Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ remarks.
Washington, D.C. – On Earth Day, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act, bipartisan legislation that would establish a national mercury monitoring network to protect human health and the environment. Senator Collins spoke from the Senate floor this afternoon to urge her colleagues to support the bill, which would help ensure that there is accurate information about the extent of mercury pollution in the United States.
“Mercury is one of the most persistent and dangerous pollutants, affecting the senses, brain, spinal cord, kidneys, and liver. It poses a particular risk to children and pregnant women, causing an elevated risk of birth defects and problems with motor skills,” said Senator Collins. “In Maine, some of our lands and bodies of water face higher mercury pollution compared to the national average. Maine is known as the ‘tailpipe of the nation,’ as the winds carry pollution, including mercury, from the west into Maine. Our bipartisan legislation would establish a comprehensive national monitoring network, helping to protect human health, safeguard fisheries, and track the effect of emissions reductions.”
“Since the first Earth Day in 1970, we have made incredible strides when it comes to cleaner air and water in our country. Despite this progress, toxic mercury pollution still impacts an alarming number of pregnant women and children,” said Senator Carper, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public. “Every year, hundreds of thousands of parents find out their child may have long-term neurological impairments resulting from exposure to unsafe levels of mercury. This could be reduced or eliminated with better monitoring and better regulations to reduce mercury pollution. As we celebrate Earth Day this year, I’m proud to reintroduce the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act with Senator Collins. My hope is that we will finally pass this bipartisan bill and establish a nationwide mercury monitoring system to better protect our nation’s children from the dangers of mercury pollution.”
“The U.N.’s global mercury treaty, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, aims to protect human and environmental health from emissions and releases of mercury that stem from human activities such as burning coal or small-scale artisanal gold mining. Long-term mercury monitoring—locally, regionally, and globally—is critical to measuring the treaty’s effectiveness over time,” said David C. Evers, Ph.D., executive director of Maine-based Biodiversity Research Institute and leading mercury scientist. “The legislation introduced by Senators Collins and Carper allows the U.S. to take a leadership role in generating a comprehensive long-term mercury-monitoring program that will also benefit the entire global community.”
“There is no known safe level of mercury exposure,” said The Rev. Mitch Hescox, President of The Evangelical Environmental Network. “Mercury easily transfers across a mother’s placenta to her unborn child or through breast milk to a newborn. Establishing a national mercury monitoring system is the only way to first detect and then mitigate mercury’s continuing threat to our children’s right to an abundant life. As with most toxins, environmental justice and frontline communities remain the most impacted, largely due to little to no monitoring. This legislation would right a wrong long in the making and begin the process of guaranteeing all ‘the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.’”
"Mercury monitoring is critical infrastructure for public health. This bill authorizes much-needed funding to measure mercury pollution from the air to the fish we eat,” said Kathy Fallon Lambert Senior Advisor, Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.” It will help ensure that this accessible and sustainable food source is safe for all. Nearly 20 monitoring stations have been shut down recently for lack of funding. I commend Senators Collins and Carper for their leadership to establish a robust and secure national mercury monitoring system."
“We appreciate Senators Collins’ and Carper’s reintroduction of the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act. Mercury poses a significant threat to health, specifically to babies, children and pregnant people,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “This legislation, paired with efforts to reduce air toxics emissions at the Environmental Protection Agency, can help protect the health of all Americans, especially those most vulnerable.”
Mercury poses a serious threat to our health and environment, especially for children and pregnant women. An estimated 100,000-200,000 children born in the United States each year are exposed to levels of mercury in the womb that are high enough to impair neurological development. Mercury, a powerful toxin, affects the senses, the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver, and 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 high.
Through the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act, mercury monitoring sites would be established across the nation to measure mercury levels in air, water, and living organisms. This legislation would build on existing environmental monitoring efforts to create a comprehensive nationwide mercury monitoring network to provide sound mercury measurements.
Specifically, the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act would:
- Direct the Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other appropriate agencies to establish a national mercury monitor program to measure and monitor mercury in watersheds, surface water, fish and wildlife, and the atmosphere;
- Establish a scientific advisory committee to advise on the establishment, site selection, measurement, recording protocols, and operations of the monitoring program;
- Establish a centralized database for existing and newly collected environmental mercury data that can be freely accessed on the Internet and is comprised of data that is compatible with similar international efforts;
- Require a report to Congress every two years on the program, including trends, and an assessment of the reduction in mercury deposition rates that need to be achieved in order to prevent adverse human and ecological effects every four-years; and
- Authorize $95 million over three years for these purposes.
Click HERE to read the full text of the bill.