The Toxics Release Inventory, a database of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has released the list of the 10 largest mercury polluters in the country. Texas was the number one polluter (11,127 pounds of mercury pollution), followed by Ohio (4,218), Pennsylvania (3,964), Missouri (3,835), Indiana (3,175), Alabama (3,002), West Virginia (2,495), North Dakota (2,363), Kentucky (2,287), and Michigan (2,253).
The EPA has been working to limit emissions from power plants and other facilities, and this list of data shows which states suffer the most from mercury emissions. In Michigan, the Detroit Edison Monroe Power Plant is the largest source of airborne mercury, releasing 660 pounds into the atmosphere. In Ohio, the largest source of mercury pollution is coal-fueled power plants, which are responsible for two-thirds of all emissions. Earlier this year, the Obama administration pushed for limits on mercury emissions that would require power plants to capture 90% of the mercury in the coal they burn. Despite attempts by members of Congress to delay implementation of tighter EPA regulations, it looks as though the new regulations remain on course.
Mercury emissions are responsible for a variety of health problems, including birth defects. It has been known to damage the human nervous system, and can cause speech delays and lower IQs in children. Although fish consumption is thought to be the biggest source of mercury, people can also be exposed simply by breathing the air or drinking contaminated water. Birth defects attributed to mercury exposure include brain damage, hearing impairment, and even a disease known as Minamata. Minamata disease can result in numbness in the hands and feet, hearing and speech problems, and in its worst form, lead to insanity and death.
If your child was born with a birth defect that you believe was due to mercury exposure in the womb, you might consider filing a toxic tort lawsuit against the offending power plant. First, you would need to identify which power plant or plants is the source. It is not uncommon for people to be affected by emissions that come from other states as the result of cross winds. If the offenders reside in another state, it might be more difficult to track the offender down and prove that it was responsible -- unless there was documented evidence showing the harmful effects of interstate pollution.
However, if you are able to identify the source of the mercury emissions, you would argue that the plant had a general duty to act responsibly and follow regulations. The plant breached that duty by failing to follow regulations, the breach resulted in your injury -- exposure to the mercury toxins -- and the damage was your child's birth defect (and possibly your own health problems). Again, if the power plant is in another state, you might have trouble proving that the plant had a duty to you, because you might not be a foreseeable plaintiff. The power plant would only have a duty to those it could foreseeably harm. Yet if you were able to show that cross winds carrying mercury emissions into your state are a common phenomenon, you might be able to establish that you are a foreseeable plaintiff.