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E-M:/ Ann Arbor bans mercury thermometer sales

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


July 11, 2000

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

(ANN ARBOR, MI) The Ann Arbor City Council passed an ordinance Monday banning the retail sale, importation and manufacture of mercury fever thermometers within the city limits. Ann Arbor is the first city in Michigan, and the second in the Great Lakes basin to enact such an ordinance. The city of Duluth, Minnesota and the city and county of San Francisco passed similar measures earlier this spring.

"We commend the City Council for taking this important step," said Mary Beth Doyle of the Ecology Center. "Mercury thermometers pose an unnecessary risk to our environment and our children. Accurate and affordable non-mercury thermometers are readily available."

The City of Ann Arbor is hosting a mercury thermometer collection and exchange in conjunction with Council's passage of the ordinance. Area residents can bring mercury fever thermometers to City Hall from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and receive a free, non-mercury thermometer in exchange. The program has already resulted in the collection of over 300 mercury thermometers and will continue until Friday, July 14th. This program was made possible with assistance from Washtenaw County Solid Waste Department and the Department of Environmental Quality, and was co-sponsored by the Ecology Center and the Sierra Club--Huron Valley Group.

Ann Arbor's ban is consistent with many national mercury elimination initiatives in healthcare. 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 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.

"The University of Michigan Hospitals and St. Joseph Mercy Health System have been leaders in mercury elimination," said Molly Chidsey of National Wildlife Federation and coordinator of Health Care Without Harm's Mercury Free Medicine Campaign. "This ordinance is in keeping with what the local health systems have accomplished."

In 1998, poison control centers fielded 18,000 calls from people who had broken a mercury fever thermometer in their home. 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.

Mercury attacks the central nervous system and can cause tremors, impaired vision and hearing, developmental deficits during fetal development, attention deficit, and developmental delays during childhood. Fetuses and children under the age of six are especially vulnerable to mercury's effects.

Mercury released into the environment accumulates in the muscle tissue of fish and mammals. Mercury contamination has prompted fish consumption advisories in 40 U.S. states. The Michigan Department of Community Health issued fish consumption advisories for every inland lake in Michigan.

Mercury spills should be cleaned up promptly and properly. Mercury should be picked up using an index card or piece of tape. Never vacuum up a mercury spill. This only disperses the mercury into the air, where it can be breathed in. 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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