More mercury regulations

IâÄôm concerned about the quality of the air that I breathe, and I make an effort to avoid second-hand smoke. When considering air on a larger scale, it becomes clear that some things canâÄôt be avoided despite the best efforts. IâÄôm talking about the burning of coal. Sure, there are regulations on the amount of particulate matter that coal-fired plants can emit. However, the amount of childhood asthma around these plants speaks for itself. ItâÄôs not just the impact of smoke and smog on our lungs or even the carbon dioxide that IâÄôm concerned about; these dirty power plants are spewing toxic mercury into our atmosphere as well. Mercury is a well-documented neurological toxin that leads to developmental and learning disorders in children. Currently, coal-fired power plants are the No. 1 source of mercury pollution in the U.S. They emitted more than 130,000 pounds of toxic mercury pollution in 2009 alone, according to Environment America. The Environmental Protection Agency recognizes the harmful effects of mercury and has attempted to implement stronger regulations. However, they have been met with political opposition. This year alone, House Republicans have voted 170 times in favor of removing regulations that protect our clean air and water. Recent congressional activities illustrate that our leaders seem to believe that a healthy economy and a high quality of life are mutually exclusive. TheyâÄôve attempted to remove or weaken EPA regulations designed to protect the integrity of our nationâÄôs air and water. At a time when the mercury levels in our lakes and streams are on the rise, we should be tightening, not loosening these regulations. In these hard economic times we have all had to cut back. In an attempt to balance extreme budget deficits, many things have been sacrificed and compromised. Compromise is necessary now, but I believe the health of our citizens should not be negotiable. The reality is that a healthy economy requires healthy people, clean air and clean water. This seems obvious to me. New mercury regulations proposed by the EPA would reduce mercury in our air and water by more than 90 percent. I urge policy makers to support these protective measures. These pollution safeguards would create jobs installing pollution-control equipment on outdated power plants and in our nationâÄôs expanding clean energy industry. At the same time, it would save families money on health care. ItâÄôs time for President Barack Obama to deliver on his promise to protect public health and create jobs. This can happen by finalizing mercury regulations. More than 800,000 Americans have already demonstrated support for stronger EPA protection from mercury pollution and I stand with them. Joseph Cronick University student