Senate to hold public hearing Tuesday

MADISON — With the popularity of energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at an all-time high, the Wisconsin State Senate will hold a public hearing Tuesday on Senate Bill 629, a bill that would help keep toxic mercury out of Wisconsin’s environment by enabling consumers to more conveniently recycle spent bulbs.

“Make no mistake, compact fluorescent light bulbs are great for our environment and help lower mercury pollution by reducing our need for coal-fired power, the largest source of mercury pollution,” said Amber Meyer Smith, program director at Clean Wisconsin. “They do contain a small amount of mercury themselves, so properly recycling more of these energy-saving bulbs will ensure that mercury reductions go even farther.”

According to 2007 data, lighting is responsible for 15 percent of mercury product use. Modeled after an electronic waste recycling bill passed in 2009, Senate Bill 629 aims to keep more mercury out of Wisconsin’s environment by requiring the producers of CFLs to provide consumers with a convenient location to properly recycle spent bulbs. The bill would establish a goal of recycling 70 percent of CFLs sold in Wisconsin.

“No one should use mercury as an excuse not to use CFLs, but everyone should keep as much mercury out of our environment as possible by properly recycling spent bulbs,” said Smith. “This bill will ensure that doing so is not a burden for consumers.”

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 swim in polluted waters.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Department of Health Services currently list every inland body of water in Wisconsin under a fish consumption advisory as a result of mercury contamination.

“Mercury pollution threatens the health of our families and the strength of our $2.3 billion fishing industry,” said Smith. “It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to keep mercury out of our environment, and this bill helps us take another step in the right direction.”