A key U.S. House Committee today adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Dennis Kucinich to H.R. 5504, which requires USDA to inform schools and those in WIC programs to avoid higher mercury fish. “There is no reason for the government to help kids grow up healthy with one hand while impairing them with the other,” said Kucinich. In addition, MPP and Got Mercury! recently filed comments on the USDA’s draft Committee Report , outlining steps to reduce mercury exposure.
Thirty academic scientists, medical doctors and consumer advocates wrote to FDA and EPA last Friday, urging them to strengthen the Federal fish consumption advisory for mercury and also to do a better job of warning consumers. “Recent research shows that both beneficial effects of fish nutrients and harm from mercury exposure occur in a baby’s developing brain when a pregnant woman eats ordinary amounts of fish,” said Edward Groth III, PhD, a Mercury Policy Project science consultant. “There is no evidence of a threshold for the harmful effects of mercury, and even the amount in a single can of tuna should probably be avoided.”
The U.S. House Government Oversight Subcommittee on Domestic Policy held a hearing on Wednesday, May 26 on “Assessing EPA’s Efforts To Measure And Reduce Mercury Pollution From Dentist Offices.” At the hearing, MPP presented its testimony and a new report, “Midnight Deal on Dental Mercury.” Several online services reported on the meeting and/or MPP’s report. Testifying at the hearing were EPA, the American Dental Association, an amalgam separator manufacturer, a scientist and MPP’. Earlier, EPA had responded to an letter from Domestic Policy Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Kucinich regarding air releases and the Agency’s MOU with the ADA on dental mercury releases. In response, MPP wrote a letter to Chairman Kucinich, to clarify the record regarding our “stakeholder” role.
The Washington Legislature passed a bill, EESB 5543, which requires lightbulb manufacturers to finance a statewide recycling program for lights containing mercury, including compact florescent light (CFLS). The producer-pays aspect of this bill is based on product stewardship. The recycling program will take effect on January 1st, 2013. For more detail, see press releases from King County and Washington Citizens for Resource Conservation and Northwest Energy Coalition.
The Vermont Advisory Committee on Mercury Pollution released a fact sheet today entitled: “Dental Amalgam Fillings: Environmental and Health Facts for Dental Patients.” The fact sheet covers both health and environmental concerns related to amalgam. “Our fact sheet encourages Vermonters to consider alternatives to amalgam that don’t contain mercury, such as composite fillings,” said Michael Bender, former ACMP chair and MMP director in a statement. In its 2010 report, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Legislature consider prohibiting placement of amalgam in pregnant women and children. It also recommends an eventual phase-out of mercury-containing dental amalgam by 2012, due primarily to environmental concerns.
Due to potentially unsafe levels of mercury contained in light tuna, MPP and Got Mercury formally opposed its inclusion in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). They point out that the USDA cannot guarantee the safety of the mercury levels in canned light tuna because the FDA fails to adequately screen canned tuna and remove high-mercury canned tuna.
Chairman of the Congressional Domestic Policy Subcommittee, Dennis Kucinich, and Congresswoman Diane Watson sent a written request to EPA to reduce mercury pollution by tightening dental mercury regulations with Best Management Practices and amalgam separators. They point out that dental mercury is a serious source of mercury pollution and comprises over half of all mercury in use today, amounting to over 1000 tons. They call upon the EPA to reevaluate and update its mercury emission factors based upon more complete data and provide a plan to Congress by February 16th.
Mercury Products Campaign’s report Turning Up the Heat exposes the dismal results of the manufacturers’ voluntary mercury thermostat collection program (TRC). TRC has collected less than 5% of the approximately 100 tons of mercury from mercury thermostats removed from service. The report recommends that states step in and adopt strong laws, with financial incentives and performance standards for recycling mercury thermostats, to drastically improve the TRC program and prevent mercury pollution.
The EPA’s new report, National Study of Chemical Residues in Lake Fish Tissue, found mercury in all fish from 500 lakes sampled randomly across the continental U.S. The data also showed mercury concentrations in game fish exceed EPA’s human health screening levels at 49% of the lakes nationwide. The EPA is taking steps to limit mercury emissions from power plants within the United States. However, Mercury Policy Project’s director Michael Bender points out, “Two-thirds of the mercury that’s rained on Vermont and the U.S. comes from Asia and elsewhere outside the U.S.” Therefore, the international pollution control treaty in the works could have an even greater impact on the U.S.
NECN reports Vermont Lakes Show Effects of Pollution.
General Motors finally caved in to pressure from public-interest groups, government officials and state agencies and has agreed to cover the costs of keeping mercury from its cars out of the atmosphere. That’s the good news: the environmental community and our recycling industry and policymaker allies have managed to back GM down on an issue that is crucial to public health.
But here’s the bad news: GM has yet to make this decision permanent – and step back from the entire idea that it can declare “environmental bankruptcy.” Without GM’s support, the ELVS mercury switch recycling program will collapse, potentially sending tons of mercury into the environment, particularly now that the nation’s junk yards are stretched to capacity dealing with the influx of end-of-life vehicles from the cash-for-clunkers program. MPP fully intends to keep the pressure on the new GM to take long-term responsibility for its environmental legacy. See the New York Times for additional details.