MAC: Mines and Communities

US mercury export ban welcomed

Published by MAC on 2008-10-07

A bill, soon expected to become law in the US, will ban the export of mercury. However, it does not cover continued emissions of the toxic metal from coal-fired power plants, which are the country's biggest single source of ambient mercury pollution.

The Daily Green

30th September 2008

U.S. companies would no longer be able to export mercury, a toxic metal that impairs the development of children, under a new law passed by Congress.

President Bush is expected to sign the bill, which was co-authored by Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for president, according to the Chicago Tribune, which deserves some credit for inspiring the bill, after publishing accounts of mercury contamination in fish.

The bill plugs a hole in regulations designed to limit pollution that contaminates fish.

Many women have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood, primarily from eating fish like tuna and other predators, and the mercury can damage developing fetuses, or infants who are breast-feeding.

Mercury pollution begins most often with mining, burning coal or making cement. It is also used in medical devices, electronics and other manufactured goods.

The concern with exports is that the toxic metal ends up in countries with weak regulations, and because the metal is dispersed widely after being released into the atmosphere by smokestacks, even distant pollution sources can rain down mercury close to home.

Ocean pollution can affect populations anywhere, given that fish caught in one part of the world is often sold in another.

Obama-sponsored mercury-storage bill sent to President Bush

Legislation would ban export of the metal in 2013

By Michael Hawthorne

Chicago Tribune

30th September 2008

Stockpiles of toxic mercury kept by industry soon will be stored safely in the United States instead of ending up on the world market where it might pollute the environment.

Under bipartisan legislation Congress sent to President George W. Bush Monday for his expected signature, mercury exports would be banned in 2013 and the Energy Department would be required to store the heavy metal permanently.

The bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Barack Obama, introduced the bill in response to a 2005 Tribune series about mercury contamination in fish.

Although the number of U.S. companies that use mercury in industrial processes or products is declining, concerns are growing over exporting the silvery metal to loosely regulated industries in developing countries.

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