Bill will curb mercury pollution

For the last week of the legislative session, I wrote about one of the more successful environmental initiatives: an effort to regulate the sale of mercury thermostats. The bill passed both the House and Senate, and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

Illinois environmentalists, manufacturers and lawmakers are turning up the heat in the fight against mercury pollution. The Mercury Thermostat Control Act, passed unanimously by the House and Senate, requires manufacturers to collect and recycle the mercury in older thermostats.

Mercury, an element in the earth’s crust that expands in response to changes in temperature or pressure, has traditionally been used to make products like thermometers, thermostats and automobile switches. If a thermostat is thrown away and ends up in a landfill, it can break, leaking the mercury into the soil and eventually the groundwater. Emissions from coal-burning power plants release mercury into the air, which also eventually settles in water.

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