On Dec. 21, after a more than 20-year delay, our federal government finally signed the Mercury and Air Toxic Standard into law. This new standard will protect and save the lives of adults and children across Montana and across our nation. As a respiratory therapist, I am grateful for the protections it provides children and adults with asthma, seniors with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and others with lung disease.
Coal-fired power plants have long held the unsavory distinction of serving as the nation's largest source of mercury pollution. This pervasive neurotoxin has heavily contaminated our waterways thereby poisoning the food on our dinner table.
Montana's power plants already have taken steps to reduce mercury. The new standard ensures other pollutants will be limited too. And it ensures that plants in neighboring states will take the same steps as Montana to keep our air healthy.
Mercury is especially harmful to young children's brain development and can cause serious developmental birth defects that can have a lasting impact on a child's memory, attention, language and fine motor skills. Pregnant women who unknowingly eat fish contaminated by this potent neurotoxin also risk the health of their unborn child.
Now power plants have finally been ordered to reduce their excessive mercury emissions by 91 percent. While it will take time for our waterways to heal and again provide fish that are safe for all to eat, we are now finally on the right path to a healthy future.