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.
As delegates from 117 countries concluded the second round of negotiations for a legally binding treaty on mercury, they welcomed Japan’s offer to host the 2013 diplomatic conference in Minamata where the convention will be signed, due to the unprecedented mercury epidemic in the 1950’s. However, NGOs from around the world urged them to truly honor Minimata by agreeing to adopt strong measures. “If the world’s governments really want to call this the “Minamata Treaty,” then they should back up their words with meaningful actions,” said Takeshi Yasuma, of Citizens Against Chemicals Pollution, a Japanese NGO, who worked closely with Minamata groups in raising awareness at the meeting and through the news media reports.
Although delegates generally agreed on a proposed basic framework for mercury reductions, they left most all substantive issues unresolved. According to a ZMWG statement, governments now need to exert strong leadership to: monitor and reduce emissions from coal-fired power stations and other industry and industry; phase out existing mercury mining and management of stored quantities; the classification and management of mercury waste; and critical also is resolving financial aspects of the future convention. After reviewing and summarizing comments on the draft UNEP framework document, interventions were made by ZMWG and other NGOs and recommended: expanding the list of mercury-based products and processes to be regulated under the treaty, providing explicit time lines for phase outs, reducing mercury content in lamps, and strengthening provisions on artisanal and small-scale gold mining, the largest mercury use in the world, among many others.
MPP recently provided testimony to an FDA panel charged with re-examining dental amalgam. We pointed out that while FDA panel re-evalutates, the World Health Organization is expected to recommend that amalgam use be “phased down.” “We welcome WHO’s support for “phase down” , and urge FDA to do the same,” said MPP’s director. The WHO is expected to soon final its meeting report in preparation for the upcoming International Negotiations Committee deliberations in Chiba, Japan, 24-28 January, 2011, that will ultimately lead to the adoption of a legally binding instrument on mercury by 2013.
The European Environmental Bureau and MPP recently wrote a letter urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to correct inaccuracies, misleading and incorrect statements before finalizing its meeting report. Unfortunately, the draft report’s bias is already being diffused on various pro-amalgam websites, including one from Australia and the other from the USA. Among other things, the letter encourages WHO to correct for the record that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss alternatives to amalgam, and not debate or assert the safety of amalgam, — and instead to highlight opportunities for “phasing down” the amalgam use, as WHO discussed in Stockholm in June.
NGOs from around the world, including ZMWG, International Pops Elimination Network and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives , sent a letter UNEP demontrating our solidarity in strong opposition to policies promoting incineration of mercury. The letter, spearheaded by MPP, raises several concerns related to the direction the UNEP global mercury waste partnership is going, appearing to promote waste combustion as a viable end-of-life strategy for mercury and also preempt future decisions of the Interngovernmental Negotiation Committee deliberations leading to the development of a global treaty on mercury.
Environmental NGOs welcome the new European Commission’s decision to reduce the maximum mercury content in certain energy efficient lamps.“This decision now firmly establishes a global precedent that others should follow,” said MPP director Michael Bender. “The new RoHS mercury standards promise to transform the lighting industry on a global scale,” said Alicia Culver, Director of the Responsible Purchasing Network and Co-Coordinator of the Green Lighting Campaign. “Workers will be better protected because these lower limits can generally only be reached by accurate and encapsulated (metered) dosing systems. Consumers will also face a lower health risk if a fluorescent lamp breaks in their home or office.” “Many more types of lamps will require a reduction in their mercury content and the limits are much lower for those covered before. We are particularly pleased with the lowest limit introduced (2.5 mg Hg/lamp) for commonly used compact fluorescent lamps, “ said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, EEB Zero Mercury Project Coordinator.
For more information, see:
Decision 2010/571, amending the Annex of the Directive on Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in electrical and electronic equipment, 2002/95
, http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:251:0028:0034:EN:PDF and corrigendum http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriSer/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:254:0048:0048:EN:PDF
Today, environmental groups applauded EPA’s announcement proposing a new rule requiring dentists to reduce mercury pollution. “Dentists are the largest polluter of mercury to wastewater,” said MPP director Bender in a statement . “We welcome EPA’s proposal to end the Bush-era midnight deal allowing dentists to pollute until they enacted voluntary pollution prevention initiatives – which never substantially materialized.” MPP also expressed its appreciation to Congressman Dennis Kucinich and staff for their efforts in hosting three hearings since 2007 to draw attention to the importance of the issue, including their latest press release.
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.
On behalf of the Zero Mercury Working Group, MPP’s director was selected today to become an expert member of UNEP’s Consumer, Environmental Protection and Recycling Task Force of its Efficient Lighting for Developing and Emerging Countries initiative, or “en.lighten,” helping to shape the first global strategy to achieve market transformation towards efficient lighting worldwide, with specific consideration for environmentally sound approaches to deal with mercury. When completed in mid-2011, the Task Force recommendations will be featured in a Global Road Map on Energy Efficient Lighting with the aim of obtaining its endorsement among governments worldwide.