Do You Live Near a Mercury Hotspot? (MAP)

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


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...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

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