(Des Moines) -- Exposure to mercury can negatively affect child development, including unborn children, and that's one reason critics are speaking up about an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to roll back regulations on mercury and other toxins.
By the EPA's own estimate, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards prevent 130,000 asthma attacks and 4,700 heart attacks a year.
Kari Noble from Des Moines, who testified with the group Moms Clean Air Force last week at the EPA's only public hearing on the proposal, said she has a personal reason for wanting to protect air quality.
"I have a child with a brain-based disorder," she said, "and certain milestones - our children have to work so much harder to obtain those milestones - and need to be able to breathe freely without problems of asthma, or asthma problems getting worse with more air toxins in the air."
In Iowa, it's estimated the mercury standards produce $1.3 billion in health benefits each year. However, the EPA now argues it's no longer "appropriate and necessary" to regulate emissions from power plants.
The standards have required power plants to install scrubbers to remove mercury and other airborne toxins from emissions, and many plants already have installed the technology. Noble said 15 coal plants in Iowa have reduced their output of hazardous toxins - which, to her, shows the standards are working.
"So, a lot of them were implemented, and they've already paid the money for them - and they're working and drastically reducing the amount of chemicals," she said. "In Iowa, [an] 87 percent drop since 2011 when these standards were implemented, because of that technology. So, it can be done."
Democrats and Republicans have spoken out against the proposed change.