Sunday, November 19, 2006

US Energy Department May Sell Surplus Mercury Stockpile

WASHINGTON, DC, November 17, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, is considering selling some 1,300 tons of surplus mercury on the international market, prompting urgent warnings from health organizations that the toxic metal would find its way back into the domestic food chain from the developing world. Word of the potential sale has prompted a formal request to the agency by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) to keep the mercury in storage and out of the environment.

“Given that mercury is a trans-boundary pollutant that is deposited both locally and globally,” he wrote to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, “any strategy to reduce mercury in the environment must also include reducing the volume of mercury traded and sold in the world market.” The senator was joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Mercury Policy Project in warning that U.S. mercury exports will “boomerang” back to the United States.

The DOE stockpile is nearly five times the amount exported in 2004 by all U.S. companies combined. Once used in weapons and energy technologies, the mercury is now obsolete for DOE functions and no longer of any use to the government. Mercury exports often go to poorly regulated industries in developing countries, which release it into the atmosphere. Some of that air pollution wafts over the ocean and back to the United States, contaminating ocean and freshwater fish.

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