Last week, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Penn., introduced the “Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act” with the support of U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla.
The bill “would establish a national monitoring program to provide researchers with better data on the extent of mercury contamination in the United States, helping to inform where to target pollution reduction initiatives.” The program would be run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including having it create a scientific advisory committee and running a database on mercury which the public would have access to online.
“Protecting children from harmful toxins is a no-brainer, and I’m proud to introduce this bill with both Democratic and Republican support,” Cartwright said. “Mercury pollution is a serious environmental and public health concern, but right now, we don’t have strong enough data to tackle it. With a national monitoring program, we can take more informed actions to protect Americans from exposure to this toxic element.”
Mast’s office stressed why the congressman thinks the bill is needed, insisting it will help the Sunshine State.
“Mercury currently exists in more than half of fish and wildlife in the Everglades region. When humans and other animals eat large amounts of fish containing mercury, there can be severe health impacts,” Mast’s office noted. “A 2010 study in Martin County found that women who regularly ate local fish had the highest concentrations of mercury known to exist in the United States. According to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, effects of mercury poisoning on humans include loss of peripheral vision, lack of coordination of movements, and impairment of speech, hearing and walking.
“According to the Environmental Protection Agency infants and the unborn are particularly at risk. Exposure ‘can adversely affect unborn infants’ growing brains and nervous systems” and “children exposed to methylmercury while they are in the womb can have impacts to their cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, fine motor skills, and visual spatial skills,’” Mast’s office continued.
“More than half of fish and wildlife in the Everglades system are affected by toxic mercury and people in Florida are at some of the highest risk in the whole country for mercury poisoning. Infants and unborn children are particularly vulnerable,” Mast said. “But, despite the gravity of the issue, our country doesn’t have a comprehensive mercury monitoring network, and as a result, polluters get off without consequence. This bipartisan bill would mandate that monitoring so we can fight this toxic assault at the source.”
U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., and U.S. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC, are also backing the proposal.
“Mercury poisoning is a major issue that disproportionately impacts new and unborn children. I am proud to support this bipartisan bill that will establish a comprehensive monitoring network and save countless lives as a result,” Fitzpatrick said.
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committees last week. The bill was sent to the U.S. House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee on Friday.
So far, there is no companion bill over in the U.S. Senate.
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