November 16th, 2006
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is considering selling some 1,300 tons of surplus mercury on the international market, prompting urgent warnings from health organizations such as NRDC and MPP that the toxic metal would easily find its way back into the domestic food chain from the developing world. The DOE stockpile is more than eight times the amount exported in 2004 by all U.S. companies combined. Once used in weapons and other energy-related technologies, the mercury is now obsolete for DOE functions and no longer of any use to the government. Exported mercury also poses a substantial direct health risk to workers around the world, said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. “As many as 15 million gold miners in more than 40 countries, for example, are at risk from high-concentration mercury vapors and mercury intoxication, which can lead to severe nervous system poisoning,” he said. “The U.S. government has a moral obligation to restrict its exports to developing countries, as the European Union recently proposed to do by 2011.”
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