LABELING MERCURY-ADDED PRODUCTS: HOW TO ENSURE CONSISTENCY IN AN EXPANSIVE MARKET
Countries around the world have enacted mercury product labeling requirements. The purpose of labeling these products is to: 1) Inform consumers at the point of purchase that they contain mercury and may require special handling at end of life; and 2) Identify them at their end of life so that they can be recycled or safely disposed of.
In the United States there are no national labeling requirements covering all of the mercury products in commerce. Currently, however, the states of Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington prohibit the sale of certain mercury-added products unless they have a label indicating that the product contains mercury and information concerning proper disposal. These state laws establish standards regarding wording, size, location, visibility, and durability. However, the language in these laws differs slightly. This situation creates challenges for manufacturers who sell their products in multiple jurisdictions, because they must comply with differing (and sometimes conflicting) standards.
The Interstate Mercury Education and Reduction Clearinghouse (IMERC) was created in 2001 to provide ongoing technical and programmatic assistance to states in the United States that have enacted mercury education and reduction legislation, and to act as a single point of contact for industry and the public for information about member states mercury education and reduction programs. Promoting clear and consistent labeling of mercury-added products is a priority of IMERCs.
Recently, IMERC has developed acceptable alternatives that can meet all of the states’ specifications for mercury-added lamps. These alternatives are designed to promote consistency. The members of IMERC collaborate on their review and decision making regarding alternative labels for products under the framework of their laws. This poster provides an overview of the purposes for labeling mercury products and IMERCs recent experience with labeling of mercury-added lamps.
HOW, FOR THE PAST 40 YEARS, WE HAVE BEEN BREAKING DOWN THE BARRIERS HINDERING MEDICAL RESEARCH INTO MINAMATA DISEASE IN JAPAN
Over 500,000 people, in the Minamata area, were estimated to have been exposed to methylmercury poisoning caused by the contaminated wastewater released by the Chisso Corporation, between 1932 and 1968. Brought to public notice in 1956, the disease was soon named Minamata disease, and eventually, in 1968, was formally recognised by the Japanese government. Kumamoto University researchers, searching for the cause, studied severely affected inhabitants. The intensity of research gradually diminished but gained momentum again when Kumamoto University performed a large epidemiological study (1971-1972). However, the results were ignored and further research on Minamata disease was reduced. There has been no constructive research into the pollution by the government, at any level.
After 1970, a group of volunteer doctors began going door to door and examining residents in the Minamata area. In 1972, one doctor stayed in a hospital in Minamata to continue research. He and his colleagues discovered that although many inhabitants suffered severely from the effects of the pollution they had not been diagnosed with the disease. In 1974, a clinic, to examine disease victims and to treat infected patients, was established in Minamata. Some research papers, in Japanese, were written.
Fear of being ostracised by the community prevented the majority of residents in the area from being examined for the disease. The symptoms of Minamata disease cover a wide range, from mild to severe and as victims grow older the disease develops slower, and it can be more difficult to detect. We would like to point out three barriers that impeded our research into Minamata disease and how we tried to bypass them: 1. The unwillingness of the government to support research on victims of the disease. 2. A lack of a cooperative environment between researchers. 3. The residents lack of information, fear of ostracisation and the despondency of patients.
From the results of long-term population studies, and more intensive studies that we carried out (1987, 2009, and 2012) we show that health problems have not decreased but continue to appear in a large number of residents. Our research was restricted to subjects who had hoped to apply for relief and because of our findings they were granted compensation. We describe how we unveiled the true situation in Minamata today and explain the problems remaining.
RECYCLING AND MERCURY FLOW OF USED FLUORESCENT LAMPS IN KOREA
It is important to effectively collect and properly manage mercury-containing products such as fluorescent lamps, batteries, dental amalgam, and mercury thermometers and switches after use. In 2015, approximately 120 million units of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps were put on the market in Korea. However, only 41 million units of fluorescent lamps were collected and recycled in the same year. Often times, it is very difficult to quantitatively determine the distribution channels and disposal pathway of fluorescent lamps. In this study, we examined the recycling practice and mercury flow of used fluorescent lamps that are regulated by the extended producer responsibility (EPR) system in Korea. Substance flow of mercury in the lamps was estimated by material flow analysis (MFA). The MFA methodology is an analytical method of quantifying flow and stocks of materials or substance in a well-defined system based on mass balance approach. The data required for this study were collected from literature review, available statistics developed by the Korea Ministry of Environment (Korea MOE), discussion with the experts in lamp recycling industry, survey and field visits to local government and lamp recycling facilities in Korea. Based on the result of this study, it was estimated that in 2015 approximately 1.3 ton of mercury in fluorescent lamps was distributed into household sectors and industrial sectors. In case of household sectors, 2.6 tons of mercury was stocked and 0.53 ton of waste mercury was generated from households. Among the household generation of mercury, 0.45 ton of mercury was collected and recycled, while 0.07 ton was either incinerated or landfilled. In case of industrial sectors, approximately 0.79 ton of mercury in fluorescent lamps was distributed; only 0.06 ton was collected and recycled. More effective collection schemes for used fluorescent lamps should be developed to recover mercury, although in recent years LED lamps are continually replacing fluorescent lamps in households.