NY Enviro Group Says Junked Thermostats Cause Major Mercury Pollution

"ALBANY, N.Y. — While health and environmental groups are praising the Environmental Protection Agency for reining in mercury emissions from power plants, a New York group says discarded thermostats remain a major source of mercury contamination in the state."

"Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Research Group noted Thursday, a day after the EPA announcement, that the rule doesn't apply to trash incinerators. She cited state Department of Environmental Conservation data showing incinerators release even more mercury than coal-fired power plants in New York.

Mercury is highly toxic to the brain and nervous system, especially for developing infants and children. The state Health Department has issued health warnings against consuming fish from the Catskills, Adirondacks, and nearly 100 water bodies elsewhere in the state because of mercury contamination.

New York state passed a law in 2005 phasing out the sale of mercury-containing thermostats and banning the disposal of most consumer products containing mercury in solid waste facilities. But with no effective collection programs in place for old thermostats, 99 percent of the estimated 310,000 mercury thermostats taken out of service each year in New York end up in the trash, Haight said. That represents more than a ton of mercury, some of which ends up in incinerators, she said."

Mary Esch reports for the Associated Press December 22, 2011.

Source: AP, 12/23/2011