U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Representative Tom Allen (D-ME), and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today announced that President Bush signed into law the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 (S.906), a bipartisan bill introduced in March 2007 to ban the export of mercury from the United States. The United States is consistently ranked as one of the world's top exporters of mercury, a substance that, when ingested, can lead to learning disabilities and physical ailments. This law will remove a significant amount of mercury from the global market and lessen the threat this substance poses to the world's most vulnerable citizens. Obama and Murkowski introduced this bill in the Senate and Representative Allen introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. This bill is also cosponsored by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Ken Salazar (D-CO).
"The President's approval of this bipartisan bill is an important victory for millions of the world's most vulnerable citizens who are exposed to the harmful effects of mercury every day," said Senator Obama. "Exposure to mercury leads to serious developmental problems in children as well as problems affecting vision, motor skills, blood pressure, and fertility in adults. Despite our country's improved efforts to contain and collect mercury over the years, we remain one of the world's leading exporters of this dangerous product, so I am proud this bill will finally ban mercury exports. I commend Senator Murkowski, Congressman Allen, and Chairman Boxer for working in a bipartisan way with industry and environmental groups to put the health of pregnant women and children first."
"I am pleased that President Bush has signed this important legislation which will slow needless mercury emissions, especially in the developing world," said Senator Murkowski. "Given our expanding knowledge about the health impacts of elemental mercury when it enters the atmosphere, it only makes sense to take reasonable steps now to safeguard the environment from the release of mercury that can affect fish and potentially those who eat fish."
"This legislation will eliminate a key source of mercury from reaching the global market," said Representative Allen. "Mercury is a potent neurotoxin hazardous to human health, especially for infants, children, and women who are pregnant or nursing. Maine people should be able to eat the fish they purchase in the supermarkets. We still have much to do to end mercury pollution, and I will continue to fight for passage of my legislation to establish a nationwide mercury pollution monitoring system and the legislation I support requiring utilities to reduce their mercury emissions."
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, "The Mercury Export Ban of 2008, just signed into law, will protect millions of pregnant women and children from toxic mercury pollution. I greatly appreciate Senator Obama's leadership in this successful bipartisan effort."
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause serious developmental problems in children, ranging from severe birth defects to mental retardation. As many as 630,000 children born annually in the U.S. are at risk of neurological problems related to mercury. In adults, mercury can negatively affect vision, motor skills, blood pressure and fertility. As many as 10 percent of women in the U.S. of childbearing age have mercury in their blood at a level that could put a baby at risk.
The Mercury Export Ban Act will:
Prohibit the commercial export of elemental mercury from the United States in 2013.
Prohibit the commercial sale or transfer of federal mercury stockpiles held by the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense for any purpose except for transfer into permanent storage.
Provide for permanent storage of collected mercury by the Department of Energy.
This legislation is supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Council of the States, American Chemistry Council, the National Mining Association, and the Chlorine Institute.