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Rules for cleaner air will prevent premature deaths

“This is something industry can afford and the nation needs,” a New York Times editorial declared in March.
The comment referred to the health benefits of “long-delayed rules for cleaner air,” which the Environmental Protection Agency had released that month.
The paper called the proposed rule, on which the agency is seeking input, an “unquestionable victory for the public.”
The proposed clean air rule would greatly reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, dioxin and other air pollutants from power plants.
Following passage of the Clean Air Act amendments under President George H. Bush, medical- and municipal-waste incinerators were regulated for mercury and others of these pollutants, resulting in 95 percent emissions reduction, but the power sector was not.
A rule determination for power plants made at the end of the Clinton administration was “promptly rescinded by President George (W.) Bush,” the Times recalls; a rule issued in 2005, classifying mercury as non-hazardous, was “ thrown out of court as inadequate and inconsistent with the law.”
Power plants account for half of U.S. mercury emissions, almost all of them (99 percent) coming from the coal plants, which the new rule addresses.
As the southeastern region has nearly 300 of these, health and environmental damage from their pollution can be substantial.
Collectively, they spew 20,000 pounds of mercury into the air every year, resulting in fish consumption advisories in all states in the region.
The southeast also having 6.5 million anglers, and as some of the toxins bioaccumulate in the food chain, many millions of people would avoid mercury exposure risks from contaminated water if the rule were adopted.
In a letter to a congressional committee, the presidents of national medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association warned of the serious adverse impacts from the pollutants to be cut through the proposed rule.
The health-damage consequences include “death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes, including strokes; increased risk of cardiovascular harm, including heart attacks and congestive heart failure; … hospitalizations and aggravated asthma attacks in children.”
Adoption of the rule, as the medical groups urge, would substantially “lower health care costs for all.”
Indeed, the EPA projects that the rule will prevent “hundreds of thousands of illnesses and thousands of premature deaths” each year, as well as the lost work time (and personal misery) from the illnesses. The EPA estimates it will surpass its implementation cost by at least six to one.
A bipartisan survey conducted by the American Lung Association in June found three out of four voters (in six states) supporting stricter air-pollution mandates by the EPA.