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Mercury Ban Bill Picking Up Steam

April 5, 2007

St. Paul, MN - A bill designed to make fish in Minnesota lakes safe to eat again is gaining traction in the State Legislature. Senate sponsor John Marty says it's designed to further reduce the use of mercury, which has been no friend of the state's 10,000 lakes, and is poisoning our food and harming our health. He says, while some sources have been dealt with, there are others.

"Some of them are hospital equipment, like the blood pressure systems. We have barometers, etc. and, we're trying to ban them, whenever possible, as long as there are commercially-available alternatives. We want to remove mercury from as many products as we can."

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, mercury is a toxic metal, which is getting into state waterways and harming fish and our health.

Marty believes it's essential to get all mercury out of the food cycle.

"We're told, even though fish are very healthy for us to eat, you can't eat too many of them. Especially pregnant women and children, because of the mercury content in them. And, small amounts of mercury pollution are enough to contaminate entire lakes. And, that's only one of the problems with mercury. Mercury is consumed other ways, through our bodies absorb it. So, the more that we can stop emitting into the environment, the better off we are."

He says the goal is to reduce mercury emissions by at least 90 percent over the next 20 years.

Carin Skoog with the Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says getting mercury out of our food is essential for public health and needs immediate attention.

"In the state of Minnesota, every single one of our waterways, our rivers or lakes, are under advisory for fish consumption because of their mercury consumption because of their mercury content. In addition, this is especially dangerous for small children and women who are pregnant. However, all of us are impacted by this. And so, the more mercury that we can get out of the environment, the less releases that we have going into the environment, the better off we are to get that number down."

Marty's bill, which is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Business and Jobs Committee next week, is S.F. 1085. A companion House bill is H.F. 1316.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN