Mercury Reduction Bill Would Help Safeguard Health, Says NRDC

WASHINGTON (April 9, 2003) -- Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will consider bi-partisan legislation to address the surplus of mercury in our environment. Mercury is a persistent and toxic pollutant that poses a significant threat to public health and the environment in the United States. The "Mercury Reduction Act of 2003" (S.616), sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), James Jeffords (I-VT) and John Kerry (D-MA), would prohibit the sale of mercury fever thermometers to consumers and institute a national collection program to encourage households to exchange the thermometers for non-mercury devices. The bill also would provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with $1 million per year to purchase or take title to surplus mercury and to manage it safely. Finally, the bill would establish a federal task force to develop policy recommendations to ensure that surplus mercury is not released into the environment or reintroduced into commerce.

Below is a statement by Linda Greer, health program director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

"Mercury pollution poses a serious threat to our health and environment, particularly for pregnant women and young children. More than 60,000 children born in the United States may suffer neurodevelopment problems due to mercury exposure.

"While mercury pollution from factory and power plant smokestacks is one important source, mercury used in products such as thermometers contributes significantly to the problem as well. It only takes about 1 gram of mercury, roughly the quantity in one thermometer, to contaminate fish in a 20-acre lake.

"We're delighted that Senators Collins, Jeffords and Kerry are working together to tackle the growing problem of surplus mercury from thermometers. This toxic chemical poses a dangerous and unnecessary risk, but one that is relatively easy to eliminate by removing mercury from commerce.

"Their legislation offers an effective and affordable way to turn up the heat on mercury in commerce, and bring down the threat."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.