Illinois Passes Bill to Control Mercury Pollution from Thermostats

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Illinois House and Senate have passed a new bill to control dangerous mercury pollution from an often overlooked source: mercury thermostats. While it is illegal to sell mercury thermostats in Illinois today, tens of millions of mercury thermostats are still in use across the country. Each one of these thermostats contains about four grams of mercury, a potent neurotoxin that has been shown to cause loss of IQ and may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Mercury Thermostat Collection Act (SB 3346) requires manufacturers to collect and recycle the mercury in older thermostats. SB 3346 was passed unanimously by the Illinois House and Senate.

“This is a common sense approach to keep toxins out of our soil and water,” said Melville Nickerson, Policy Advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a group that helped to draft the bill. “It’s a bill that environmentalists, manufacturers and the entire General Assembly could agree on.”

“We know the dangers that mercury poses to public health, especially for mothers and young children,” Said Representative Karen May, the bill’s House sponsor. “This bill makes Illinois a healthier place to live.”

“We’re working with manufacturers to keep our land and water safe and conserve our resources for future generations,” said Senator Heather Steans, Senate Sponsor of SB 3346. “This is a policy that Illinois should be proud of.”

“Illinois has passed a significant piece of legislation that holds manufacturers accountable for reducing the environmental impacts of their products,” said Scott Cassel, Executive Director of the Product Stewardship Institute. “Product stewardship laws like these are sweeping the country, and Illinois is a national leader.

The Mercury Thermostat Collection Act requires thermostat manufacturers to establish an out-of-service mercury thermostat collection program and to meet ambitious goals to collect and safely dispose of unwanted mercury thermostats. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will monitor the collection programs.

The bill adopts the recommendations of a report Turning Up the Heat on Thermostats written by the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Mercury Products Campaign.

Illinois’ Mercury Thermostat Collection Act is based on model state legislation developed by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) with input from thermostat manufacturers, heating and cooling contractors and wholesalers, retailers, environmental groups, and government officials. PSI’s model shares responsibility for safe thermostat recycling among all these groups and provides a menu of options from which states can choose. Illinois is the eighth state to pass legislation based on the model.

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