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E-M:/ Letter to NGA on Mercury contamination

Enviro-Mich message from Vicki Levengood <vlevengood@voyager.net>

Friends -- sorry the deadline is close on this one (end of biz today),
but I felt many of you would want to join us in signing this, given the
extent of the problem of mercury contamination in Michigan, and the
efforts by so many of you on those issues as they relate to utilities. 
Email me your name, organization, city and state and I'll submit them.
Thanks in advance!

Vicki Levengood
National Environmental Trust / Michigan

National Governors' Sign-On Letter

(to be presented at the NGA meeting in Washington, DC on February 23,

Dear Governors:

For over twenty years, the nation has been struggling to address the
consequences of toxic metals exposure in countless communities.  Lead
contamination in our communities has required millions of dollars in
clean-up, health surveillance, and public education.  Our delay in
responding aggressively to lead pollution decades ago meant millions of
children suffered the debilitating effects of lead exposure and

We hope we have learned from this unfortunate public health crisis, and
can prevent repeating the same mistakes when it comes to dealing with
another toxic heavy metal:  mercury.  

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin polluting our nation's rivers, lakes,
streams, and coastal waters after a century of burning fossil fuels for
energy and incinerating trash.  The fish inhabiting those water bodies
are contaminated, as well as the birds and mammals that depend on those
fish.  Today, over one million American women and children are at risk
for mercury poisoning.

What makes mercury a particularly troubling environmental pollutant is
that it is highly toxic even in extremely small amounts.  It builds up
in the food chain and can persist in the environment for decades. 
Mercury deposition at an annual rate of 1/70th of a teaspoon can
contaminate a 25-acre lake to the point where the fish are unsafe to
eat.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that every year
in the U.S. over 150 tons of mercury are released into the air
(although this figure likely underestimates the actual amount being

Like lead, children are at the front lines of this emerging public
health and ecological crisis.  Even before drawing their first breath, a
child's brain may be permanently damaged from being exposed to mercury
in utero at critical times of development.

Already, health departments in 40 states have issued advisories covering
over 50,000 water bodies warning people to restrict their consumption of
mercury-contaminated fish.  Over 60 prominent physicians nationwide,
many experts on the effects of metals on children, have written an open
letter to decision makers calling for policies to eliminate, to the
greatest extent possible, man-made mercury releases.  The U.S. Tuna
Foundation (whose members include household tuna names like StarKist,
Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea) recently adopted a national
resolution urging governments to reduce and ultimately eliminate mercury
emissions to protect one of the world's most important
food supplies.

Despite the growing evidence that mercury poisoning is pervasive, and is
toxic to humans in increasingly smaller doses, the U.S. EPA has been
slow to address this public health problem in a comprehensive and
thorough manner.  In addition, only a handful of states have taken the
needed step of developing binding policies to curb continued mercury

As individuals and organizations concerned about mercury contamination
and its threat to people and wildlife, we call on you and your
Administration to:

-- Commit to reducing mercury emissions by 50 percent in 5 years, and
virtual elimination by a date certain.
-- Develop an agency plan to meet those goals by targeting each sector,
including electric utilities.
-- Develop a policy prohibiting the incineration of mercury-bearing
-- Work with your Legislature to pass comprehensive mercury legislation
that mandates product labeling and recycling and eventual phase-out of
non-essential uses of mercury; and imposes emission reductions and
monitoring and reporting requirements on coal-fired utilities and
-- Work with your Health Departments to develop a public
education/outreach plan on the state's fish consumption advisories.
Ensure routine (2x/year) monitoring on mercury levels in fish.

We also call on you to:

-- demonstrate leadership on this important public health issue within
your Governors' Conference, and advocate for the adoption of regional
goals and action plans;
-- support your Congressional members in their attempts to move national
mercury policy; and commit to holding a session on mercury, the extent
of the problem and the challenges that lie ahead, at the next meeting of
the National Governors' Association.

Mercury contamination and human exposure needs to be a priority issue
for you and your Administration.  In addition to being a risk to human
health, mercury-tainted fish can have economic consequences as well. 
Sport and commercial fishing industries depend on the supply of safe
fish, and so does the tourism industry.  Meaningful steps needs to be
taken now to protect public health and preserve an important food source
that we all depend on. 

For the sake of our children and future generations, we look to you for
yourleadership on this important issue.



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