HARTFORD, CT -- December 15 -- At a news conference yesterday, Clean Water Action and the New England Zero Mercury Campaign released test results that showed a number of toys purchased at large retail stores like Wal-Mart, iParty, Party City, Claire's and Bed, Bath and Beyond were powered with non-removable mercury batteries. The toys included flashing bouncing balls, flashing teeth, pens that light up, and antlers that play songs. These types of toys usually end up in the trash within a couple of weeks, contributing to mercury pollution through the incineration process. For this reason, these novelty items were banned effective July 1, 2003 under Public Act 02-90, An Act Concerning Mercury Education and Reduction.
"It doesn't matter who's been naughty or nice, many Connecticut children will be getting a present including toxic mercury this year." said Brooke Suter, Connecticut director of Clean Water Action. "Mercury-added novelties with non-removable batteries have been illegal in this state for a year and half, and it is appalling that retailers would flagrantly ignore the law and contribute to a severe mercury pollution problem in this state."
In response to the findings, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today sent letters to stores that have allegedly violated the law directing them to remove any illegal products from their shelves. An investigation is on-going and the Attorney General is considering legal action and seeking penalties.
"Mercury shouldn't be a stocking stuffer," Blumenthal said. "Our holiday greeting to retailers today is very simple: Remove mercury from your store shelves, or we will do it for you with added penalties. Companies must stop disregarding and defying Connecticut's zero-mercury law luring parents into inadvertently buying the dozens of mercury-fueled toys. When the toys are trashed, this mercury pollutes Connecticut soil and water and endangers health."
Gina McCarthy, the new Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner also spoke at the press conference. She has long worked to reduce mercury pollution, and participated in the process that resulted in a 1998 commitment by the New England governors' to "virtually eliminate" mercury emissions throughout the region.
For the results released today, a total of 27 batteries were collected from toys and other novelty items from stores within the region and were sent to PDC Laboratories, Inc. in Indiana by the Mercury Policy Project for testing to determine mercury content. The results indicated that all the miniature batteries contained mercury.
"We've got to get off the toxic treadmill with toys and other frivolous mercury uses," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. "It's time to turn off toxic toys and require safer alternatives that don't contain mercury."
There are mercury-free models commercially available for most all applications, according to a study the Maine Department of Environmental Protection commissioned from the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production (LCSP.) The draft report also says, "U.S. battery manufacturers report they used over 5,000 pounds of mercury in button cells sold in the U.S. in 2002, about 1,000 pounds more than reported for 2001."
For more information on toys tested from different retail stores and the Wal-Mart letter, see: http://www.mercurypolicy.org.
The New England Zero Mercury Campaign is a coalition of environmental and public health organizations calling for zero mercury use, release and exposure by 2010.