Invisible Dangers, Visible Opportunity

Last month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new proposed limits on toxic pollutants including mercury, arsenic, dioxin, acid rain and several others that make their way from our nation’s coal-burning power plants into our lakes, rivers, and habitats, threatening our wildlife and our nation’s health.  Many of us are not even aware that these invisible dangers exist.  

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As a kid, I spent every possible minute of my free time outside.   I grew up in a heavily polluted city in Poland, and my parents took me to the countryside nearly every weekend to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.   But even I remember the “no swimming or fishing” signs posted at many of the lakes and rivers I frequented as a child.  Poland is heavily dependent on coal for power (over 90 percent of generated electricity comes from coal-burning power plants), and as a result, it was among the most polluted countries in the world when I was growing up there.   Back then it didn’t occur to me to stop and ask WHY I couldn’t go swimming in those lakes and rivers.  I didn’t think about the unbelievably high levels of mercury contamination affecting fish throughout the country and causing developmental disorders in children exposed to it.  Pollution was simply a fact of everyday life. 

In the US we generate about 50 percent of our electricity from coal-fired power plants.  Coal is not only the dirtiest form of fossil fuel, but the emissions released when it is burned are currently unrestricted.  That’s why the rules proposed by the EPA are so critical.  For the first time, we actually have the chance to put in place strong rules to take charge of the emissions of mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollutants from coal-burning power plants that harm our health and wildlife.  According to the EPA, these proposed rules would:

  • Avoid 6,800 – 17,000 premature deaths
  • Result in savings of $59 – 160 billion per year
  • Result in a 78 percent reduction of mercury emissions

Right now we have the opportunity, through the EPA’s proposed rules, to save thousands of lives and ensure a cleaner and healthier future for our kids – something I couldn’t imagine having the chance to attempt in Poland. 

Tell the EPA why clean air is important to you and why they should enact and enforce strong air toxic rules. You can quickly send your comments by:

  1. E-mail: Comments may be sent by electronic mail (e-mail) to, Attn: Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR- 2009-0234.
  2. website ( Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  3. EPA Air and Radiation Docket Web Site ( Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

If you’re having trouble coming up with the right words then take a look at some sample language below and feel free to use them as your own!

I strongly support the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that would limit mercury, arsenic, dioxin, and other toxic emissions from power plants.

Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury contamination in the U.S, amounting to about 50 percent of emissions affecting humans and wildlife. The pollution settles on lakes, rivers and forests where it exposes fish and other wildlife and makes its way into the food chain. In many places, mercury warnings are increasingly common.

A highly potent neurotoxin, mercury adversely affects the function and development of the central nervous system in both people and wildlife. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to mercury exposure.

For too long, mercury and other toxic pollution has gone unchecked in America. It is time that we require power plants to clean up the pollution that is inflicting such devastating damage to our health and environment.

Thank you for moving forward with the proposed Mercury and Air Toxics standards. I urge you to move forward and finalize strong rules that reduce these harmful emissions. These pollution limits will be one of the largest steps forward in protecting our nation from toxic air pollution in a generation.