Aug 9 - Exported Mercury Continues to Harm the U.S.

In recent years the U.S. has become more aware of the dangers of mercury, a long lasting toxin that can come from contaminated fish. Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune reports that tons of mercury that is exported from recycling programs in the country has come back through air and waterways posing risks to public health.

CHICAGO (MCT) - Tons of toxic mercury from U.S. recycling programs are funneled each year to loosely regulated industries in developing countries, where much of the hazardous metal is released into the atmosphere.

Scientists say some of that air pollution can drift back to this country and contaminate lakes and rivers, undercutting aggressive efforts to keep mercury out of the environment.

The federal government estimates that U.S. firms exported at least 276 tons of mercury last year. It moves overseas through a little-known network of purifiers and brokers that operates without government oversight and faces few questions about what happens to the silvery metal once it is sold.
Some states have encouraged the move away from mercury with laws phasing it out in thermometers, school laboratories and industrial scrap. States also are taking steps to discourage mercury-laden garbage from being disposed of in landfills.

The complete article also mentions that mercury use in products are on the decline, while groups encouraging the development of mercury-free technology. CAW is also on this bandwagon with AB 2202 (Saldaña), requiring manufacturers of electronic devices to phase out the use of mercury, lead, cadmium and hexavalent chromium by 2010.

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