U.S. EPA, California EPA Partner To Reduce Mercury

The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) is diverting millions of mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs from landfills under the National Partnership for Environmental Priorities (NPEP) program.

The initiative, announced Nov. 26, is a joint effort between the agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Cal/EPA, the first state agency to join NPEP, will help lead the nation in efforts to remove mercury from the environment. The state aims to divert approximately 4.5 million compact fluorescent light bulbs from landfills in just one year. The popular energy-saving bulbs each contain a small amount of mercury.

"Reducing the impact of mercury on human health and the ecosystem is a priority for the EPA," said Wayne Nastri, administrator for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region.

NPEP, a voluntary federal program, aims to reduce the use or release of 4 million pounds of toxic chemicals in the U.S. by 2011. Because mercury is so persistent in the environment, and so toxic at such minute quantities, EPA launched the NPEP Mercury Challenge in 2004 to focus on the elimination of mercury.

"We already are working hard to reduce mercury through our Take-It-Back program, and by combining those efforts with NPEP, we hope to achieve even greater reductions," said Linda Adams, California's secretary for environmental protection.

Cal/EPA has committed to reducing mercury through its own California Take-It-Back Partnership, a collaboration of government, private business, and nonprofit organizations that provides free, local and convenient ways for California residents to recycle everyday household wastes such as batteries, fluorescent lamps and cell phones.

Since the beginning of 2007, about 9 million fluorescent bulbs have been purchased in California, preventing the release of 1.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. While these bulbs are extremely energy-efficient, each contains trace amounts of mercury. The partnership helps keep mercury, a neurotoxin that can cause kidney and brain damage, out of the environment.

For more information on the NPEP program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/minimize/npep/.

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