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Great Lakes Article:

Michigan may end mercury as we know it
Bay City Times

Goodbye, quicksilver.

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 Saginaw.

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 do that.

It would be unrealistic to have businesses and individuals deliver their mercury products to the 15 recyclers in the state.

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 quicksilver problem.

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 up.

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.

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