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February 4, 2004

Governor Blagojevich Calls for Passage of “Mercury Reduction Act”

SPRINGFIELD --- Governor Rod Blagojevich today called on legislators to support his initiative to further reduce mercury-containing products that pose a potential health hazard to Illinois residents.
The Governor praised State Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, and State Reps. Karen May, D-Highland Park and Paul Froehlich, R-Schaumburg, for sponsoring the “Mercury Reduction Act” legislation proposed by his Administration and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
“Last year I signed legislation phasing out the sale of mercury thermometers and novelty items effective July of this year and this new legislation to further remove mercury from products and the waste stream and replace them with safer alternatives is a logical next step,” the Governor noted.
“Illinois EPA has given a priority to a Mercury Reduction Initiative as part of Gov. Blagojevich’s pledge to address this issue and this legislation will complement other efforts now underway,” said Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano.
Exposure to mercury can potentially cause central nervous system disorders and pregnant women who eat significant amounts of fish containing mercury are at higher risk for birth defects. Mercury from consumer products may make its way into waterways when discharged down the drain, incinerated or landfilled.
Mercury-reducing legislation was announced in six states today. The proposed Illinois legislation will:
  • Require manufacturers to notify Illinois EPA of mercury-added products they sell in the state.
  • Prohibit schools from purchasing for use in classrooms elemental mercury, chemical mercury compounds and mercury-added measuring devices.
  • Ban the sale of mercury thermostats, mercury switches and mercury relays (with some exemptions).
  • Require scrap and salvage yards to remove mercury light switches and other mercury components from end-of-life vehicles prior to processing.
  • Authorize Illinois EPA to work with other states to develop an interstate clearinghouse on the use of mercury products.
  • Require the Pollution Control Board to modify universal waste rules to facilitate the collection and recycling of mercury-added products.
Currently, Illinois EPA is addressing mercury on several fronts as part of the Governor’s Mercury Initiative. They include collections of mercury items in household hazardous waste collections and school chemical waste collections and “green chemistry workshops” and sponsoring exchanges of mercury thermometers.
Illinois EPA also has one of the most extensive mercury monitoring programs underway in the nation. An air sampling station in Northbrook launched in 2000 is one of only two continuous mercury-monitoring stations in the U.S.  Mercury samples are also being collected using advanced scientific techniques at several inland lakes and streams across the state.
Illinois EPA also expects to make recommendations this spring to Gov. Blagojevich on limiting mercury emissions from power plants and other industrial sources.  In addition, the Governor’s Clean Coal Technology Initiative to encourage new cleaner-burning power plants using Illinois coal will also reduce mercury emissions.  The mercury content in Western coal that is now imported for coal-fired power plants in Illinois is not as readily removed as mercury from Illinois coal.


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