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New EPA Stardards = Big Step Forward

Posted: 5:13PM December 22nd, 2011 | Comments

At the start of every year we hope for a better one than the year before. Easier said than done, right? While I’m not even certain that I’ll be making any personal resolutions (since inevitably they are broken- see gym membership), I am appreciative to see the new ‘resolution’ coming from the EPA.

In case you’ve been distracted with holiday shopping (wait, didn’t you make a resolution last January to buy less stuff?) yesterday - 12/21/11- the EPA announced the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards,  ‘the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide.’ These new standards represent a huge victory for public health and the environmental justice movement. Not only are these toxic substances related to asthma and lung disease, but communities of color are disproportionately affected by these illnesses. In 2002, the American Lung Association reported that 71% of African-Americans lived in communities where federal air pollution standards were not met, compared to 58% of Caucasians. It should come as no surprise to learn that in the past an inordinate number of power plants have been built in low-income, ‘minority’ communities.

Needless to say, the release of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards is a great way to end 2011 and start 2012. Staying committed to creating the world we would like to see is really the only way to provide the opportunity for each year to be better than the year before. I don’t know about you, but I still believe it can happen.

I have always wanted to create my own version of the Harper's Index, so to honor this momentous occasion, here it goes:

Sustain Dane Index

  • Number of premature deaths the EPA estimates the new safeguards will prevent:  11,000

                Number of heart attacks: 4,700

                Number of cases of aggravated asthma in children: 130,000

                Number of premature deaths estimated to be prevented in Wisconsin: 220

  • Percentage of Americans with asthma: 7

                Likelihood that African-Americans will be hospitalized from asthma compared to Caucasians: 3 times

                Likelihood that African-Americans will die from asthma compared to Caucasians: 3 times

  • Percentage of current coal plants not in compliance with the Clean Air Act: 40
  • Number one cause of work-related illness: Occupational lung disease
  • Number of short-term jobs created by the new standards, as estimated by the EPA: 46,000

                Number of long-term jobs: 8,000

  • Estimated health and economic benefits of the new standards: between $37 and $90 billion annually

                Health benefits in Wisconsin, specifically: $1.8 billion









Happy Holidays to all!







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