(Des Moines) -- Environmental advocate Anita Christensen traveled from Indianola to Washington last week, hoping to convince Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa that former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is the wrong person to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
As acting chief, Wheeler opened the door for legal challenges to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
Christensen, co-leader of the Des Moines chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby, says rolling back regulations on mercury would be particularly detrimental to children and pregnant women.
"He says he has human health and the environment as his utmost goal, but I think those things that he's trying to change don't show that to us," she states. "And nobody else is going to speak up for your kids, so it's really important as a parent that you make your concerns known."
Christensen says she met with staff from Ernst's office, but was not reassured that Wheeler's confirmation would be seriously challenged.
Mercury is a known neurotoxin that has been shown to damage the nervous system, brain and fetal development.
Since mercury standards were adopted in 2012, Christensen says pollution has been reduced almost 90 percent nationwide, and Iowans benefitted.
"The amount of mercury pollution in Iowa alone has decreased 87 percent, and so this is a regulation that is beneficial to us as humans, it's beneficial to our environment and it didn't cost the industries as much to put in place as they thought it would," she points out.
The Trump administration's EPA has worked to roll back numerous protections, including fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars.
Dominique Browning, co-founder and senior director of Moms Clean Air Force, says it's hard for Americans to keep up with all the regulatory rollbacks that could harm their health.
"We're slammed with these rollbacks, week after week after week, and people are becoming a bit numb," she states. "So we have to realize that we have a choice here to stop this barrage, this onslaught."
At last week's Senate hearing, Ernst praised Wheeler for removing federal protections on millions of miles of wetlands and waterways.