Passage occurs on day of environmental victories in Assembly

MADISON — On a day full of environmental victories in the state Assembly, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed legislation Tuesday to protect Wisconsin’s waters and preserve the health of its residents by banning toxic mercury in non-essential products.

“Non-essential products pollute our air and water with thousands of pounds of toxic mercury every year,” said Amber Meyer Smith, program director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “This legislation will help defend our environment, preserve our fishing tradition, and protect the health of our families.”

Chronic exposure to mercury results in memory loss, speech difficulties, troubles with vision, and cardiovascular problems in adults. Children and the unborn exposed to mercury can face neurological damage that impairs development, leads to low intelligence and inhibits school performance

People are generally exposed to mercury by eating fish that live in polluted waters. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health currently list every inland body of water in the state under a fish consumption advisory because of mercury pollution. Household and industrial products including toys, games, jewelry, shoes, switches, cosmetics and perfumes currently pollute our air and water with over 6600 pounds of mercury annually.

“In a state that prides itself on a fishing tradition, it’s sad that our waters have become so polluted with mercury that residents must consider the health of their families before eating fish out of Wisconsin waters,” said Smith. “The passage of the mercury products bill continues important progress that began last year with the passage of a law requiring the owners of coal-fired power plants to substantially reduce mercury pollution.”

The mercury products bill was one of many environmental victories occurring in the Assembly on Tuesday. The legislative body also passed a bill designed to help make it easier for consumers to recycle electronic waste, as well as a bill designed to strengthen enforcement of restrictions on the transportation of aquatic species.

“Today is a good day for Wisconsin’s environment,” said Smith. “We applaud our legislators for working to protect the vitality of our environment and the health of our families.”