Weakened mercury controls could lead to health harms

The Trump administration has weakened regulations regarding the release of mercury and other toxic metals from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Environmental and public health experts say the move is an attack on air quality and could harm health—particularly that of children.

“What is most disconcerting to me is this administration’s lack of interest in science and, frankly, their lack of concern for our nation’s children,” said Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an April 16, 2020 New York Times article. “Mercury pollution in the United States damages our children’s brains before they even come into the world, and estimates are that that cost is in the billions of dollars.”

The new regulations, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, include a new method of calculating the costs and benefits of curbing mercury pollution. Under this method, the positive health effects of lowering emissions of mercury and other pollutants would be reduced—by no longer taking into account so-called “co-benefits” such as predicted decreases in heart disease, asthma attacks, and other health problems—while their economic costs would be increased. The resulting analysis could be used by power plant operators to argue for loosened restrictions on mercury or other pollutants, experts said.

Read the New York Times article: E.P.A. Weakens Controls on Mercury