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E-M:/ Ann Arbor Mercury Thermometer Ban and Exchange

------------------------------------------------------------------------- Enviro-Mich message from Mary Beth Doyle -------------------------------------------------------------------------

For more information, contact: Mary Beth Doyle, 734-663-2400 ext. 108.


A mercury thermometer exchange is being held at Ann Arbor's City Hall through June 30th. Area residents can bring in their mercury thermometers to City Hall during business hours and receive a free, non-mercury thermometer in exchange. A second exchange is being organized on July 9tth from 1 to 4 pm, at Huron River Day events at Gallup Park. The exchanges are co-sponsored by the Ecology Center, the City of Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw County Department of Solid Waste and Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group, with assistance from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The events are being held in conjunction with the City Council's consideration of an ordinance that would ban the retail sale, manufacture and importation of mercury fever thermometers within the city limits. The ordinance will be voted on in July. If passed, Ann Arbor would be the third city in the country to ban mercury thermometer sales. Duluth and San Francisco passed similar ordinances early this spring.

"We are pleased to work with the city on this exchange and we look forward to the adoption of the ordinance banning the sale of these thermometers," said Mary Beth Doyle of the Ecology Center. "The City of Ann Arbor should be commended for being a leader on this important issue."

Ann Arbor's proposed ban is consistent with many national mercury elimination initiatives in healthcare. The Mercury Free Medicine Campaign of Health Care Without Harm and the National Wildlife Federation has been working with hospitals across the country interested in eliminating mercury in their facilities. Mercury thermometers are not used or dispensed at the University of Michigan Health System or St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, and both institutions have pledged to eliminate mercury and mercury waste in their medical practices. In addition to these initiatives, in 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Hospital Association signed a memorandum of understanding with a goal of virtually eliminating mercury from healthcare.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, which means it attacks the central nervous system. It can cause tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, developmental deficits during fetal development, attention deficit, and developmental delays during childhood. Children under 6 years and fetuses are especially sensitive to mercury's effects.

Mercury accumulates in the muscle tissue of fish and mammals. Mercury contamination has prompted fish consumption advisories in 39 U.S. states. The Michigan Department of Community Health issued fish consumption advisories for every inland lake in Michigan.

In 1998, poison control centers and hospital emergency rooms fielded 18,000 calls from people who had broken mercury fever thermometers in their homes. Some of those exposures resulted in serious health effects for those involved. If mercury spills from a thermometer and is not cleaned-up, it will evaporate, potentially reaching dangerous levels in indoor air.

It is important to clean a mercury spill promptly and properly. Never vacuum up a mercury spill. This will only disperse the mercury into the air, where it can be breathed in. Mercury should be picked up using an index card or piece of tape. The mercury, and all of the tools used to clean it, should to be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste drop off station for proper disposal.

For more detailed clean up instructions, call Poison Control at 1-800-POISON 1, or read the brochure "Mercury Thermometers and Your Family's Health," available by calling the Ecology Center at 734-761-3186 and on the Health Care Without Harm website at www.noharm.org


Mary Beth Doyle, MPH
Environmental Health Project
Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor MI 48104

734-663-2400 ext 108
734-663-2414 (fax)

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