to the #1 most polluting plant in the nation for mercury, Big Brown. To visualize the impact of Big Brown's pollution, Sierra Club organizers gathered 1,610 ping pong balls (seen in the photo above), which roughly simulate the size of 1lb of mercury. In 2010, Big Brown emitted 1,610 pounds of mercury. Just one gram of mercury is enough to contaminate a 20-acre lake!
Los Angeles, California: Also on Tuesday, LA activists delivered more than 2,500 new petitions to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power urging them to transition away from coal because of its mercury pollution, and transition to clean energy. In the last two years, nearly 15,000 Angelinos have signed on to support the transition.
The Mercury Awareness events continue all week:
- Dec. 9 (today!), Las Vegas, Nevada – Check out the rally outside the Las Vegas federal building where Nevadans will talk about supporting clean air protections.
- Dec. 12, Albuquerque, New Mexico - Join families for a “Field Day” with games and activities for kids based on mercury fish advisories in New Mexico.
- All Week, Detroit, Michigan - Residents are holding a week-long food drive for a local shelter while also raising mercury awareness.
And I’m guessing this event will be particularly eye-catching:
- Dec. 13, Pennsylvania and New Jersey - On Monday at Washington Crossing Park (in Pennsylvania - the same park where a reenactment of George Washington crossing the Delaware is held annually on Christmas Day), a Chris Christie (governor of New Jersey) impersonator will row across the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey on a boat covered with silver emergency blankets and large mylar balloons with "Mercury" written on them to symbolize Governor Christie’s complicity in allowing mercury from Pennsylvania (the 3rd most polluted state in terms of mercury) to pollute New Jersey.
Americans know it’s time for these critical mercury protections, and the ones that President Obama is poised to approve would cut 90% of toxic mercury from coal-fired power plants.