On behalf of CSPI and MPP, Earthjustice recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against FDA for failing to respond to our 2011 petition requesting the Agency to give consumers clear, accurate and accessible information about mercury in seafood (as recent press reports explain.) The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered deadline since under its own regulations, FDA had 180 days to respond and its failure to do so violates federal law. In 2004, FDA acknowledged MeHg exposure risks when it issued an online advisory based on now outdated research. Several recent studies suggest adverse effects at exposure levels 10-fold lower than those considered acceptable a decade ago.
The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a global legally binding instrument on Mercury (INC4) will be held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from 27 June to 2 July 2012. The Zero Mercury Working Group has prepared its views on the INC 4 draft_treaty text. Noting that mercury gets transported great distances through the air and in trade, NGOs are urging governments to cut mercury off at the source by adopting strong treaty provisions.
Japanese NGOs are joining world wide efforts to promote national mercury export bans. The EU and U.S. recently passed mercury export bans. Japan’s decision to ban mercury export would accelerate the voluntary worldwide mercury partnership while the UNEP finalizes an effective international mercury treaty.
Mr. Takeshi Yasuma, representing the Japanese NGO Citizens Against Chemical Pollution, reports they have launched an initiative to push the Japanese government to enact a much needed ban on mercury exports. Ban Toxics, in coordination with MPP, is supporting efforts to encourage Japan to enact a mercury export ban. To help our Japanese colleagues in circulating this statement and to collect the signatures of all who believe that Japan needs to stop its mercury exports, link to the signature-collection campaign. Signatures will be collected until August 31, 2009, at which time they will be presented to the Japanese Government during an NGO/Government meeting on mercury.
The European Parliament recently adopted a ban on the export of mercury from the EU, one of the world’s biggest mercury exporters, and ensuring its safe storage, beginning in March 2011. In addition to metallic mercury, the ban covers other compounds such cinnabar ore, mercury chloride and oxide. The regulation requires the storage of mercury either in salt mines, in deep, underground, hard rock formations, or in above-ground facilities. “Although we would have liked to see a more robust regulation, this agreement between the two institutions is a very good step towards locking down mercury in the EU,” said Elena Lymberidi Settimo, EEB’s Project Coordinator of the Zero Mercury Campaign (see press release).
The EU Commission is required to submit by 2010 a report on any technological advances in the solidification of mercury and, if appropriate, a proposal for revision of the directive not later than 15. March 2013. In addition, the Commission must report by 2010 if there is a need for an import ban on mercury and if the export ban should be extended to other compounds, mixtures and products containing mercury, in particular thermometers, barometers and sphygmomanometers. More information on the EU mercury export ban.
A key US House Committee yesterday approved legislation, HR 1534 — the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2007 — banning the export of mercury by 2010 and established a long term storage option at a facility designated by the US Secretary of Energy. HR.1534 is supported by the environmental community, the Environmental Council of States, the American Chemistry Council, the Chlorine Industry and the mining industry and passed the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on a vote of 42 to 2. HR. 1534 is needed to curtail trade in this toxic commodity particularly to developing countries where over 1000 tons of mercury is used and released by small scale gold miners, threatening themselves, their families and communities and the local and global environment to widespread, persistent and bioacccumulative toxin. The legislation moves to the US House of Representatives for consideration.
After a long series of delays, US EPA finally announced that it is establishing, in consort with other federal partners, a stakeholder panel process to provide the U.S. government with a range of options for better managing non-federal mercury supplies. As part of this process, the panel will hold a series of public meetings over a six-month period beginning with the first meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 8. The charge to the panel is to consider: 1 ) how the various stocks of mercury should be managed both in the short-term and the long-term, and 2 ) how current and future supply and demand affect this determination for each of the various stocks. As a starting point, EPA has distributed a background paper. The public can also provide written comments on the issues the stakeholder panel. When sending in comments, mention that the Docket Identification Number is EPA-HQ-OPPT-2007-0148. More information about the stakeholder panel and the EPA “Roadmap for Mercury ” is available on the EPA web site.
Today, US Senator Barack Obama sent a letter to US Dept. of Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman requesting clarification on recent reports that DOE is considering the sale of its 1300+ tons of its surplus mercury currently stored at its Oak Ridge, TN facility. “Given that mercury is a trans-boundary pollutant that is deposited both locally and globally, any strategy to reduce mercury in the environment must also include reducing the volume of mercury traded and solid in the world market,” states the letter from Senator Obama. Senator Obama has expressed concerns about global mercury issues and has introduced the Mercury Market Minimization Act (S. 3627), which would ban the export of surplus mercury from the US, similar to the proposal to ban mercury exports described below by the European Commission. The EC recently hosted an international conference on managing international supply and demand of mercury (see online presentations), including a presentation from MPP director Michael Bender. Policy makers, industry representatives, non-governmental organizations and scientists participated in this event. The conference brought together experts and stakeholders from around the world to discuss, in an open dialogue, the way forward to reduce mercury supply and demand.
MPP and an number of other health and environmental groups concerned with mercury pollution and with health risks to people today provided comment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on its “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): Revisions to the WIC Packages- Proposed Rule.” While applauding USDA for its proposed rule to discontinue WIC offerings of “white” canned tuna, we strongly recommend that “light” canned tuna also be eliminated from the WIC program. Recent tests indicate that some light canned tuna has similarly high mercury levels—or higher levels—than “white” canned tuna and therefore, under the Institute of Medicine criteria, would indeed “pose a mercury hazard.”
As the U.S. considers surplus mercury issues, NGOs welcomed an EU regulation to ban mercury exports and ensure safe storage of surplus mercury so that this dangerous neurotoxin will not re-enter the global market. The proposed EU export ban sends a clear message to world governments and the upcoming UNEP Governing Council meeting in February 2007 that mercury exports should be curtailed globally, say NGOs. Mercury trade to over 50 developing countries, according to EU reports exposes miners to severe health impacts when used in gold mining and also pollutes the global environment, according to the UNIDO Global Mercury Project . “We’ve got to stop the cycle of toxic trade and contamination which ends up polluting our lunch sandwiches and dinners in the US,” said Michael Bender of MPP and Zero Mercury Working Group (see coverage). “The Commission recognized that it is very important that mercury supply and demand are addressed simultaneously.” The U.S. EPA has stated that it will initiate discussions on the surplus mercury issue in its Roadmap on Mercury in 2006. “Ultimately, it will be important to look at ways to permanently “retire” non-federally owned or managed commodity-grade mercury that will eventually have little or even negative economic value,” states the Roadmap. The Department of Defense has decided to permanently store, rather than sell, over 4,000 tons of surplus mercury.