The "Toxic 20": States with the Highest Levels of Toxic Air Pollution from Power Plants

It shouldn’t be hard to understand why we should clean up toxic pollution – including mercury – from power plants. Especially when you consider that half of the toxic air pollution from industrial plants is coming from power plants, as a new analysis from NRDC shows.

Power plants are the leading source of industrial air toxics

The analysis, based on the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) also names the Toxic 20 states which have the highest levels of toxic air pollution from power plants.

Twenty states with most toxic air pollution from power plants

“Power plants are the biggest industrial toxic air polluters in our country, putting children and families at risk by dumping deadly and dangerous poisons into the air we breathe," said Dan Lashof, Climate Center Director at NRDC in a press release. "Tougher standards are long overdue. Members of Congress who consider blocking toxic pollution safeguards should understand that this literally will cost American children and families their health and lives,” said Lashof.

You can quickly look through the analysis using this slideshow: 

Toxic 20

Despite the health benefits of reducing toxic pollution from power plants, some polluters and members of Congress are seeking to block EPA’s efforts to update public health protections. Last week, two House Committees voted for amendments by Ed Whitfield (R-KY)/Mike Ross (D-AR) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) to block for at least a year the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics standard. These amendments, which also block the Cross-State Air Pollution standard, could move to the House floor as early as this week.

If passed, those amendments could cost as many as 25,000 lives by delaying much-needed cleanup of pollution known to cause a range of respiratory and circulatory diseases that contribute to early death. A coalition of environmental groups has launched a ticker counting the deaths EPA-blocking amendments could cause at

Efforts to block the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics and other health-protecting standards draw criticism from doctors, including Lynn Ringenberg, a pediatric MD, of Physicians for Social Responsibility, who says

“Coal pollution is killing Americans. It is America’s biggest source of toxic air pollution.  Air toxics from coal-fired power plants cause cancer, birth defects, and respiratory illness. Just one of those air toxics, mercury, damages the developing brains of fetuses, infants, and small children. It robs our children of healthy neurological development and native intelligence.”

Who would vote to allow the nation’s most toxic air polluters to keep putting our lives and kids at risk? More on that in my next post.

About the Authors

Pete Altman

Director of Federal Campaigns

Join Us