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May 15, 2003
The Honorable Susan M. Collins
172 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Collins:
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, we write to express our support for the legislation you recently introduced, the Mercury Reduction Act of 2003 (S. 616). We appreciate your efforts to protect the health of present and future generations from the harmful threats of mercury in our environment.
Children's futures are undermined with the release of harmful toxins like mercury in our environment. From conception, unborn children face a disproportionate threat to their neurological development due to the exposure of methyl mercury in their developing organs.
As Catholics, we are called to participate intimately in sustaining God's creation by caring for our children and their physical environment. As health care providers, we are concerned about the health and well-being of all who reside in our communities. We defend the right to life and the right of children to live with dignity and realize the bright promise and opportunity of childhood. We are particularly concerned about the poor, the powerless, and children who most often directly bear the burden and suffer disproportionately from the harmful environmental effects of toxins.
To address this type of problem, the Catholic community has formed a coalition of major Catholic institutions and networks, the Catholic Coalition for Children and a Safe Environment (CASE). Based on our extensive experience in providing health care and social services to many children and families, particularly among the poor, we are concerned that the word about the harmful effects of toxins like mercury is still not reaching them. The purpose of the coalition is to address in particular the environmental hazards affecting children's health.
However, despite these and the efforts of others, there is still a need for a federal initiative that provides incentives for the reduction and safe disposal of mercury in our homes, hospitals and schools. In addition to mercury thermometers, there are other common household products that contain mercury, like manual heating thermostats and fluorescent lights, including the small, twisted energy-saving bulbs. Although limited to thermometers, we hope this legislation will help build awareness of the adverse effects of mercury in our environment.
We thank you for your leadership in seeking to improve the environment and the health of our children. We appreciate the opportunity to express our support for the Mercury Reduction Act of 2003.
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Rev. Michael D. Place, STD
President and Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Health Association
cc: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
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