New Laws Will Recycle Mercury Thermostats, Ban Sale of Mercury Button Cell Batteries
AUGUSTA, MAINE – At noon today, Maine Governor John Baldacci signed into law two new precedent-setting measures that will reduce mercury pollution. One of the laws requires manufacturers to provide the nation’s first financial incentive to recycle building thermostats that contain mercury. It is also the first law to require thermostat collection for do-it-yourselfers. The other new law will ban the sale of button cell batteries containing mercury in Maine after June 30, 2011.
These two laws are the latest in a long series of mercury-reduction accomplishments in Maine (see list below). The Natural Resources Council of Maine has been a driving force behind much of the state’s progress in reducing mercury over the last several years.
“With the two bills signed today, Maine has effectively eliminated all household products that contain mercury from store shelves and the wastestream,” said NRCM executive director Brownie Carson. “Maine’s ‘can-do’ common sense approach is leading the nation in reducing the toxic mercury in our environment.”
A law passed earlier in Maine banned the sale of new mercury thermostats effective January 2006, and required wholesalers to recycle mercury thermostats taken out of service. The new law (LD 1792-An Act To Protect Maine Families and the Environment by Improving the Collection and Recycling of Mercury Thermostats) requires that all mercury thermostats be recycled, and requires manufacturers of mercury-containing thermostats to provide an incentive worth at least $5.00 for each mercury thermostat turned in.
Currently, 5,600 pounds of toxic mercury is contained in old thermostats hanging on the walls of Maine homes and businesses. When removed from service, about 90% of mercury thermostats are now tossed in the trash, releasing mercury to the environment. Maine’s new law sets recycling goals and increases manufacturer responsibility for the safe collection and recycling of old mercury thermostats.
Maine’s new law to ban the sale of button cell batteries containing mercury in Maine after June 30, 2011 (LD 1058, An Act to Regulate the Use of Batteries Containing Mercury) is needed because these batteries are often used in novelty products that are discarded when the battery dies, which causes this mercury to be released into the environment from their disposal and incineration. Button cell batteries with mercury are often used in toys, watches, games, cameras and other small electronic devices.
Within two weeks of Maine’s mercury-battery bill winning unanimous approval from the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee, the battery industry announced that it would voluntarily eliminate mercury-added button cell batteries by the same date as the proposed Maine law. These batteries will soon be replaced with effective and affordable mercury-free alternatives. Maine’s legislative effort will help reduce mercury exposure to people across the nation by the time the law takes effect.
Mercury is a dangerous toxic metal and a potent neurotoxin. It attacks the developing brains of infants and children, causing brain damage and developmental problems in children. It has also been linked to health problems in adults. Yet it remains a pervasive pollutant. Maine’s rivers, lakes, and streams are so contaminated by mercury that the Department of Health has issued fish consumption warnings. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one in six women of childbearing age in the United States is at risk of having newborns with neurological problems from mercury exposure in the womb. This translates to 630,000 children being born each year at risk for problems from exposure to mercury.
Information about the thermostat recycling bill, LD 1792, An Act To Protect Maine Families and the Environment by Improving the Collection and Recycling of Mercury Thermostats, can be found online at:
Information about the mercury button-cell battery bill, LD 1058, An Act To Regulate the Use of Batteries Containing Mercury, can be found online at: