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E-M:/ "FIRST IN THE NATION" MERCURY LAW passed in Rhode Island



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Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>
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With growing interest in local units in Michigan passing mercury control
ordinances, this looks like an exciting prospect --  AW


For Immediate Release
Contact:  Sheila Dormody, Clean Water Action (401) 331-6972
Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project (802) 223-9000

Rhode Island Passes First-in-the-Nation
Legislation to Prevent Mercury Pollution

Providence, RI-In a precedent-setting national first, the Rhode Island
General Assembly passed legislation on June 29, 2001 for eliminating mercury
pollution, phasing out mercury products, requiring manufacturer "take back"
programs, and reducing human exposure to mercury.

The bills, H-6161 and S-661 sponsored by Representative Peter Ginaitt and
Senator John Tassoni, passed unanimously and featured several components
that
have not passed in any other state,  including:
 Phasing out the sale of products containing mercury (e.g. thermostats,
sphygmomanometers, manometers) sold in Rhode Island over the next six years.
 Requiring manufacturers to "take back" product discards containing mercury
sold in Rhode Island by holding them responsible to establish effective
collection programs.
 Requiring state dental insurance contracts to include coverage for
non-mercury fillings at no extra expense to the state employee.

"We strongly encourage Governor Almond to sign these landmark mercury bills
into law immediately," said Sheila Dormody, Rhode Island director of Clean
Water Action, one of the environmental groups leading the campaign to
support
the legislation. "Rhode Island has the opportunity to set the standard
nationally with these efforts to protect the public, and future generations,
from this dangerous toxin."

Mercury is a dangerous toxin that is released into the environment through
coal burning, use and disposal of products containing mercury and threatens
the environment, wildlife and human health. Eating fish contaminated with
mercury can cause damage to the nervous system.  Growing babies are
especially vulnerable--therefore pregnant women should not eat
mercury-contaminated fish.  Data from a recent Center for Disease Control
study found that at least one in ten women of childbearing contain mercury
in
their bodies at levels not considered protective.  According to the National
Academy of Sciences, prenatal mercury exposure can later hurt children's
ability to remember, pay attention, talk, draw, run and play.  Scientists
estimate that if all man made mercury pollution would stop today, it would
take 15 years or more before mercury levels in fish were at safe levels.

"By holding producers responsible for the often costly collection of
hazardous mercury products, they'll now have an added incentive to not use
toxics materials,"  said Michael Bender  of the Mercury Policy Project.
"Cities, counties and states across the U.S. will now view Rhode Island as
the national model for reducing mercury pollution by shifting the burden of
responsibility to the manufacturer."

Before passing this legislation, Rhode Island received a D-the lowest grade
in the region-on a report card released yesterday by the Zero Mercury
Campaign.* The report graded progress made by each New England state toward
the goals of eliminating mercury emissions by 2010 and protecting the public
from mercury contaminated fish. (The report is available at
www.mercurypolicy.org.) When Governor Almond signs the legislation, Rhode
Island's grade will improve to a C+.

*The New England Zero Mercury Campaign consists of environmental and public
health organizations from across New England. In Rhode Island, Clean Water
Action and the Sierra Club Rhode Island Chapter have joined the campaign to
call for zero mercury use, release and exposure by 2010 and graded the Rhode
Island efforts to achieve this goal.

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