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[GreenYes] Bill to ban mercury thermometes moves in US Senate
For your information, S. 351, which bans the sale of mercury fever
thermometers and sets up a federal program to provide monies to local units
of government for thermometer collection along with a task force to study
how to safely handle surplus mercury, was unanimously recommended for
passage yesterday by the Committee on Environment and Public Works. The
amount of mercury put into products each year far outweighs the amount of
mercury emitted from coal-burning plants annually. 

A link to the bill and its status is at

Those interested in mercury product issues will also want to see the web
page To see state laws and local  ordinances
banning sales of mercury fever thermometers, as well as  resolutions on
mercury by various health groups, see

Below are extracts from several news releases

John Reindl, Recycling Manager
Dane County, WI 

Provided below is information related to the unanimous passage of S.351 out
of the US Senate Environment Committee yesterday.  The bill would provide a
one time authorization of $20 million for EPA to administer a grant program
with states and local governments to collect/exchange mercury thermometers
and $1 million per year for EPA to manage surplus mercury.  Movement on
S.351 also sets the stage for discussions in Geneva during the upcoming UNEP
Global Mercury Assessment 
Working Group meeting in September.

It also would create a federal task force that would have a year to come up
with long-term recommendations for handling the nation's surplus mercury.
The bill, approved unanimously Thursday by the Senate's Environment and
Public Works Committee, would ban the sale of mercury thermometers without a
prescription - a step that Maine and nine other states have already taken.
It also would authorize $19 million for a national exchange program in which
consumers could trade in their old thermometers for alternatives that do not
contain mercury.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that gets into lakes, rivers and streams and
works its way up the food chain. Forty-one states, including Maine, have
fish consumption advisories because of mercury's harmful effects,
particularly on children and pregnant women.

Bender said Collins' bill lays important groundwork for a United Nations
Environment Programme meeting in Geneva in September that will explore the
issue of eliminating mercury pollution on a global scale. "The timing here
is just crucial," he said.

Bender said the bill also "breaks through this sort of artificial barrier
that we can't ban products from sale in this country, especially when
they're toxic."

The federal task force envisioned by the bill would be headed by the
administrator of the EPA and include representatives of the state, defense
and energy departments and other agencies. The American Public Health
Association also would participate.

The thermometer exchange program would be administered by the EPA, which
would hand out grants to states, municipalities, nonprofit organizations and
other groups. The program would remove an estimated six million mercury
thermometers from the waste stream.

Exchange programs have become a popular but expensive way for communities to
clean out their medicine cabinets. "They're all over the country, and the
limiting factor is the financial ability of local and state governments to
deal with the outpouring of support and participation from the public,"
Bender said.

But it is also expensive, both ecologically and economically, to quit before
the job is done. The amount of mercury in one thermometer is enough to
contaminate a 20-acre lake, and it can cost a minimum of $2,000 to remove it
from the waste stream.

S. 351 has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American
Public Health Association; the American Nurses Association; the Association
of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses; the Children's
Environmental Health Network, and The Chlorine Institute, an industry
association.  The bill is also endorsed by the Association of Metropolitan
Sewerage Agencies, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, U.S. Public
Interest Research Group, the Natural Resources Defense Council,
Environmental Defense, Health Care Without Harm, Natural Resource Council of
Maine, and the Mercury Policy Project. 

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