Mercury Pollution – Labeling Law, VT

Date: 12 Jan 2009 | posted in: environment | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Vermont’s mercury labeling law is a nice example of how one state’s action can lead to nationwide changes. Vermont legislation enacted in 1998, required manufacturers to label certain mercury-added products sold or distributed in Vermont to inform consumers of mercury content and proper disposal. There was no threshold on the amount of mercury a product must have in order meet labeling requirements.

Thelabeling requirements were supposed to go into effect March 1, 2000, but due to a preliminary injunction issued in Federal District Court, labeling of mercury-added lamps was stayed. Subsequently, the second Federal Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the injunction; thereby reinstating the lamp manufacturers responsibility under Vermont law to label their mercury-added lamps that are sold or distributed in Vermont.

InDecember 2002, the National Electronics Manufacturers Association(NEMA), a trade group representing most of the country’s lamp manufacturers, announced plans for "a nationwide program to label fluorescent and high-intensity discharge lamps that contain mercury, as well as their packaging." NEMA had originally fought the Vermont law on the grounds that it violated the federal Commerce Clause.

TheUS Supreme Court has decided not to review the appeals court decision. Mercury-added lamp products that are sold or distributed in Vermont must now comply with the labeling regulations.

The statute reads in part:

(a) Labeling. — Effective March 1, 2000, a manufacturer or wholesaler may not sell at retail in this state, to a retailer in this state, or for use in this state, and a retailer may not knowingly sell, any of the following items at retail if they contain mercury added during manufacture, unless the item is labeled.

The label must clearly inform the purchaser or consumer that mercury is present in the item and that the item may not be disposed of or placed in a waste stream destined for disposal until the mercury is removed and reused, recycled, or otherwise managed to ensure that it does not become part of solid waste or wastewater.

Primary responsibility for affixing labels required under this section shall be on the manufacturer, and not on the wholesaler or retailer. By October 1, 1999, each manufacturer required to label by this section shall certify to the agency of natural resources that it has developed a labeling plan for its mercury-added products that complies with this section and any administrative labeling rule adopted by the agency of natural resources and that this labeling shall be implemented for products manufactured after March 1, 2000.

The labeling plan shall include detailed descriptions of the products involved and the label size, material, content, location, and attachment method for each product and for the product packaging, where necessary under the rules, so a label is clearly visible at time of purchase. The plan must be submitted to the agency with the certification. Items to be labeled are:

(1) A thermostat or thermometer.

(2) A switch, individually or as part of another product.

(3) A medical or scientific instrument.

(4) An electric relay or other electrical device.

(5) A lamp.

(6) A battery, sold to the public, other than a button battery.

LabelingRequirements were further revised in 2005, for products sold in the state effective July 1, 2007. The new legislation for labeling expands the list of products to include all mercury-added products, except button cell batteries, products that contain button cell batteries, dental amalgam, photographic film, any mercury-added product for which federal law governs labeling in a manner that preempts state authority, or prescription drugs or any substance that may lawfully be sold over the counter without a prescription under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 301 et seq.

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