EPA Sets Regulations on Toxic Emissions from Cement Plants
On Monday, August 9th, 2010, the EPA announced new regulations limiting toxic emissions from cement factories. Although such factories are major sources of air pollution, this announcement marks the first time that they will be subject to any EPA air pollution regulations.
Cement factories, which burn coal to fuel their kilns, are the third largest producer of mercury in the U.S., generating nearly 23,000 pounds of toxic emissions each year. The plants also emit other air pollutants, including hydrochloric acid and sulfur dioxide.
After studying 89 operating cement plants, the EPA set new regulations requiring that toxic emissions of mercury and particulate matter by cement plants be reduced by 92%, hydrochloric acid emissions be reduced by 97%, sulfur dioxide emissions be reduced by 78%, and total hydrocarbon emissions be reduced by 83% by 2013. The EPA based these regulations on the 11 cement plants in the nation with the lowest levels of toxic emissions.
Mercury is known to cause brain damage in children, and other toxic emissions from cement plants can cause asthma and heart disease. An EPA analysis predicts that, for every dollar spent to help cement plants meet these new regulations, between $7 and $19 will be saved on health costs.