My home state of Maine has been a national leader both in educating people about the dangers of mercury and in reducing exposure from in-state sources. Still, Maine’s 5,800 lakes and ponds and our 32,000 miles of rivers, streams and brooks have been under a fish consumption advisory since 1994 because of mercury pollution. According to Commissioner David Littell of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, “In-state controls have reduced mercury emissions by over 75 percent since 1990.  Yet, because mercury remains in widespread use elsewhere in the world, atmospheric transport continues to bring mercury into our state. Maine’s actions alone cannot stop ongoing contamination of our environment.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, approximately 15 million people worldwide, including 4.5 million women and 1 million children, engage in artesanal mining with mercury, exposing them to the toxin.  Some of this mercury is exported from the United States.

That is morally wrong, and should be unacceptable to us as a nation.  Further, this practice harms Americans, exposed through the global air transport of mercury pollution or through the consumption of mercury-contaminated fish.  That’s why it’s important to pass H.R. 1534 and drive down the global use of this harmful metal.