EPA mercury regulation: too little, too late?
Weitz & Luxenberg has good news for citizens of Nevada and other states affected by mining and coal industries. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued new regulations designed to cut mercury emissions. Unfortunately, for some people, it may be a case of too little, too late. Eight of the nation's highest mercury-emitting gold mines are in Nevada, and mine workers and their families are especially at risk.
Nevada's even more prevalent silver mining industry also uses mercury to extract precious metals. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection reports the Carson River basin has been tainted with mercury for over a century, and cleanup is only recently underway. Children and pregnant women are especially at risk, as mercury poisoning prevents the development of myelin sheaths in the neurons of the brain, which causes brain damage. Memory, attention, language, and motor skills are all affected.
Mercury is a toxic metal that can poison the lungs, brain, spinal cord, kidneys, colon, corneas of the eyes, and liver via inhalation, skin contact, and consumption. It is also a mutagenic, transferred easily from a pregnant mother to her child, causing birth defects to thebrain and nervous system. Even small amounts of mercury cause 60,000 babies to be born with mercury poisoning in the U.S. each year.
How mercury affects you
Mercury forms methylmercury in water. Many fish consume non-lethal amounts of methyl mercury and are in turn consumed by humans, men, women and children, where it accrues in their bodies and leads to serious health defects. This process is called bio-accumulation. The Nevada Department of Wildlife has issued advisories across the state for dozens of fish species due to elevated levels of mercury.
According to The New York Times, “coal-burning power plants, industrial boilers, cement kilns, and other facilities produce much of the mercury in the environment. There's no question that eating mercury-tainted fish can cause brain damage and other health problems, especially in children.” The data has yet to come in on just how much devastation has been wrought both environmentally and on a human level.
Making polluters pay
The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) nonprofit association asserts that it is possible to further reduce emissions in a cost-effective manner. The Times article also explains “When the Obama administration issues rules for the utility sector, it is expected to require power plants to reduce their mercury emissions by at least 90 percent.”
Mining companies are enjoying record profits these days, but new EPA regulations will force them to lower their mercury output. About two-thirds of the nation's active gold mines are in Nevada. The extraction process releases mercury into the air, but fortunately, the amount released by this process has decreased thanks to recent state and federal regulation. Weitz & Luxenberg wants to help plaintiffs who have been injured by companies that don't follow these standards.
If you want to file a mercury lawsuit, the attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg may be able to help. Please fill out the form on this page for a free legal evaluation. A representative will be in touch with you shortly.
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