by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine
Today, in celebration of Environmental Health Day in the Hall of Flags at the State Capitol, Governor John Baldacci signed three bills to protect public health and the environment from mercury and lead pollution. The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, a coalition of eight groups working to phase out persistent toxic chemicals, applauded the Governor and the Legislature for their protective actions.
“I’m proud to support legislation that protects public health and our natural resources from harmful chemicals,” stated Governor John Baldacci. “The unanimous support for these bills shows that Maine people working together can eliminate mercury threats to children’s health and wildlife and ensure that old computers and televisions are recycled instead of improperly disposed.”
“Thanks to the leadership of the Legislature and Governor Baldacci, Maine is leading the way to reduce toxic pollution within our borders,” said Brownie Carson, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “It’s time for polluters in upwind states to curb their toxics too, for the health of the people and environment in Maine and beyond.”
“We applaud Governor Baldacci and the Legislature for working so hard to protect children’s health from the scourge of mercury and lead pollution,” said Michael Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center.
The three bills signed by the Governor today include:
LD 697, An Act to Require the Installation of Dental Amalgam Separator Systems in Dental Offices (sponsored by Rep. Scott Cowger, Hallowell), will remove 98% of the mercury in wastewater discharges that results from dental work on mercury fillings. Maine is one of the first four states in the country to require dentists to install separators to reduce mercury discharges into the sewer systems that empty into rivers and bays. The Maine Dental Association strongly supported the legislation.
LD 743, An Act to Develop a Plan for Cathode Ray Tube Disposal (sponsored by Rep. Judd Thompson, China), bans the disposal of cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from computer monitors and televisions in landfills and incinerators by January 1, 2006 and requires a plan by January 30, 2004 to collect and recycle CRTs. The disposal of CRTs, which each contain four to eight pounds of lead, poses environmental health hazards.
LD 1159, An Act to Reduce Mercury Use in Measuring Devices and Switches (sponsored by Representative Theodore Koffman of Bar Harbor), bans the sale of many mercury-containing products, such as blood pressure monitors and switches used in boat bilge pumps, by July 1, 2006 and requires a plan to improve collection and recycling of old mercury thermostats. This bill builds on legislation passed in the last three years that requires old mercury products to be recycled and bans the sale of mercury fever thermometers and residential mercury thermostats.
“Reducing mercury and lead in the environment will help prevent learning disabilities in our children,” said Sandra Cort, immediate past president of the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine.
“Thank you Governor Baldacci for being a public health leader,” said Saskia Bopp, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association, “and for recognizing the link between health promotion and pollution prevention.”
“This legislation protects the health of workers who handle mercury products and waste electronics,” said Peter Crockett, executive director of Maine Labor Group on Health.
“This is another fine example of the Governor’s leadership in health care reform – preventing harm by eliminating toxic chemical hazards,” said John Dieffenbacher-Krall, co-director of the Maine People’s Alliance.
“Communities around the state are breathing easier knowing that the Governor and the Legislature have acted to end the improper disposal of mercury products and waste electronics,” said Maggie Drummond, Maine field director of Toxics Action Center.
“Legislative leadership complements personal actions to protect our health,” said Raina Rippel, executive director of the Maine chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Women and children should follow the Bureau of Health’s guidelines for safe eating of fish to minimize mercury exposure and for screening of young children for lead poisoning.”
The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine also supports bills to reduce arsenic exposure (LD 1309) and fund household hazardous waste collection (LD 1549), both of which were recently approved by votes in the House of Representatives.