From: Paul Schaefer, ENN
Published August 29, 2007 06:35 PM

Pennsylvania Joins Multi-State War On Mercury

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania is joining neighboring Great Lakes states to dramatically reduce mercury in consumer products. This, from Governer Edward Rendell and Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty.


"The Governor is now proposing that Pennsylvania take further action to protect our citizens from this dangerous toxin by joining our fellow Great Lakes states in decreasing the use of mercury in consumer products," she said.


Mercury is a persistent neurotoxin that can remain active in the environment for more than 10,000 years. Pregnant women, children, subsistence fishermen and recreational anglers are most at risk for mercury-related health effects, including brain and nervous system damage in children and heart and immune system damage for adults.


The proposal, developed by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, calls for action in five product areas and five economic sectors through which consumers come into contact with mercury. Actions in the consumer products areas include:


-- Working with dental facilities to use best management practices for handling mercury waste and work to reduce or eliminate the use of mercury in fillings;


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-- Banning the sale and installation of mercury-containing thermostats;


-- Banning the sale of mercury-containing thermometers to the public, including to public schools;


-- Banning the sale of mercury-containing switches, relays and measurement devices, establishing collection programs for existing products and banning the use of mercury-added products in classrooms for K-12 students; and


-- Working for labeling and recycling of mercury-containing lamps, including car headlights and outdoor lighting.


Actions proposed in the industry sectors include:


-- Ban the purchase and use of mercury-containing devices in school classrooms and health care areas;


-- Working to increase the removal of mercury-containing devices from scrap metal and vehicles prior to crushing or melting operations, including increasing participation in the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Removal Program, in which Pennsylvania already takes part;


-- Conducting outreach to heavy industry to promote mercury reduction projects;


-- Working with the health care industry to reduce mercury use; and


-- Working to expand household hazardous waste and electronics collections to make this service available to more households.


"Governor Edward G. Rendell took a major step last year by putting in place Pennsylvania's aggressive, state-specific mercury reduction plan for power plants, which will cut mercury emissions from coal-fired plants by 80 percent by 2010 and by 90 percent in 2015," McGinty said.


Governor Rendell also established Pennsylvania's mercury automobile switch removal program in 2004 and awarded a $165,000 grant to the Pennsylvania Automotive Recycling Trade Society to pay $2 for every mercury switch removed prior to crushing by participating automobile recyclers.


Pennsylvania's program merged with that of the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Removal in November 2006. Nearly 120 participating automobile recyclers have removed more than 18,500 mercury-containing switches.


"Working to remove mercury from products that we use every day is a vital step in the overall plan to reduce exposure, especially of children, to this dangerous substance. Joining with our neighboring states in the Great Lakes region will make this effort even more successful than taking action as an individual state," McGinty said.


In an effort to reach all product lines and economic sectors, the proposal calls for labeling all products containing mercury.


"We look forward to working with the various industries in Pennsylvania that deal with mercury so we can put together the best strategy to reduce the use of and exposure to this dangerous substance," McGinty said. "We will review all of the comments we receive and we will use the expertise of the private sector to develop the best plan for the commonwealth to reduce mercury use."


McGinty said Pennsylvania and other states may adopt the overall Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Mercury in Products Phase-Down Strategy without agreeing to implement every recommendation.


"While working with our neighboring states will enhance the effectives of this strategy, we must craft a plan that will achieve the maximum mercury reduction while protecting our industries and the jobs they provide for our citizens in Pennsylvania," McGinty said.


A draft plan, Great Lakes Mercury in Products Phase-Down Strategy, is now available at http://glrc.us/initiatives/toxics/drafthgphasedownstrategy.html for public comment through Oct. 27. Comments may be submitted to Debra Jacobson, IL Waste Management & Research Center/IL Dept of Natural Resources, 1010 Jorie Blvd., Suite 12, Oakbrook, IL 60523, or djacobso@wmrc.uiuc.edu. Questions on the draft strategy may also be directed to Jacobson at 630-472-5019 (telephone) or 630-472-5023 (fax).


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