Maine has passed a handful of laws in recent years designed to prevent mercury pollution from a variety of sources including consumer products such as thermostats, cell phones and vehicles. The efforts in Maine can be a model for other states.
In Maine, overall mercury emissions to the air have dropped by more than 75% from their peak in 1991, with reductions by municipal waste incinerators leading the way.
Three pieces of legislation to keep mercury out of the environment in Maine were signed into law in April 2006. One bill bans, after January 1, 2007, the sale products that contain batteries that contain mercury, such as light-up games, cards and adornments. In addition. The same bill bans the disposal, after January 1, 2007, of button cell batteries in landfills and incinerators. Another requires that beginning January 1, 2007 manufacturers of thermostats containing mercury that are sold in the state pay a minimum of $5 for each thermostat containing mercury brought to a state-approved collection site.
The third bill calls for reducing the existing mercury emission limit for an individual source from 50 pounds per year to 35 pounds after Jan. 1, 2007, and then to 25 pounds per year after Jan. 1, 2010.
InMay 1997, the state of Maine started considering actions to control mercury emissions and discharges in response to increasing evidence of unhealthy levels of mercury in the Maine environment. As of January 2002, mercury fever thermometers were banned and the sale of new mercury thermostats was banned effective January 2006.
Aftera series of detailed reports which identified sources and recommended specific actions, the state enacted a law in April 2002 titled "An Act to Prevent Mercury Emissions when Recycling and Disposing of Motor Vehicles." This landmark ‘take back’ legislation requires automobile manufacturers to pay for the collection and recycling of mercury switches from old cars.
Maine is also taking the initial steps toward recycling of old cell phones, which contain lead, mercury and other materials that can pose health risks if released into the air, water and ground. Another law requires the annual reporting of the volume of mercury amalgam supplied to dentists in the state.
Withpassage of the 2006 mercury legislation, "Maine has effectively eliminated all household products that contain mercury from store shelves and the waste stream," said Brownie Carson, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Maine’s Mercury Rules:
- An Act To Further Reduce Mercury Use and Emissions [LD 2043], 2006
- An Act To Protect Maine Families and the Environment by Improving the Collection and Recycling of Mercury Thermostats [LD 1792], 2006
- An Act To Regulate the Use of Batteries Containing Mercury [LD 1058], 2006
- An Act to Amend the Law on Mercury-added Products – Public Law 2005 Chapter 148
- An Act to Reduce Mercury Use in Measuring Devices and Switches – Public Law 2003 Chapter 221
- An Act to Prevent Mercury Emissions when Recycling and Disposing of Motor Vehicles – Public Law 2002, Chapter 656
- Mercury Statutes in Maine – Title 38, Chapter 16B Mercury Added Products and Services [contains some pre-2001 regulations]
- Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Mercury page
- Mercury Policy Project
- Listing of Mercury-related State Laws, Local Ordinances and Resolutions in Effect – tracking from Health Care Without Harm
- Global Mercury Assessment Home – United Nations Programme
- Mercury Exposure: The World’s Toxic Time Bomb – Ban Mercury Working Group (Ban Hg-Wg), January 2003