New mercury standards will help Minnesotans

Audra Huffmeyer, University student

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health published research that concluded one in ten infants from the North Shore of Lake Superior are afflicted with high levels of mercury in their blood at birth.

This conclusion was reached after 1,456 newborns from Lake Superior regions in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan were sampled between 2008 and 2010.

Ten percent of infants sampled in Minnesota had high mercury levels at birth. Only 3 percent of newborns in Wisconsin had high mercury levels and no newborns in Michigan did.

Ten percent is a big deal. High levels of mercury in infants have been proven to cause birth defects, detrimental developmental problems, learning disabilities, lower IQs, blindness, deafness and cerebral palsy.

Hopefully, this study will not only help Minnesotans but also the rest of the country understand the importance of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest contributors of mercury pollution in the U.S. Once these new standards are in place, it is projected that there will be a 90 percent decrease in mercury emissions by power plants.

These findings are a major point in favor of the EPA’s new regulations. I think it is of great importance that the University of Minnesota community be made aware of this study and the consequences of the EPA’s new mercury regulations because clean air and healthy people concern us all.