U.S. DOE backs off plan to sell neurotoxin to rest of world

Caving in to critics and maybe, just maybe, its own conscience, the U.S. Department of Energy has decided against selling off nearly 1,300 tons of mercury left from pre-1960s weapons production. Though the neurotoxin brings a quick buck on the world market — it’s popular with developing countries that use it for mining gold — DOE will follow the restrained lead of the Defense Department, which has opted to store 4,400 tons of the stuff instead of selling it, due to health and ecological concerns. “The U.S. government’s actions not to sell mercury on the open market sends a positive message to both private and state domestic mercury holders, as well as to global environmental policymakers,” says a recent federal policy statement. Aw, it’s like a kid congratulating himself for not poking his brother in the eye. Meanwhile, the E.U. has already moved to ban mercury exports, and next month the U.N. Environment Program will discuss a worldwide phaseout of the metal’s use. Hey, they got the message!