Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Investor Environmental Health Network and shareholders in the Danaher Corporation today released an open letter to the Board of Directors, which MPP supported, questioning the company’s failure to address dental mercury risks.
A manufacturer-run program for collecting mercury thermostats is failing to keep the toxic heavy metal out of the the environment, according to a new report, Turning Up the HeatII , released today. The report estimates that the industry recycling program has captured only 8% of mercury thermostats over the past decade, resulting in over 50 tons of mercury into the environment. “Companies that profited from the sale of mercury thermostats are shirking their responsibilities,” said MPP Bender in a statement that received extensive media coverage.
While no dental amalgam phase out date has been set, during the negotiations that led to the new treaty on mercury, article 6 on products in Annex C Part II, requires countries to take steps to phase down dental mercury globally. “This is the beginning of the end of dental amalgam globally,” said Michael T. Bender, MPP director, in a press release in English and Francais, which received international coverage. “We applaud the leadership role the US played in jump-starting support for a phase down in 2011 along with the concrete phase out activities in the Nordic countries, Switzerland and Japan in phasing out amalgam.”
Over the past decade, awareness about the risks of mercury in certain fish has increased and pregnant women in particular have been alerted to shop carefully and a recent study indicates that over one-third of American’s mercury exposure is from tuna. But what about the risks from fish children consume at school? In it’s 2011 Annual Report to the Governor, Legislature and Citizens of the State of Vermont, the state mercury advisory committee recommended: “….collaboration between the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Education to communicate with Vermont schools and raise awareness among faculty, staff, and parents about the methyl mercury exposure risk to young children of consuming excessive amounts of tuna fish in school lunch programs,” see: page 2 and 5 of the 2011 report. To further investigate this, MPP announced today in a statement that it is co-releasing with other groups a first ever report on testing for mercury in tuna sold to schools, “Tuna Surprise,” which received extensive media coverage.
Joined by the EU, Canada and other developed countries, the U.S. opposed a separate health provision during the fourth (of five) mercury treaty negotiation earlier this week in Punta del Este, Uruguay. “This is an example of north–south double standard over whether health issues will be addressed equitably,” stated Michael Bender , MPP director, who provided a statement on behalf of the Zero Mercury Working Group during the negotiation. “Mercury is a basic human rights issue. Health strategies to address reducing exposure to mercury must be included in this treaty.”
State and national groups, including MPP, are pushing states to enact strong’ bounty’ programs to increase collection of mercury products such as thermostats. In Maine, we recently wrote to block the push by DEP to eliminate a landmark producer responsibility laws for mercury, as it appears that industry has had undue influence without allowing other stakeholders to participate in the review progress. In California, we recently wrote the environmental agency, urging them to provides for the maximum feasible number of mercury thermostats collected, consistent with the Legislature’s intent.
On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill creating an extended producer responsibility recycling program for mercury-containing light bulbs and setting mercury content standards, modeled after the EU. Pending the Governor’s approval, Vermont will become the third state to establish such a program, following a law first passed in Maine (supported by a report– also see fact sheet) and then a second in Washington, where a weblink explains it. “This law will help continue an important lamp recycling program.” said Senator Virginai Lyons (D-Chittenden), lead sponsor of the legislation. “Protecting our waterways and other natural resources from mercury exposure is vitally important,” said Representative David Deen (D-Windham-5). More information on the retail lamp collection program is available here.
MPP recent wrote a letter supporting U.S. Government (USG) leadership calling for mercury amalgam “…phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out” in its most submission to the UN Mercury International Negotiating Committee (INC). The USG position is consistent with WHO’s perspective as reflected in a presentation to INC1 and is also reflective of countries in the Nordic and elsewhere that have already phased down amalgam. In addition, the letter urges the USG to not succumb to ADA’s recommendations to have FDA assume a leading role in the INC process, given that EPA, and not FDA has the expertise to address the global threat of mercury amalgam releases.
MPP has learned from state officials that an EPA decision to establish effluent guidelines for dental discharges of mercury will occur soon. In a sign on letter from several groups, we strongly urge EPA to terminate the EPA’s 2008 MOU with the ADA and establish effluent guidelines for dental mercury discharges.