Bill will help protect public health and Wisconsin’s fishing industry

MADISON — A bill designed to protect the health of Wisconsin families and the vitality of the state’s fishing industry by prohibiting the sale of some non-essential products containing toxic mercury is one step closer to implementation today after important committees in the Assembly and Senate both voted unanimously to support the measure.

“With so many beautiful lakes, rivers and streams, it is essential that we keep our waters clean from toxic mercury and keep tourist dollars flowing into our local economy,” said Amber Meyer Smith, program director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “Even more importantly, this bill is essential to help protect our children from the dangers of toxic mercury.”

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, clothing, shoes, switches, cosmetics and perfumes currently pollute our air and water with over 6,600 pounds of mercury annually.

“It’s a sad fact that we need to consider our health and the health of our families before enjoying freshly caught fish from Wisconsin lakes,” said Smith. “This bill is an important step toward cleaning our waters and reducing a substantial public health threat.”

The fishing industry in Wisconsin is a powerful economic driver. The DNR estimates that it brings $2.3 billion of revenue to the state and directly employs more than 25,000 individuals.

“Reducing mercury pollution is essential to sustaining our state’s economy, protecting our health, and ensuring that we leave future generations with an environment as beautiful and bountiful as the one we have come to know,” said Smith. “I applaud our legislators for understanding the importance of reducing the threat of toxic mercury.”