Groups Expose "Mercury Product Pushers"
Manufacturers Fight Phase-Out, Shun Responsibility
GA -- In state legislatures across the country, industries that
make mercury-containing products are fighting legislation requiring
them to phase-out or take back their toxic products. A new report,
Menacing Mercury Product Pushers, released today by the Zero
Mercury Campaign and GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN), disputes
the claims of these industries, including manufacturers of fluorescent
lamps, thermostats, computers, automobiles, and cleaning products.
The report calls on those industries to clean up their products
and urges state legislatures to protect consumers and the environment
from mercury-containing consumer products.
contamination of Wisconsin's environment is well known, and attention
is being paid to reducing mercury emissions from coal-burning electric
generating plants. Wisconsin needs to follow the lead of other states
and protect its people and environment against mercury released
from common household and consumer products," says David Wood,
Madison-based Program Director of GrassRoots Recycling Network.
"The principle of producer responsibility is most applicable
to products containing hazardous materials and for which appropriate
substitutes are available. With mercury phase-out and take back
legislation in the works here, today's report is critical to understanding
the scope of the problem and the flaws in industry arguments,"
GRRN is a North
American network of recycling professionals and waste reduction
activists promoting producer responsibility and Zero Waste. The
report released today is available on-line at www.mercurypolicy.org.
recommendations, the report calls for 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 financial responsibility
for the collection and proper long term storage of the mercury thereby
easing the financial strain on municipal and state coffers.
states, including Wisconsin, now warn the public to limit consumption
of fish due to high levels of mercury, and part of this contamination
is linked to man-made activities, including the disposal of mercury
consumer products," continues Wood. "Consumer products
containing mercury must be phased out in favor of safer alternatives
and brand owners must take full responsibility for the life cycle
of their products."
a number of actions have been proposed and adopted to reduce mercury
emissions and exposures. With wide stakeholder input, the Northeast
Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA) developed the Mercury
Education and Reduction Act (see mercury section of www.newmoa.org.)
The NEWMOA model mercury legislation includes provisions for the
notification, phase-outs and exemptions, labeling, disposal ban,
collection and manufacturer responsibility, public education and
outreach, and control on the sale of elemental mercury.
At least 10
states (and counting) have passed legislation modeled after some
of the provisions contained in NEWMOA's model mercury bill, but
much more remains to be done keep mercury in products from
the environment and people.
"The Mercury Product Pusher report is intended to help
decision makers screen out the claims of the mercury product manufacturers
and understand both the feasibility and necessity of implementing
recommended mercury regulations," continues GRRN's David Wood.
Some Key Report
Toyota and Honda stopped using mercury products in the early 1990s,
the big three U.S. auto manufacturers - Ford, General Motors and
Daimler Chrysler - have promised to voluntarily stop using mercury
components in light switches since 1995. Despite the promise, in
2000, four million mercury-containing light and ABS switches were
installed in vehicles sold in the United States; Ford introduced
new mercury-containing head lamps in seven different models in 2001
and 2002 cars.
makers have refused to label their products as toxic so that consumers
can make informed choices about purchase, use and disposal.
which controls 70% of the thermostat market, insists that an industry-sponsored
voluntary recycling program is preventing the disposal of old mercury
thermostats, but according the research covering New England states
the Thermostat Recycling Corporation only captures one to five percent
of the thermostats disposed in each year.
Electronics Industry Alliance claims that the amount of mercury
in computers is small and regulations on the use of mercury in electronics
will have a negligible impact on the environment. However, even
one gram of airborne mercury annually deposited to a 20-acre lake
is enough to prompt state health department warnings that fish are
unsafe to eat.
Soap and Detergent Association claims that because manufacturers
of cleaning products don't directly add mercury to their products,
they should not have to test and report their mercury content. However,
the manufacturers could choose to purchase their ingredients from
producers who use a non-mercury process that would eliminate the
risk of mercury in the final product. Consumers, especially hospitals
working to reduce their mercury emissions, have the right and need
to know how much mercury is in the products they purchase.
shows a consistent pattern of mercury product manufacturers seeking
to evade responsibility for the environmental and health problems
caused by their products," says David Wood. "GRRN and
The Zero Mercury Campaign urge state law makers to see through these
false claims and to borrow from the experience of other states to
develop mercury-product legislation that guarantees maximum protection
of our health and our environment."
Product Pushers was produced by the New England Zero Mercury Campaign.
The Campaign was,formed to urge the New England Governors and Eastern
Canadian Premiers to establish a timeline to eliminate mercury emissions
by 2010 and to promote effective and protective health warnings
about the dangers of eating mercury-contaminated fish. Partners
in the New England Zero Mercury Campaign include Clean Water Action,
Health Care Without Harm, the Mercury Policy Project, the National
Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra
Club, and the Toxics Action Center.