Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced, on Aug. 28, the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act, a bipartisan bill that would establish a national mercury monitoring network to protect human health, safeguard fisheries and track the environmental effects of emissions reductions.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin of ecological and public health concern, especially for children and pregnant women. An estimated 200,000 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. Scientists must rely on limited information to understand the linkages between mercury emissions and environmental response and human health. To successfully design, implement and assess solutions to the problem of mercury pollution, scientists need comprehensive long-term data.
“Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that poses serious health risks to the brain, the heart and immune system, particularly those of unborn babies,” said Carper. “For over a decade, Sen. Collins and I have made reduction of mercury pollution in the environment a priority. When we first started our efforts, every year, an estimated 600,000 babies had been exposed to unsafe levels of mercury in our country. Today, because of federal policies now in place, this number is down to 200,000. We must continue building on this progress, and that’s why today, I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Sen. Collins that would establish a comprehensive mercury monitoring system to help scientists and policymakers better identify how mercury is getting into our environment and where mercury levels are too high. With this critical information, we can help those who fish address mercury contamination and reduce the harms mercury poses to families across America.”
The Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act has been endorsed by the American Lung Association, the Biodiversity Research Institute, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Science Policy Exchange.
Specifically, the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act would:
— Direct the Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and other appropriate federal agencies, to establish a national mercury monitoring program to measure and monitor mercury levels in the air and watersheds; water and soil chemistry; and marine, freshwater and terrestrial organisms across the nation.
— Establish a scientific advisory committee to advise on the establishment, site selection, measurement, recording protocols and operations of the monitoring program.
— Establish a centralized database for existing and newly collected environmental mercury data that can be freely accessed on the Internet and is comprised of data that is compatible with similar international efforts.
— Require a report to Congress every two years on the program, including trends, and an assessment of the reduction in mercury deposition rates that need to be achieved in order to prevent adverse human and ecological effects every four-years.
— Authorize $95 million during three years to carry out this legislation.