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E-M:/ Report Highlights Mercury Dangers

Title: Report Highlights Mercury Dangers


For Immediate Release

January 30, 2002
Contact:  Jeff Gearhart, Ecology Center  (734) 761-3186 x 117
Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project  802-223-9000

Report Highlights Mercury Dangers
Coalition Seeks to Eliminate Mercury from Waste stream

Ann Arbor (January 30, 2002) - The Ecology Center, in conjunction with the New England Zero Mercury Campaign today released a report highlighting the dangers of mercury contained in common household and everyday items.  Some of these items include thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs, computers and automobiles.  The mercury from these products gets into the waste stream, into landfills or incinerators, and contaminates fish found in Michigan waters, prompting warnings for their consumption.

Mercury is widely considered to be one of the most toxic substances in the environment.  Its deleterious effects on humans and the environment have been widely documented.   As little as a single gram of mercury, about the amount found in a single thermometer, when deposited annually in a 20 acre lake, is enough to prompt warnings to limit or avoid eating fish.  Much of this mercury that has found its way into our waterways comes from the incineration of consumer products.

"Forty-one states, including all of the Great Lakes states, now warn the public to limit consumption of fish due to high levels of mercury, and a large part of this contamination is linked to man-made activities, including the disposal of mercury consumer products," said Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center.  "Because mercury products cannot be used without eventually releasing mercury into the environment, consumer products containing mercury must be phased out in favor of safer alternatives and manufacturers of these products need to take responsibility for recovering the mercury they placed in commerce."

In Michigan, over 9,000 pounds of mercury is on the road in vehicles.  650 pounds per year is release for the processing of these vehicles at the end of their life.  Over 16,000 mercury containing thermostats (160 pounds) are disposed of each year in Michigan as well. 

The report, Menacing Mercury Product Pushers, highlights five industries that make products containing mercury - including fluorescent lamps, thermostats, auto switches and soap and detergents.  For each industry, the report details the products that contain mercury and the actions that should be taken to eliminate the mercury threat from those

Among the recommendations the report calls for are the phase-out of mercury added to products, labeling of the products during the phase-out to caution consumers of the mercury contained in the product, as well as requiring the manufacturers of the products to take the responsibility to finance the collection and proper long term storage of the mercury thereby easing the financial strain on municipal and state coffers.

"Lets' be clear here," added Reverend Tom Carr of the Inter-Religious Ecojustice Network, "the people most affected by mercury are the ones who will never know of this report or hear about it in the news.  There are countless numbers of people throughout the nation that unwittingly buy these products and then dispose of them; they have no idea that there is potential for harm.  It is our ethical and moral obligation to educate them and protect them from exposure to this dangerous toxin; this report goes a long way to do just that."

At least 10 states (and counting) have passed legislation that contains provisions for notifications, phase-outs and exemptions, labeling, disposal ban, collection, manufacturer responsibility, public education and outreach, and control on the sale of elemental mercury. 

At Present there are over 40 bills under consideration seeking to phase out the use of mercury in products in at approximately twenty state legislatures.

"But much more remains to be done keep mercury in products from polluting fish, the environment and people," stated Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center.

For more information or to download the report go to http://www.ecocenter.org.


Gregory Button, Ph.D.
Communications Director
The Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 761-3186 x 113
(734) 663-2414 (fax)