WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced legislation, the "Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act," that would create a comprehensive new program to measure mercury levels across the United States. The bipartisan "Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act"
"Mercury is one of the most persistent and dangerous pollutants that threatens our health and environment today. This powerful toxin affects the senses, the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. It poses significant risks to children and pregnant women, causing an elevated risk of birth defects and problems with motor skills. While mercury exposure has gone down as mercury emissions in the United States have declined, levels remain unacceptably high," said Sen. Collins. "Our legislation would build on existing environmental monitoring efforts to create a comprehensive nationwide mercury monitoring network to provide sound mercury measurements that EPA sorely needs."
"Mercury pollution is a nationwide problem, and can be a serious health threat when it is released into the air by power plants and settles into oceans and waterways where it accumulates in fish and animal tissue," said Sen. Carper. "For example, when pregnant women eat mercury contaminated fish in sufficient quantities over time, mercury can build up in their bodies and harm brain development of their unborn children. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 10 percent of women may have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood. We need to build a better, more comprehensive monitoring system so we can identify when and where mercury levels are too high and take the necessary steps to curb them. We also need to make sure that the Environmental Protection Agency has the tools and resources it needs to move forward with regulating the single largest source of mercury emissions – coal-fired power plants."
It is estimated that approximately 410,000 children born in the U.S. each year are exposed to levels of mercury in the womb that are high enough to impair neurological development.
Through this program, mercury monitoring sites would be established across the nation to measure mercury levels in the air, rain, soil, lakes and streams, wildlife and the fish that people eat.