Today, the Green Lighting Campaign along with others submitted comments in response to the DOE’s proposed Energy Conservation Standards for General Service Fluorescent Lamps and Incandescent Reflector Lamps.
We are concerned that this proposed rule will allow a significant amount of outdated lighting equipment to continue to be sold in the US marketplace even though more energy-efficient, cost-effective replacements are readily available. At a minimum, according to our comments, the DOE should adopt lighting-efficiency standards at least as stringent and broad in scope as those adopted under the European Union’s Eco-Design Standards for Energy Using Products (EuP) Directive.
“Failure to do so will place the US further behind on demonstrated leadership regarding climate change and other related environmental policy issues,” said Alicia Culver of the Green Purchasing Institute and Co-Coordinatorof the Green Lighting Campaign. “Moreover, adoption of the current proposal will run the risk of turning the US into a dumping ground for inferior lighting products that do not meet the EU’s stronger energy-efficiency requirements.”
The Dominican Sisters of Hope, supported by Consumers for Dental Choice and the Mercury Policy Project, presented a resolution calling on the Danaher (DHR: NYSE) corporation to transition out of manufacturing mercury fillings at the company’s annual shareholder meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, May 5 (see press release). Danaher owns Kerr, the largest manufacturer of mercury amalgam. “Mercury is highly toxic, can cause permanent harm to a fetus, to a child’s developing brain or an adult’s kidneys,” said Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., a consultant in corporate responsibility who will be representing the Dominican Sisters of Hope, which owns a block of Danaher shares. “The underserved are at great risk because of the continued use of mercury amalgam. We think it is wrong to put them at such risk when there are suitable alternatives available.”
As the world’s governments convene next week to discuss developing a legally binding treaty on mercury, over twenty groups from around the world have co-released a new MPP report calling attention to the global human health hazards caused by mercury in fish and fish-eating marine mammals. The study, released by the international Zero Mercury Working Group, indicates that the health impacts of methylmercury in fish and fish-eating marine mammals are substantial, and demand an effective response from governments and the United Nations. “Mercury contamination of fish and mammals is a global public health concern,” said MPP Director Bender. “Our study of fish tested in different locations around the world shows that widely accepted international exposure levels for methylmercury are exceeded, often by wide margins, in each country and area covered.”
According to the report, “Mercury in Fish: An Urgent Global Health Concern” (11MB), the risk is greatest for populations whose per capita fish consumption is high, and in areas where pollution has elevated the average mercury content of fish. But methylmercury hazards also exist where per capita fish consumption and average mercury levels in fish are comparatively low. In cultures where fish-eating marine mammals are part of the traditional diet, mercury in these animals can add substantially to total dietary exposure. For additional information, see www.zeromercury.org.
At a meeting this morning with the Department of State, MPP and other representatives of various groups urged the United States Government to support a legally binding treaty to reduce mercury exposure next week at a UNEP Governing Council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. The groups plan on distributing a letter signed by 50 U.S.-based groups and another 40 abroad urging President Barack Obama (and copied to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CEQ Director Nancy Sutley and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson) to support a global mercury treaty. “The upcoming United Nations meeting will provide the Obama administration with its first opportunity on the world stage to demonstrate a real change in the U.S. approach to international environmental issues,” said Michael Bender, MPP director (see press release). “We strongly recommend an approach that embraces cooperation and leadership, rather than the obstruction and inaction we have seen from the previous administration.”
A new international study released today by MPP, Zero Mercury Working Group, GAIA and Ban Toxics! shows how the burning of mercury-containing products is increasing the risk of environmental and health impacts around the world. The new study states that incineration and burning send upwards of 200 tons of mercury into the atmosphere every year, comprising 10 percent of the mercury that enters the earth’s atmosphere through human activities. “Based on this report’s findings, we must recognize that the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere through incineration and burning is much more significant than previously suspected, representing at least twice the emissions as previously thought,” said Michael Bender, MPP Director
The study, entitled “Mercury Rising: Reducing Global Emissions from Burning Mercury-Added Products,” underscores the harmful environmental and health impacts posed by incineration or burning of mercury-added products (such as discarded fluorescent light bulbs, thermostats, switches and thermometers) in incinerators, landfill fires and open burning of domestic waste is a significant contributor of mercury and other toxics to both local and global mercury pool.
The report recommends that, at the upcoming February meeting in Nairobi, of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the purpose of negotiating a free-standing legally binding instrument on mercury.In the interim period before such an instrument becomes effective, the report recommends to UNEP to take the following action:
- Assume responsibility for the awareness-raising, analytical, technical and legal support activities necessary to encourage manufacturers of mercury-added products, and countries where such manufacturers are located, to identify and implement the actions.
- Recognize that combustion of mercury-added products in incinerators, landfill fires and open burning of domestic waste is a significant contributor of mercury and other toxics in both local and global ecosystems, and urge countries to take steps to stop these practices and move towards safe, just, sustainable and more environmentally-sound alternatives
Today, a parent of a mercury-poisoning victim joined a medical doctor and an advocacy group in refuting the FDA’s new proposal to stop warning pregnant women and children about mercury in fish. In 2004, the FDA joined EPA in releasing advice to restrict the species and amounts of fish eaten by women of childbearing age and children due to exposure risks to mercury. On Friday, in a draft report submitted to the Bush White House, the FDA indicated that they were planning not only to rescind that advice, but recommend that sensitive populations eat more mercury-contaminated fish.
“Talk about getting hooked on fish stories,” said Michael Bender, MPP, Director of the Mercury Policy Project, which just released a new case study exposure report. “FDA has really gone overboard this time by casting out the science and reeling in the industry ‘line’ instead,” Bender said, referring to an industry report released prior to the FDA report that reached strikingly similar conclusions. “Real people have been sickened by mercury in fish, demonstrating the importance of strong FDA advice on mercury in fish.” The new MPP report, Over the Limit, shares stories of people who each ate enough store-bought fish to suffer mercury’s effects, according to their physicians. From New Jersey to Wisconsin to California, these stories show that seafood contamination is a very real problem that should not be ignored.
Less than two years after the removal of bald eagles from the U.S.’s endangered species list, a research group in Maine has found an elevated levels of mercury in the blood and feathers of bald eagles in the Catskill Park region of New York. This morning the Nature Conservancy-NY, along with their partners at the Biodiversity Research Institute and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, released a report about the impact of bald eagle mercury study (see summary). An executive summary and the full report can be found at BRI’s Web site. The New York Times covered the release with a major story in this morning’s Science Section.
Today, at the UNEP North American Civil Society meeting in Washington, DC, MPP, on behalf of the Zero Mercury Working Group, is advocating that the UNEP Governing Council consider and conclude that a free-standing legally binding instrument (LBI) is needed to address the global mercury challenges at its upcoming meeting in Nairobi in February. We strongly believe that the elements of a global mercury framework related to supply (including storage and trade), emission reductions (through the use of best available technology, BAT, or otherwise), and product/process phase-outs in particular will require a legal instrument to be effective for a number of reasons including the following:
- It is the only way to control supply and eliminate global mercury trade while minimizing possibility of conflicts with international trade law
- It will ensure the required substantial global coordination and a level playing field in effectively phasing out the use of mercury in products and processes, and otherwise reducing mercury emissions from industrial sources.
- The legal instrument is the most direct and effective vehicle for prohibiting new undesired activities
- It can elevate the importance of mercury as a priority issue in countries and regions, and facilitate implementation of relevant national legislation.
According to the ZMWG, the provisions of this LBI should include:
- A broad scope that includes those human activities which contribute to the global mercury pollution problem, and addresses the entire lifecycle of mercury.
- Tailored mercury control measures to particular sectors and sources of concern.
- Measures which incorporate the Precautionary Principle, the Polluter Pays Principle, and other relevant Rio Principles.
- Recognition of the role and importance of public interest, health and environmental stakeholders. Mercury has been on the agenda of UNEP GC since 2001. Some progress has taken place since then, both at the political level and on the ground with several projects addressing the mercury crisis. However, it is now high time that a global framework is adopted to coordinate actions to reduce mercury supply, use and emissions of mercury from all global sources of concern. At the latest meeting of the Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group on Mercury in Nairobi (October 2008), a comprehensive set of elements to be part of a global framework was agreed to by a broad consensus, and this was an important step forward. In addition, an overwhelming majority of countries supported a free-standing legally binding instrument on mercury.
Shoppers and diners can use any cell phone web browser to enter their weight and fish choice to estimate low, moderate or high level dose of mercury based on U. S. government guidelines. The cell phone calculator compliments the GotMercury.Org web version. Fish consumption is the primary source of mercury exposure in the United States. In addition, AJR 57, introduced into the California legislature by Rep.Huffman on mercury-contaminated seafood passed this year and urges the federal Food and Drug Administration to take responsibility for, and take actions to reduce, the public’s exposure to mercury in seafood by taking specified actions.
An important new book recently came out on exposure risks of methylmercury from high mercury fish consumption, Diagnosis: Mercury; Money, Politics & Poison, by Jane M. Hightower, M.D. The book covers mercury exposure issues, lackadaisical oversight by courts of justice and government agencies, and seafood industry interference in public policy. A list of symptoms associated with mercury illness are summarized at the Diagnosis: Mercury website. “Dr. Hightower passionately argues that we still need numbers and hard facts; without them consumers cannot make appropriate informed choices. Hightower has worked long and hard on this fight to make the dangers of mercury public and this important new book highlights the long and lonely quest she has fought to help get us where we are today,” said U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, in support of the book.