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 Congress passed the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 (S.906), a bill introduced in March 2007 to ban the export of mercury from the United States. The legislation will now be sent to the White House to be signed into law. 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 bill 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.
"I applaud Congress' overwhelming bipartisan passage of this important bill, which will protect millions of the world's vulnerable citizens, particularly pregnant women and children, from the deadly threat of mercury poisoning," said Senator Obama. "We know that mercury can cause serious developmental problems in children and problems affecting vision, motor skills, blood pressure, and fertility in adults. While the United States has improved its efforts to collect and contain mercury, this country remains one of the leading exporters of this dangerous product. Protecting Americans from the dangers of mercury has been one of my top priorities, and I am proud this bill will now remove a significant portion of mercury from the global market. This bill also represents an important agreement between industry and environmental groups towards that goal. I urge the President to immediately sign this bill into law."
"Given our expanding knowledge about the health impacts of elemental mercury when it enters the atmosphere, this is a common-sense approach to slow needless mercury emissions, especially in the developing world," said Murkowski. "Coming from a state that is a major seafood producer, it only makes sense to take reasonable steps now to safeguard the environment from the unnecessary release of mercury that can affect fish and potentially those who eat fish."
"As much as one-third of the mercury air pollution entering the U.S. comes through the global air transport from Asia, and our legislation will eliminate a key source of that mercury," Representative Allen said. "Much of the fish Americans eat, including tuna, comes from waters off the coast of Asia and from South America. Although Maine has enacted strict state legislation controlling mercury pollution, an advisory still warns Mainers not to eat or to limit their consumption of locally caught fish. Only federal law can control pollution resulting from atmospheric transport of mercury still in widespread use elsewhere in the world. Mainers deserve to know that they can safely eat fish, whether imported from abroad or caught instate, without fear of toxic mercury contamination."
"As Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, this bill has been one of my highest priorities, and it is a clear example of Senator Obama's leadership on issues that are important to our families," said Senator Barbara Boxer.
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 National Resources Defense Council, Environmental Council of the States, American Chemistry Council, the National Mining Association, and the Chlorine Institute.