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Sep 19 2013

Senators Collins, Carper Introduce Bill to Create National Network to Track Mercury in the Environment

Effort would help safeguard fisheries, protect public health, and guide policy decisions

WASHINGTON, D.C.- U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) have introduced bipartisan legislation, the "Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act," that would create a comprehensive new program to measure mercury levels across the United States.

"Mercury is one of the most persistent and dangerous pollutants that threatens our health and environment today. This powerful toxin affects the senses, the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. It poses significant risks to children and pregnant women, causing an elevated risk of birth defects and problems with motor skills. While mercury exposure has gone down as mercury emissions in the United States have declined, levels remain unacceptably high," said Senator Collins. "Our legislation would build on existing environmental monitoring efforts to create a comprehensive nationwide mercury monitoring network to provide sound mercury measurements that we sorely need."

"Mercury pollution presents a serious health risk to millions of Americans every day," said Senator Carper. "The scary truth is that mercury is making its way into our waterways, our oceans, and our food, including seafood. Eating mercury-laden seafood often can lead to severe health effects, like kidney failure and neurological damage. Most at risk are pregnant mothers and their unborn children - because developing brains are the most sensitive to mercury impacts. Much is known about the toxic nature of mercury, but we still have a great deal to learn about who is being exposed and the best ways to reduce exposure. This is why we need to build a better, more comprehensive mercury monitoring system that allows us to identify when and where mercury levels are too high and take the necessary steps to protect our communities. This legislation does just that - and I'm proud to join Senator Collins in this effort. I look forward to working with Senator Collins, our Congressional colleagues and the Administration to move this critical legislation forward."

It is estimated that approximately 410,000 children born in the U.S. each year are exposed to levels of mercury in the womb that are high enough to impair neurological development.

Through this program, mercury monitoring sites would be established across the nation to measure mercury levels in air, water, and living organisms.