Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years
Mercury Reduction and Education Act Passed
In 2002, the Connecticut General Assembly passed the Mercury Reduction and Education Act, P.A. – 02-90. The legislature found that mercury is a persistent and toxic pollutant that bioaccumulates in the environment and that in order to create and maintain a healthful environment and protect the public health, the virtual elimination of the discharge of anthropogenic mercury should be pursued.
While mercury can get in to the environment from other sources – such as the burning of coal in power plants – this legislation addressed the presence of mercury in consumer products. Mercury from these sources can be released if a product is dropped or damaged during use and also from improper disposal at the end of its useful life. Once in the environment, mercury can be transformed into the more harmful methylmercury which is a potent neurologic toxicant. A number of fish species in Connecticut have been shown to contain mercury contamination.
Process for reducing discharge of mercury into the Connecticut environment:
In an effort to reduce the amount of mercury that is discharged into the environment, the 2002 legislation established the following criteria:
- Notification: On and after January 1, 2003, no person shall offer any mercury-added product or sale or distribute any such product for promotional purposes in this state unless the manufacturer or its designated industrial trade group gives prior notification in writing to the Commissioner of DEP.
- Ban on certain mercury-added products: On and after July 1, 2003, no mercury-added novelties sold or distributed; on or after January 1, 2003, no mercury-added fever thermometers sold or distributed without prescription; on and after July 1, 2003, no mercury-added dairy manometers sold or distributed; on and after July 1, 2003, no vocational dental or training school shall use mercury amalgam unless such school has developed and implemented a best management plan, approved by the commissioner, in order to prevent the discharge of mercury into the waters of the state; and on and after July 1, 2011, no mercury-added button cell batteries sold or distributed. (DEP has been approached by NEMA representatives to discuss amending the phase-out date)
- Phase-out of mercury-added products: Except for certain mercury-containing lamps used for back-lighting or the entertainment industry mercury-added products containing specific amounts of mercury are phased-out:
- After July 1, 2004, when the mercury content exceeds one gram for a fabricated mercury-added product or two hundred fifty parts per million in the case of a formulated mercury-added product;
- On and after July 1, 2006, when the mercury content exceeds one hundred milligrams for a fabricated mercury-added product or fifty parts per million in the case of a formulated mercury-added product;
- On and after July 1, 2013, high intensity discharge lamps containing more than one hundred milligrams of mercury, but less than one gram of mercury.
- Labeling requirements: On and after July 1, 2004, no person shall offer for sale or distribute for promotional purposes any mercury-added product unless both the product and the packaging of care and use manual are labeled. For a limited number of specifically identified mercury-added products, the labeling criteria, although slightly different, is established pursuant to the Connecticut General Statutes.
- Collection plan: On and after July 1, 2003, no person shall offer any mercury-added product for sale or distribute any such product for promotional purposes unless the manufacturer has submitted a plan for a system that reasonably enables the collection of such products.
- Exemptions: The law establishes exemptions for certain products such as pharmaceuticals, biological products or other products that may be sold over the counter without a prescription under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act. The law also establishes a procedure for companies to apply for exemptions to the phase-out requirements when certain criteria can be established. A limited number of product exemptions have been granted based either on compliance with federal or state health or safety requirements or there is no technically feasible alternative to the use of mercury in the product.
- Enforcement authority: Statutory language authorizing the DEP to issue orders to correct or abate violations, initiate actions in superior court and assessing penalties was passed during the 2006 legislative session (P.A. 06-76).
Prior to passage of the 2002 legislation, a major education and collection campaign was held in 2001. The statewide effort included: mercury thermometer exchanges, a partnership with the CT State Dental Association (CSDA), household hazardous waste collections, school clean-outs, and mercury switch removal from cars.
A goal to remove 2001 pounds of mercury from homes and offices during 2001was exceeded. The largest amount of mercury was collected through the household hazardous waste collections.
Educational materials were also created including a poster on how mercury moves in the environment. In partnership with CSDA, a guide was created for dentists titled “The Environmentally Responsible Dental Office”. It educated dentists on mercury management practices.