Do You Live Near a Mercury Hotspot? (MAP)

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Coal-fired power plants are responsible for two-thirds of air-borne mercury pollution in the US—more than all the other sources combined. In a new report out this week, Environment America looks at where most of that pollution is coming from.

Using data from the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, the report finds that Texas was the biggest emitter of mercury in 2010, spewing 11,127 pounds into the atmosphere. (Six of the top nation’s top 10 mercury emitters are in the Lone Star State. Fairfield, Texas is home to the Big Brown Steam Electric Station and Lignite Coal Mine, which together were responsible for 1,610 pounds of mercury pollution.) Texas dwarfed Ohio, the second-highest emitter, which emitted 4,218 pounds. Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Indiana round out the top five.

The report also found that five companies were responsible for more than a third of mercury emissions from power plants. American Electric Power was responsible for the most, at 6,200 pounds, followed by Luminant Generation Co., Southern Co., Ameren Corp., and NRG Energy.

Here’s where most of that mercury pollution is concentrated:

Mercury pollution is bad for people—particularly little people. Kids who are exposed to mercury while their brains are developing can have diminished verbal and motor skills and lower IQs. It’s also bad for women who are or are hoping to get pregnant. The March of Dimes notes that babies exposed to mercury in utero “can suffer severe damage to the nervous system and may die,” or they “may have brain damage, learning disabilities and hearing loss.” Studies have found that 8 percent of women of child-bearing age have dangerous levels of mercury in their bodies, and the EPA estimates that up to 300,000 babies born each year may be at risk of developmental problems because of in utero exposure.

Meanwhile, in Washington, congressional Republicans have tried to block the EPA from instituting new mercury rules.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate