Legislation would prohibit the sale of non-essential products containing toxic mercury

MADISON — The fish caught in Wisconsin waters might soon be much healthier to eat after Senator Jauch and Representative Danou began circulating a bill today that would protect the health of Wisconsin residents as well as preserve the state’s strong fishing tradition by prohibiting the sale of non-essential household and industrial products containing toxic mercury.

“Products containing toxic mercury pollute our lakes, rivers and streams, contaminating the fish consumed by Wisconsin men, women and children every day,” said Amber Meyer Smith, program director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “Mercury pollution currently represents a serious threat to our fishing industry and to the public health of Wisconsin.”

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 6600 pounds of mercury annually.

“This Earth Day I am proud to circulate a bill that will protect our environment and the health of Wisconsinites, especially children who are most vulnerable to the effects of toxic mercury,” said Senator Jauch.

Reducing mercury pollution does more than protect our health and the health of our families – it also preserves our economy by protecting the $2.3 billion fishing industry which directly employs more than 25,000 individuals. Wisconsin mercury products regulation currently lags behind that of neighboring states. If legislators fail to act quickly to reduce mercury pollution, Wisconsin stands to lose fishing tourists to neighboring states where it is safer to consume fish.

“Whether they fish the crystal clear lakes of Northern Wisconsin or one of the thousands of trout streams found throughout Southern Wisconsin, Wisconsinites can agree on the importance of preserving our fishing tradition,” said Smith. “This bill will help preserve our environment, our economy, our fishing tradition, and the health of our families.”