Letter to EPA - Mercury and Air Toxics Standards
The Honorable Andrew Wheeler
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
January 14, 2019
Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler:
The undersigned hospitals and health systems call on you to protect the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which limit mercury and other air toxics emitted from power plants. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that causes brain damage, learning disabilities, and birth defects in children. Other toxics reduced under the standards include carcinogens and volatile organic compounds that not only cause immediate harm, but also react to form dangerous ozone smog.
Because of the dangers posed by mercury pollution, hospitals and health systems in the United States have worked diligently to reduce mercury pollution generated by the health sector. The burning of medical waste was once a major source of mercury emissions. However, our work to eliminate mercury-based medical devices and close on-site medical waste incinerators has led to a decrease in emissions from this source by 95% over the past 20 years, as reported by your agency.
The existing Mercury Air Toxics Standards are also a success story, having achieved a 80 percent reduction in mercury emissions from power plants thanks to the controls these facilities have installed in response to the rule. We must not turn back the clock on the tremendous progress we have made to reduce toxic mercury pollution in the United States.
When the Environmental Protection Agency adopted the rule, they estimated that MATS would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year and prevent 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, and 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits annually.
The standards not only save lives, they also save billions of dollars in avoided costs associated with health impacts. According to EPA’s analysis, the value of the air quality improvements for people’s health totals $37 billion to $90 billion each year. That means that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans get $3-9 in benefits.
The standards are supported not only by hospitals, health systems, and health professionals, but also by industry. The power industry has invested $18 billion in cleaning up these dangerous pollutants and is already meeting the standards. The MATS rule also enjoys bipartisan support in Congress. In August, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Tom Carper (D-DE) called upon your agency to maintain the rule.
The Mercury Air Toxics Standards have improved the health of millions of people at risk from these pollutants, especially women of childbearing age, unborn babies, and children, while also reducing health care costs for families and hospitals. On behalf of the patients and communities we serve, we urge you not to roll back these lifesaving standards.
Advocate Aurora Health, Downer’s Grove, IL & Milwaukee, WI
Bon Secours Mercy Health, Marriottsville, MD & Cincinnati, OH
Cabrini of Westchester, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Catholic Health Association, Washington, D.C.
Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio
Dignity Health, San Francisco, CA
Hackensack Meridian Health System, Hackensack, NJ
HealthPartners, Bloomington, MN
Inova Health System, Falls Church, VA
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH
Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR
Providence St. Joseph Health, Renton, WA
Sutter Health, Sacramento, CA
ThedaCare, Appleton, WI
TriHealth, Cincinnati, OH
Trinity Health, Livonia, MI
University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington, VT
Virginia Mason Health System, Seattle, WA