Did you know that in August 2010, US EPA issued new air pollution rules for more than 100 cement kilns located across the country. The move will result in significant pollution reductions of mercury, fine particle pollution, hydrochloric acid, and total hydrocarbons from the cement manufacturing industry. The EPA was under a settlement agreement to finalize the rule by August 6 after environmental groups won a challenge in federal court to the agency’s previously weak emission standard.
EPA estimates that cutting air pollution from cement kilns could result in up to 2,500 premature deaths avoided each year. The EPA also estimates benefits from cutting this air pollution of up to $18 billion annually, starting in 2013 when the rule takes effect. Some cement kilns are huge mercury polluters. For example, the Ash Grove Cement Co. in Durkee, Oregon released more than 1,500 pounds of mercury from its stacks in 2008. According to the EPA, the new rule will:
- Cuts 16,600 pounds of mercury, roughly 92%
- Cuts 11,500 pounds of particulate matter, roughly 92%
- Cuts 5,800 pounds of hydrogen chloride, roughly 97%
- Cuts 10,600 pounds of total hydrocarbons, roughly 83%
Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that interferes with the brain and nervous systems, resulting in birth defects, loss of IQ and developmental problems. Particulate matter causes serious health impacts on lungs and breathing, including decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty in breathing. Hydrogen chloride also causes respiratory problems such as coughing, irritated nose and throat, and heart problems.