Implementation of law is a victory for Wisconsin waters and will protect public health

MADISON — Fish from Wisconsin waters may soon be healthier to eat after Governor Doyle signed the Mercury Products Bill today, a law prohibiting the use of toxic mercury in non-essential products.

“Toxic mercury pollution leaches into our lakes, rivers and streams, endangering the health of our families and threatening the vitality our state’s strong fishing industry,” said Amber Meyer Smith, program director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “Today’s signing of the Mercury Products Bill is a significant environmental victory that will help protect our families and preserve our environment for future generations to enjoy.”

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.

Mercury enters Wisconsin waters from coal plant pollution or 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 derived from coal plants, while the law signed today will help reduce the 6600 pounds of mercury that enter Wisconsin waters each year through household and industrial products.

“In a state where fishing is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition as well as an important economic driver, it’s unfortunate that we must question the health of our families before eating fish out of Wisconsin waters,” said Smith. “The law signed today will protect our fishing industry and represents an important step toward healthier lakes, rivers and streams in our state.”

The DNR estimates that Wisconsin’s fishing industry brings $2.3 billion of revenue to the state and directly employs more than 25,000 individuals.

“When our lakes, rivers and streams became so polluted with mercury that fish became unsafe to eat, it was evident that action must be taken,” said Smith. “We applaud our leaders in the Capitol for recognizing the magnitude of this problem and acting to protect our health, our environment, and our fishing industry by reducing mercury pollution.”