President Signs Major Mercury Protection Bill into Law
Mercury Export Ban Act Will Protect People at Home and Abroad
WASHINGTON (October 15, 2008) –Yesterday evening the President signed into law critical legislation that will help protect Americans and people around the world from mercury poisoning by banning the export of elemental mercury from the United States, according to scientists and policy experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“Today we have won a momentous victory for public health that will save lives both here and abroad,” said Susan Keane, a scientist for NRDC. “Banning the export of mercury will substantially reduce mercury contamination in fish, prevent the contamination of our water, and shield our children from a dangerous chemical. Those involved overcame a difficult political climate to enact bipartisan legislation that will benefit millions of people around the globe. This is no small feat, and I commend them for their hard work.”
The Mercury Export Ban Act puts an end to a vicious cycle of poison. While this dangerous neurotoxin is being phased out by industry and the government here in the United States, surplus mercury is shipped overseas to developing countries, where it is released from highly polluting industries. Not only is the air and water in those importing countries contaminated with concentrations of mercury that would not be tolerated in the United States, the mercury can also travel for thousands of miles and can settle right back here in the United States, poisoning Americans mainly through consumption of contaminated fish.
The law, signed by President Bush and passed by the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities, now requires that all mercury in the United States remain here, where it can be managed according to U.S. laws. It prohibits the departments of Defense and Energy from exporting their huge accumulated stockpiles of mercury. Under the new law, the Department of Energy will establish a long-term storage facility that can be used to store any excess mercury that is not used by U.S. industries.
This legislation represents an historic compromise that will result in a safer and cleaner environment. To help pass this major public health improvement, NRDC worked closely with members of Congress, representatives of industry, and local officials, including the American Chemistry Council, the National Mining Association, and the Environmental Council of States (ECOS).
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and in the House by Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME).