WASHINGTON - August 31 - A legislative package introduced today by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), which would significantly curtail mercury pollution in the United States and around the globe, won the endorsement of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
"Mercury damages the nervous system and is especially dangerous to pregnant women and children, and it's found all around the world, often far away from where it originated," said Linda Greer, an environmental toxicologist and director of the NRDC's Environment and Health Program. "It will take a comprehensive, international strategy to limit human exposure."
One of Sen. Obama's bills would ban U.S. commercial exports of mercury by 2012. A companion measure would require the remaining six of more than 30 chlorine manufacturing plants in the country still using outdated mercury cell technology to stop using it by 2012. These facilities produce chlorine and other chemicals that serve as the building blocks for plastics and other consumer products.
To date, Congress and environmental policymakers have been scrutinizing only one major domestic source of mercury pollution: coal-fired power plants. Sen. Obama's proposal would begin to fill in the gaps, Dr. Greer said.
"Together, Senator Obama's bills would help stem the worldwide spread of mercury and go a long way to protect the public," Dr. Greer said. "The senator's approach is the right way to stop mercury pollution. The solution is not to stop eating fish, which is otherwise a healthy source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids."