Burning coal releases toxic mercury that rains down into rivers and streams. This poison then accumulates in the food chain, eventually making its way into our bodies when we eat contaminated fish.
Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system. Mercury is of special concern to women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, since exposure to mercury can cause developmental problems, learning disabilities, and delayed onset of walking and talking in babies and infants.
Currently, coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of unregulated mercury pollution in the United States, emitting over 33 tons of toxic mercury each year. Fortunately, landmark new protections, introduced by the Obama administration in 2011, will establish the first-ever nationwide safeguards against toxic mercury from dirty power plants—our largest source of mercury pollution—and reduce mercury emissions from power plants by more than 90 percent. The Sierra Club and its allies rallied hundreds of thousands of Americans who spoke up for these vital safeguards via public comments, rallies, hearings, and mercury teach-ins.