USEPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s visit to Chicago to tout the Bush Administration’s voluntary approach to keeping mercury from junked cars out of our air and water is ironic. Just like their proposal to go slow and easy on cleaning up mercury from coal plants, they now propose to ask automakers and junkyards nicely to please keep this brain-damaging toxin out of our air and water supply. This is much too little, too late when the health of our children is at stake.
Why Johnson chose Chicago to showcase this is a mystery. Illinois is doing far better. A new law took effect in Illinois July 1st that sets firm goals for make sure we recycle the parts of cars that contain mercury, and recycling efforts began earlier this summer. Governor Blagojevich’s proposal to cut mercury from coal plants by 90% by 2009 would cut 2,906 more pounds of mercury than the Bush Administration’s plan. A single teaspoon of mercury is enough to contaminate an entire lake.
Perhaps the best thing Johnson can do about mercury while in Illinois is to take notes. We don’t need press conferences and voluntary initiatives to protect our kids’ health, we need strong action. Illinois is doing what it can, but mercury in the air crosses state lines, so we could also use help from Washington cutting mercury pollution across the country.