MONTPELIER — The Vermont House gave final approval Friday to a bill regulating mercury use and disposal in the state.
The bill regulates the sale of products with mercury in them, updates labeling requirements and regulates how such products should be disposed of.
One reason mercury is so dangerous, advocates said, is that it persists in the environment and can become concentrated in the flesh of fish and animals. It is particularly dangerous to fetuses and young children.
Removing mercury from dental amalgam will cost dentists an average of $37 a month, said Michael Bender, a member of the Vermont Advisory Committee on Mercury Pollution.
“It’s a small price to pay for a clean environment,” he said.
Catherine Bowes, Northeast program manager of the National Wildlife Federation, said the bill is a long-awaited acknowledgement that mercury should not be dumped down the drain.
The state’s dental society supported much of the bill.
The last sticking point in the legislation, which has already been approved by the Senate, was over language regulating mercury in filling material used by dentists.
That issue was worked out in a one-sentence amendment that requires at least 95 percent of the mercury to be removed from dental amalgam before it is thrown away.
That language now makes it clear that the way dental offices deal with mercury is regulated, but they will not be required to get permits from the state, said Jeffrey Wennberg, Vermont’s environmental commissioner.
The bill requires new regulations and amalgam separators to be in place by 2007.
“It will be relatively quick because we have most of the issues identified if not fully worked out,” Wennberg said.
Now legislators will decide if a conference committee will be held on the bill or of it will go to Gov. James Douglas.
“It’s an excellent bill,” Wennberg said. “The Senate did an excellent job on the original draft and the House has only improved it.”
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