Mercury reduction: Protecting our health

December 3
December 3, 2007
Storme’ Mestas
December 5, 2007

There’s a good reason Louisiana is known as Sportsman’s Paradise. The hunting is excellent, the outdoor activities are plentiful and the fishing may be the best in the country.

As an avid, lifelong angler, I know firsthand how fishing has become a part of our life, our culture and our heritage. That’s why I am working with my Department of Environmental Quality to protect it, and why DEQ compiled and recently released its comprehensive Mercury Risk Reduction Plan.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that enters our environment through a variety of consumer products, industry processes and other common occurrences. It can become a problem for people who frequently eat fish contaminated with high levels of mercury.

Early in my administration, I set clear environmental goals for the state, including creating a mercury reduction plan. Louisiana has always been progressive in sampling for mercury, but this plan takes our efforts a step further, implementing the reduction strategy.

The Mercury Risk Reduction Plan details the many ways mercury can get into the environment, how it can contaminate our fish, and its effects on humans. For example, we know mercury was used in old thermometers and thermostats, but did you know there are other sources of mercury such as car switches, pipeline gauges and even rainfall?

Preventing mercury exposure is critical to protect public health. Pregnant women, the unborn and young children are most sensitive to the effects of mercury. Exposure to mercury during these stages of human development can harm a child’s learning abilities and behavior. Adults exposed to mercury can suffer damage to their neurological and cardiovascular systems.

Through its aggressive mercury-sampling program, DEQ has sampled more than 400 water bodies in Louisiana and issued 41 advisories since 1992. The Mercury Risk Reduction Plan is an effort to bring all mercury-related projects throughout the DEQ into one text. The plan was put together with the cooperation of other state agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, industry representatives and non-governmental environmental organizations.

The Mercury Risk Reduction Plan is part of my administration’s ongoing efforts to protect our state’s environment. Over the past four years we have launched aggressive initiatives to improve water, air, and soil quality; to protect and restore our coasts; and to provide a safe and sustainable environment to live, work and play.

Editor’s Note: Copies of the Mercury Risk Reduction Plan are available at the DEQ Web site at