This week the Sierra Club launched an new in your face advertising campaign on Washington, DC’s Metro (subway) system. The clever advertisements offer images of pregnant mama bellies along with information about the excessive levels of mercury most children are exposed to. This bright new ad campaign will be featured prominently in a full 160 cars throughout the Metro system. Massive ad exposure on this topic is a good thing. According to Sierra Club, “As few as 1 in 12, and as many as 1 in 6, American women have enough mercury in their bodies to put a baby at risk. That means that each year more than 300,000 babies are born at risk of mercury poisoning.”  These ads specifically highlight the dangerous levels of mercury pollution coming from coal fired power plants and the need to institute strong protections for Americans, protection that is moving incredibly slow.

coal power plant, coal fired power plant, mercury poisoning, mercury, mercury in the air, pregnancy health

The Sierra Club ads target mercury because it’s a seriously overlooked issue here in the USA. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that, in airborne form, can damage the brain and the nervous system. According to the National Institutes of Health, mercury can cause sickness if breathed in, eaten, or placed on the skin for long periods of time. NIH goes on to say that mercury exposure may cause:

  • Numbness or pain in certain parts of your skin
  • Uncontrollable shake or tremor
  • Inability to walk well
  • Blindness and double vision
  • Memory problems
  • Seizures and death (with large exposures)

Additionally, medical evidence suggests that high exposure to mercury while pregnant can permanently damage a baby’s developing brain and may also cause developmental problems, learning disabilities, and delayed onset of walking and talking. Sierra Club points out that coal-fired power plants one of the largest U.S. sources of pollution, and about 48 tons of toxic mercury are pumped into our world annually from coal-fired power plants. The EPA actually estimates higher, saying that as much as 50 tons of mercury is released annually due to coal-fired power plants. These Metro ads urge action, asking individuals to, “Text COAL to 69866 to take action for cleaner air and water and to let the Obama Administration know we are counting on them to protect our environment, our children, from toxic mercury pollution.

+ Beyond Coal