Law will help protect the health of Wisconsin anglers and their families

MADISON — A law that will help protect the health of Wisconsin anglers and their families by banning the sale of non-essential products containing toxic mercury becomes effective this Monday, Nov. 1.

“Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that threatens the health of thousands of families who eat fish from Wisconsin waters,” said Sam Weis, media specialist at Clean Wisconsin. “Reducing mercury pollution in our lakes, rivers and streams will help protect the health of our families and preserve the strength of our celebrated fishing industry.”

Signed by Governor Doyle in October 2009 and becoming effective Monday, Wisconsin Act 44 prohibits the sale of nonessential household and industrial products containing toxic mercury.

“This law is written to include only products that have mercury-free alternatives,” said Weis. “Wisconsin residents shouldn’t expect to see any significant changes to the selection of products available on store shelves, only cleaner lakes, rivers and streams.”

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources currently lists every inland body of water in Wisconsin under a fish consumption advisory as a result of mercury contamination. 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 exposed to mercury when they eat fish that swim in contaminated waters.

“Mercury pollution is a wide-spread problem in Wisconsin and we estimate that between 5,000 and 9,000 children born in the state every year are at risk of having lower IQs and reduced memory as a result,” said Weis. “It’s a sad fact that in a state that celebrates our strong fishing tradition, we must pause to consider the health of our families before eating fish from Wisconsin waters.”

Mercury enters Wisconsin waters when it is emitted from coal plants or when it is released from household and industrial products such as toys, games, jewelry, perfumes, cosmetics and switches. An administrative rule passed in 2008 will help substantially reduce mercury pollution from coal plants, while Act 44 will help reduce the 6,600 pounds of mercury that enter Wisconsin’s environment each year through household and industrial products.

“This law is a significant step forward that will help protect Wisconsin’s environment and the health of our residents,” said Weis.