Bill to ban U.S. mercury exports passes Congress
A bill to ban mercury exports from the United States after 2013 passed Congress on Monday and now awaits President Bush’s signature to become law. The bill, sponsored by Barack Obama and Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), aims to reduce the amount of elemental mercury on the global market, which is often used for gold mining and chemical manufacturing in developing countries. Mercury is neurotoxic and can be especially dangerous to kids and women of childbearing age. “We know that mercury can cause serious developmental problems in children and problems affecting vision, motor skills, blood pressure, and fertility in adults,” Obama said. “While the United States has improved its efforts to collect and contain mercury, this country remains one of the leading exporters of this dangerous product.” The bill directs the U.S. Energy Department to designate a long-term storage facility for mercury and requires the EPA to report on the global supply and trade of the element in 2017. However, the legislation allows up to 10 metric tons of mercury at a time to be exported under so-called “essential use” exemptions.