Environment Council of Rhode Island

...building an ecologically healthy future in a sustainable economy

Mercury Reduction and Elimination

Pub Date: 
Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Whereas mercury pollution is a serious environmental and human health problem in the United States; and

Whereas each year, as many as ten million U.S. women of childbearing age are exposed to elevated methylmercury levels sufficient to affect the brain development of their babies; and

Whereas as many as three million children in the U.S. have elevated blood mercury levels; and

Whereas humans are exposed to mercury primarily through the consumption of contaminated freshwater fish and seafood, and this contamination comes from a variety of sources, the single largest of which is coal-fired power plants; and

Whereas municipal and medical waste incinerators emit mercury when they burn mercury containing products; and

Whereas mercury emitted to the atmosphere eventually winds up in lakes and streams resulting in contamination of fish; and

Whereas the health effects from eating mercury-contaminated fish can be very severe to pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and young children who are at particular risk and are advised to avoid consumption of certain species of fish; and

Whereas the developing nervous systems of fetuses and children are highly sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury and its exposure that may have severe impacts such as mental retardation, visual and mobility disturbances, and language, attention, and memory impairment; and

Whereas Providence's rain was found to be contaminated with mercury more than 30 times higher acceptable for humans; and

Whereas a National Wildlife Federation study found that, in 34 of 67 samples taken of Providence's rain, mercury levels exceeded the US EPA standard deemed safe for humans; and

Whereas Rhode Island is the only New England state that has not issued statewide fish advisories that would apply to all inland lakes and streams;

Now therefore be it resolved that the Environment Council Of Rhode Island supports the New England Zero Mercury Campaign to:

  • achieve a state zero mercury plan which results in the virtual elimination of mercury by 2010;
  • implement protective and effective warnings on contaminated fish that truly protect developing children;
  • ban the disposal of mercury products and require manufacturers of mercury products to take them back and phase out the use of mercury; and
  • eliminate mercury emissions from power plants and industry.

Note: common household and automotive products that contain mercury which usually wind up in the waste stream include: thermometers, thermostats, barometers, fluorescent light bulbs, lights in children's sneakers, button batteries, and many major appliances.