SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today praised state legislators for approving his initiative to further reduce mercury-containing products that pose a potential health hazard to Illinois residents.
“This legislation will make our schools, homes and other buildings safer and is an important part of the mission I have given to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the potential for exposure to hazardous mercury,” said Governor Blagojevich.
The Governor praised State Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, and State Reps. Karen May, D-Highland Park, and Paul Froehlich, R-Schaumburg, for sponsoring the legislation and working closely with his Administration and the IEPA to secure passage. The legislation, SB 2551, was given final approval in the Senate on Tuesday with a 57-0 vote.
“Along with the legislation signed by Governor Blagojevich last year that will end the sale of mercury thermometers and novelty items starting July 1, this is another step to remove mercury from the waste stream and replace them with safer available alternatives,” said Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano.
“Mercury is such a potent neurotoxin with potential to harm our children that its extremely important we work to eliminate it. This bill is another step toward that end to protect the health of children in Illinois,” said Rep. May. “We need to do more and I will continue to work in the coming years to further eliminate mercury in consumer goods.”
“Mercury from consumer products can make its way into waterways when flushed down the drain or thrown into the garbage where it works its way up the food chain,” said Sen. Hunter. “This new legislation is a way to further protect ourselves and our young children from mercury poisoning.”
“In the wake of renewal of fish advisories related to mercury this is another good step forward in terms of reducing mercury contamination in the environment,” said Jonathan Goldman, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council, a statewide coalition of environmental and conservation groups.
- Prohibits schools from purchasing for use in classrooms elemental mercury, chemical mercury compounds and mercury-added measuring devices, effective July 1, 2005. Illinois EPA has conducted 165 collections to remove existing mercury items from Illinois schools.
- Prohibits the sale of most mercury thermostats, mercury switches and mercury relays found in many common consumer products, effective July 1, 2007. The ban does not apply to the sale of mercury switches or relays used in replacement parts in existing manufacturing equipment or machinery or where they are integrated with other components. Manufactures and users of mercury thermostats, switches and relays would have to petition the IEPA for an exemption from the sales prohibition, if an effective program for recycling such items is in place.
- Requires the Illinois Pollution Control Board to modify universal waste rules to facilitate the collection and recycling of additional mercury-added products.
- Requires Illinois EPA to prepare a report with recommendations for reducing and recycling mercury-containing thermostats and mercury-containing vehicle components by January 1, 2005.
Illinois EPA also continues to implement the Governor’s Mercury Initiative on a variety of fronts. They include collections of mercury items in household hazardous waste collections, “green chemistry workshops” and exchanges of mercury thermometers.
Illinois EPA also has one of the most extensive mercury monitoring programs underway in the nation. An air sampling station in Northbrook in 2000 is one of only two continuous mercury-monitoring stations in the U.S. Mercury samples are also being collected using advanced scientific techniques at several inland lakes and streams across the state.
Illinois EPA also expects to make recommendations later this year to Gov. Blagojevich on further limiting mercury emissions from power plants and other industrial sources. In addition, the Governor’s Clean Coal Technology Initiative to encourage new cleaner-burning power plants using Illinois coal will also reduce mercury. The mercury content in Western coal that is now imported for coal-fired power plants in Illinois is not as readily removed as mercury from Illinois coal.
Exposure to elemental mercury can potentially cause central nervous system disorders and pregnant women who eat significant amounts of fish containing methyl mercury at higher risk for defects. Mercury from consumer products may make its way into waterways when discharged down the drain, incinerated or land filled.