Physicians for Social Responsibility Urge the EPA to Strengthen, not Weaken, Lifesaving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards December 28, 2018


Press Contact:
Olivia Alperstein, Media Relations Manager
Physicians for Social Responsibility
(202) 587-5232,

Washington, D.C. — On December 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal that would effectively weaken the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which helps protect the health and safety of American families by ensuring proper regulation of mercury and harmful pollutants.

In response, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released the following comment:

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) have received bipartisan support in Congress and widespread support from health organizations like Physicians for Social Responsibility, because they work, and they have played a critical role in curbing hazardous air pollution from electric utilities. Coal-fired and oil-fired power plants are among the biggest sources of mercury and other toxic air pollutants posing a grave risk to human health. PSR joins other trusted and respected public health voices in urging the EPA to strengthen, not weaken, these lifesaving standards for the sake of the health and safety of American families around the country.

“Weakening the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) will make it easier for air toxics, some of the most hazardous known air pollutants, to poison our air and our families, potentially causing sickness or death,” said Jeff Carter, Executive Director of PSR. “Coal-fired power plants emit mercury, which causes brain development defects in babies and young children, as well as arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, dioxin and acid gases, which cause or contribute to cancer, heart disease, lung disease and premature death. The EPA has a solemn duty to protect Americans from environmental health hazards. They should work to strengthen critical health and safety standards, not weaken them.”

“PSR has worked for over a decade to require that mercury and air toxics pollution from coal-fired and oil-fired power plants power plants be reduced,” said Barbara Gottlieb, Environment & Health Program Director of PSR. “Mercury can damage the brain of developing fetuses, infants, and young children, all of whom are particularly vulnerable to irremediable harm.  Many of the hazardous organic air pollutants that are emitted are known or probable carcinogens. It’s past time that we stop poisoning ourselves from power generation. It’s dangerous, it’s immoral, and it’s unnecessary, since we can generate our power from affordable and clean renewable energy sources.”

The toxicological effects of mercury, as transformed into methylmercury in the environment, have been a major source of concern to PSR. A large number of women of childbearing age are exposed to mercury at levels that lead to cord blood mercury levels that exceed the EPA reference dose (RfD), as summarized in the National Academy of Sciences Mercury Study. Even at very low levels, mercury exposure during pregnancy can cause impaired brain functions, language deficits, and lower IQs for the developing child.

PSR is also deeply concerned by the enormous impact that the other hazardous air pollutants (HAPS) have on health, as described in the peer-reviewed medical literature and summarized in our white paper, Coal’s Assault on Human Health. Particulate matter, ozone, and HAPS emitted by coal-fired electricity generating units must be regulated because of their effects on health.


About Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)

PSR is a nonprofit organization representing medical and health professionals and concerned citizens, with approximately 40,000 members and supporters and with chapters in major cities and medical schools throughout the United States. PSR has been working for more than 55 years to create a healthy, just and peaceful world for both present and future generations. Learn more at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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