Healthy Child Healthy World: Get Mad as Hell and Just Don't Take it Anymore!

Health & Wellness on 05.24.11
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Photo: f_trudeau/Creative Commons

"Shut off the lights!" 

I feel like I say that 20 times a day to my three kids as they move through our house leaving a trail of on-switches behind them.

I've used various tactics to try to get them to fall in line: Bribing, cajoling, yelling, even replacing the phrase with, "Save a polar bear!"

But maybe my children would understand how important it is to shut off our lights if they saw the big picture, as I did recently when I participated in a webinar hosted by the Moms Clean Air Force.

As we all know, lights are powered by electricity, and electricity is fueled primarily by coal. Yet although I also understood that coal is dirty-no matter how many "clean" descriptives are used at election time-I didn't really comprehend its' polluting effects until I encountered the Moms Clean Air Force, which clued me in to the facts that:


  • 50% of the mercury in our air comes from coal-fired power plants.
  • Mercury is a neurotoxin-meaning it impairs brain function-and is particularly dangerous to fetuses, infants and children.
  • 410,000 infants are born each year with "unacceptable" levels of mercury in their blood, according to the EPA.
  • The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, have all called for reducing mercury exposures.
  • The simple, cost-effective implementation of a "scrubber" at a coal-fired power plant can reduce that plant's mercury emissions by as much as 90 percent, according to a study conducted by Northeast Air Quality Agencies.





And although restrictions on mercury emissions from hospital and municipal waste industries between 1990 and 2005 lead to drastic reductions in tons of mercury emitted per year, according to the EPA-municipal waste combustors, for example, went from nearly 60 tons per year to less than five-according to the Moms Clean Air Force, some of the major electric companies refuse to police their plants. Instead, they're planning to spend $1 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions this year with the intent of dismantling the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency in the name of saving the economy.

Let's talk about this environment versus economy concept, because it seems to be coming up a lot these days:


  •  Passed in 1970, the Clean Air Act has helped reduce emissions of some of the most common air pollutants by 41% while the U.S. economy doubled in size.
  • U.S. energy production is up more than 45% since 1970, but scrubbers in place at more than half of our coal-burning power plants have cut sulfur dioxin pollution down by 63%.
  • Over the last 20 years, EPA cut pollution 41% while U.S. Gross Domestic Product rose 64%.


Not much of a link between protecting the environment and ruining the economy, is there? But there is a direct link between turning off the lights and reducing the amount of mercury in the air that our children breathe.

And if all of us act on that link, as well as take action to make our voices heard-such as signing the Healthy Child Healthy World petition to encourage American Electric Power, which ranks number-one in most air pollution categories, to clean up its' most polluting facilities and stop promoting a bill that would compromise clean air standards-we can make a difference.

After all, as Dominque Browning of Moms Clean Air Force so aptly put it, "This is a defining moment for industry. Polluters have the power of money, but we have the power of love. And no politician wants to make a mom angry."

Let's get angry, people. It's time! 


Healthy Child Healthy World ignites the movement that empowers parents to protect children from harmful chemicals. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Together, we can change the world.


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