Reader’s opinion: EPA moves to weaken standards that protect children from mercury

The Trump EPA has announced a plan that would set into motion the weakening of standards that protect babies and kids from mercury and other toxic pollutants linked to cancer, lung disease and brain damage. Mercury can damage our lungs, kidneys and nervous systems, and fetuses and young children – whose brain structures are still developing – are especially vulnerable to methyl-mercury poisoning.

As a midwife, I provide prenatal care and counsel pregnant women on how to keep themselves and their babies safe from these and other health threats. Mercury crosses the placental barrier, adversely affecting fetuses before they are even born, and contaminates breastmilk. I am concerned because mercury causes brain neuron degeneration and impairs the growth of the brain in ways that interfere with learning and thinking.

Six years ago, the EPA finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which help reduce mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent and achieve other reductions of dangerous air pollutants. The agency said at the time, “Continuing to improve our air quality with the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards means the difference between being sick and being healthy – in some cases, life and death – for hundreds of thousands of people.”

The Trump EPA’s latest action to undermine these critical health protections puts my clients – and all pregnant women and children – at great risk. We have nothing to gain from weakening these lifesaving and effective standards, and everything to lose. Please join me in strongly opposing this dangerous proposal.

Ashley Hinton-Sharpe is a Missoula midwife.