Michigan may end mercury as we
Bay City Times
Otherwise known as mercury, that magical, silvery, liquid
metal has become environmental enemy No. 1.
It's about time.
Mercury pollution is one of the main reasons why the
state of Michigan has fish-consumption advisories for
all inland lakes and many Great Lakes fish.
Mercury in a pregnant woman or a young child can lead
to learning disabilities in youngsters.
In much larger doses, it can lead to insanity.
The term "mad as a hatter" comes from the 19th
century, when hat makers used mercury.
Legislators in Lansing are drafting a series of bills
that would propose to limit, and then eliminate, mercury
from most products sold and used in Michigan.
Last year, the state banned the sale of mercury thermometers.
But it's still OK to throw them in the trash.
That's a huge loophole.
The new legislation, which may be introduced next month,
would have us send all mercury products - thermometers,
batteries, switches - to recycling centers. One is in
We're all for halting most uses of mercury. It is no
longer needed for medical instruments. Mercury switches
are, in most cases, a novelty or convenience - raise your
car hood and a light comes on.
Nifty, but not necessary.
But before any law forces us to dispose of mercury safely,
the state should ensure that everyday folks are able to
It would be unrealistic to have businesses and individuals
deliver their mercury products to the 15 recyclers in
Depositories for products that contain mercury, such
as batteries, should be widely available, and advertised.
That isn't the case now for some toxic products such
as rechargeable batteries. Their labels direct people
to dispose of them properly, but when was the last time
you saw a depository?
They're around, at some electronics stores, but you have
to hunt for them.
So, OK, let's say the state does ban mercury in most
products. We can call the cleanup good, right?
Mercury tossed in landfills is just a tiny part of the
Most manmade mercury pollution is from coal-burning power
plants. U.S. plants send about 48 tons of mercury into
the air each year. Rain and snow carry it into our waters.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed
new rules for mercury emissions that could become law
later this year, if Congress approves.
But environmentalists say the new rules are a step back
from existing clean air laws.
An epic, national battle over mercury emissions is shaping
In the meantime, Michigan leaders should continue to
refine, and then pass, regulations to stopper the mercury
flowing from our homes and businesses.
In the big mercury-pollution picture, it's not a lot.
But it's the least we should do.