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Decision To Relax Limits On Toxic Chemical Endangers Another Generation of Illinois Children

The Bush Administration today announced plans to weaken provisions of the federal Clean Air Act that would have required swift action to protect children and others in Illinois who are at risk of damage to their brains and nervous systems from eating mercury-contaminated fish.

“This proposal puts a whole new generation of Illinois children at risk of damage to their brains and nervous systems to protect the profits of a few large corporations,” said Verena Owen, Clean Air Chair for the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.

Enforcement of existing Clean Air Act requirements would require coal-burning power plants to reduce their emissions of toxic mercury by 90% by 2008. Instead, coal-burning power plants, the largest source of toxic mercury, will be asked to make smaller reductions over a longer period of time. As a result, even in 2018, after the rule is in full effect, 1258 pounds of mercury pollution will still be allowed in Illinois every year. One drop of mercury is enough to contaminate an entire lake.

In February, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a statewide warning concerning the health risks of eating certain fish caught from waters across Illinois. According to the warning, “ The developing nervous systems of fetuses and children could be damaged if exposed to even small amounts of methylmercury.” The warnings are based on sampling of fish caught in waters across the state and are particularly aimed at protecting children and fetuses from neurological damage.

Contact: Jack Darin (312) 251-1680