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March 30, 2004
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House Bill 1609 will be heard in the House Commerce and Natural Resources Committee at noon on Wednesday, March 31 in Hearing Room 5 at the Missouri State Capitol. The Mercury bill was introduced by Representative Barbara Frazer (D-University City) to address the growing mercury pollution in our state waterways. This legislation establishes an emissions fee for large producers of mercury pollutants. A statewide health warning alerting Missourians that every stream and lake in Missouri is contaminated with mercury was posted in 2002. The Department of Health and Senior Services confirms the advisory is still in effect for 2004. These advisories urge people to avoid or limit consumption of fish due to high levels of mercury. Children and women of childbearing age are at greatest risk.

Mercury is a highly toxic chemical that affects the central nervous system in the developing brains of unborn fetuses and very young. Poor attention span, impaired memory and vision, problems processing information, and impaired fine motor coordination are the negative effects associated with mercury exposure.

A recent study by the Center for Disease and Prevention estimates that one out of twelve women of childbearing years in the U.S. have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood. Approximately 300,000 children are born each year with a heightened risk for neurological and developmental problems related to mercury exposure. Even more recently, the EPA stated that this is an understatement of mercury exposure and that as many as 630,000 children may be born each year with unhealthy levels of mercury in their blood. The intent of this bill is to encourage power plants to reduce mercury pollution.

The largest sources of industrial mercury emissions in Missouri are oil and coal burning power plants. The EPA has estimated that mercury emissions could be reduced by 90 percent with existing technologies.

Fisherman and environmentalists are applauding Representative Fraser for her efforts. Supporting organizations include: the Ozark Flyfishers,  the American Fisheries Society-Missouri Chapter, Heartland Renewable Energy, League of Women Voters, Missouri Coalition for the Environment and the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club. 

Sierra Club Director, Carla Klein states that, “A clean, healthy environment is essential for all Missouri citizens and a benefit to our economy”.