March 15, 2006

Blagojevich Proposes Mercury Cleanup Plan

Tuesday Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich moved aggressively to protect children’s health by requiring Illinois coal plants to cut mercury pollution levels by 90% by 2009. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) proposed rules that would require new controls for mercury pollution, which has been linked to neurological defects in children and health problems for adults.

This is a bold proposal to order Illinois’ biggest polluters to clean up their act to protect our children’s health. We have the technology to make sure that future generations of Illinois children are not harmed by mercury pollution, and we hope Illinois power plant operators do the right thing and install the pollution controls to protect our kids.

In February the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a warning to women of child-bearing age about the dangers of eating large predator fish (such as bass and walleye) from any Illinois lake or river due to mercury pollution. The largest source of mercury pollution in Illinois is coal-burning power plants, which spewed 4,125pounds of mercury into the air in 2003. A teaspoon of mercury can contaminate an entire lake.

Sierra Club has conducted hair sampling for mercury contamination as part of a nationwide study that found that 1 in 5 women have levels of mercury in their bodies that could harm a developing fetus. Sierra Club’s testing in Chicago found such levels in 1 in 4 Chicago-area women.

Going fishing with your kids or your grandchildren should be a wholesome, healthy form of recreation, not a health risk. We hope that Illinois power companies will choose to install the pollution controls to protect our kids rather than spend their money on lawyers and lobbyists to derail this cleanup plan.

The Illinois Pollution Control Board is expected to hold hearings on the proposal beginning later this Spring. The proposal is available online at

Very impressive move by the Gov.

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