The nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan last year drew a spotlight on the many risks associated with nuclear power. After the disaster, airborne radiation left areas around the plant uninhabitable, and even contaminated drinking water sources near Tokyo, 130 miles from the plant.
America’s dependence on oil threatens our environment, our economy, and our national security. Whether it is the scars left by the oil spills in the Yellowstone and Kalamazoo rivers and the Gulf of Mexico, the $1 billion that American families and businesses send overseas every day for oil, or the nearly 2 billion metric tons of global warming pollution emitted annually which fuels more and more extreme weather, these problems demand that we break our dependence on oil.
Power plants continue to release large amounts of toxic pollutants, including mercury, into our air. In 2010, two-thirds of all airborne mercury pollution in the United States came from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. In other words, power plants generate more airborne mercury pollution than all other industrial sources combined.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxicant. Mercury exposure during critical periods of brain development can contribute to irreversible deficits in verbal skills, damage to attention and motor control, and reduced IQ.
In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the first national standards limiting mercury and other toxic air pollution from existing coal- and oil-fired power plants. Implementing these standards will protect public health.
Humanity is running out of time to stop the most dangerous impacts of global warming. Signs of global warming are appearing around the world – including in the United States – and the latest science suggests that future impacts are likely to occur sooner and be more severe than previously thought.
All Americans should be able to breathe clean air. But pollution from power plants and vehicles puts the health of our nation’s children and families at risk. Ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, is one of the most harmful and one of the most pervasive air pollutants. According to the American Lung Association, nearly half of all Americans – 48 percent – still live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution. Studies show that on days with high concentrations of smog pollution in the air, children and adults suffer more asthma attacks, increased respiratory difficulty, and reduced lung function. Exposure to smog pollution can exacerbate respiratory illness and even cause premature death. Sensitive populations including children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illness are particularly at risk of the adverse health effects of air pollution.
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