U.S. companies would no longer be able to export mercury, a toxic metal that impairs the development of children, under a new law passed by Congress.
President Bush is expected to sign the bill, which was co-authored by Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for president, according to the Chicago Tribune, which deserves some credit for inspiring the bill, after publishing accounts of mercury contamination in fish.
The bill plugs a hole in regulations designed to limit pollution that contaminates fish. Many women have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood, primarily from eating fish like tuna and other predators, and the mercury can damage developing fetuses, or infants who are breast-feeding.
Mercury pollution begins most often with mining, burning coal or making cement. It is also used in medical devices, electronics and other manufactured goods.
The concern with exports is that the toxic metal ends up in countries with weak regulations, and because the metal is dispersed widely after being released into the atmosphere by smokestacks, even distant pollution sources can rain down mercury close to home. Ocean pollution can affect populations anywhere, given that fish caught in one part of the world is often sold in another.
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