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Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan Challenges Federal Exemptions of Mercury Products

In a petition to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Attorney General T.J. Donovan, challenged a decision by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exempt several large categories of mercury products from inventory reporting. Mercury exposures at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune systems of people of all ages, and mercury in the bloodstream of developing babies and young children may harm their nervous systems and ability to think and learn.

Earlier this summer, the EPA issued its final rule (mercury rule) on the reporting requirements for mercury products under federal law. The law requires a complete and accurate inventory of mercury supply, use and trade in the United States. EPA’s mercury rule will exempt any product that contains a mercury-added product as a component of the larger product.  Examples of products containing a mercury-added product include a mercury battery in a watch or toy, or a mercury switch or relay in a lamp or pump. Many of these products are imported and are not manufactured in the U.S. Under the mercury rule, manufacturers of these mercury-added products will not have to report important information on the uses and amount or quantity of mercury contained inside.

“Vermonters have a right to know what is inside the products we use,” said Attorney General Donovan. “Our mercury labeling laws allow Vermont to run one of the best state programs to reduce mercury exposure. The EPA’s new mercury rule places Vermonters at risk and takes a step backwards by eliminating the reporting requirements for some of the largest uses of mercury.”

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore strongly agreed that Vermont should take a lead in challenging EPA’s rule: “Vermont has long been a leader in mercury regulation. More than 20 years ago, Vermont became the first state to implement legislation that required manufacturers to label certain mercury-added products sold or distributed in Vermont to inform consumers of mercury content and proper disposal in an effort to reduce exposure to this potent neurotoxin. The changes being proposed to EPA are in direct opposition to the steps we have taken to reduce the risks mercury poses to Vermonters’ health.”

The mercury rule will also exempt large producers and importers of mercury and mercury-added products (2,500 pounds of elemental mercury or 25,000 pounds of mercury compounds) and will allow reporting to occur less frequently.

For more information on mercury and Vermont’s mercury-added product manufacturer requirements, including labeling, please visit the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Mercury Education and Reduction Campaign website:  https://anrweb.vt.gov/DEC/mercury/merc.htm

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