Statement by Senator Bob Graham
Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee
Hearing on Regional Haze and Mercury
October 1, 1998

Mr. Chairman, Senator Leahy, members of the Committee. I am pleased today to have the opportunity to learn more about the scientific issues surrounding the establishment of a suggested reference dose for human exposure to mercury.

I would like to take a moment to explain my interest in this issue to the Committee, and express my hope that during the 106th Congress this Committee will further review of the "state of the science" on mercury pollution and conduct an in-depth analysis on appropriate policy actions.

In the state of Florida, there are no fish consumption or limited fish consumption advisories throughout much of the state. The South Florida region in particular is threatened by mercury deposition. For example, in the Florida Everglades, which is widely recognized as a "national treasure" being the only ecosystem of its kind in the United States, mercury levels in sediment has increased about 5 times over the last 100 years.

It is unclear exactly what the cause of these high levels are. Over the same 100 year period, mercury in global air has increased only 2-3 times. Contributing factors to the high mercury levels in the Everglades are the peat sediments and algae mats that blanket this area and provide an ideal environment for transformation of soluble mercury into methylmercury. The shallow, slow moving water in this portion of the state provides minimal dilution for mercury levels.

Research is continuing on the effects of these high levels. The state of Florida has "no consumption" or "limited consumption" advisories in many areas, including the Everglades, Big Cypress and Florida Bay. There is evidence demonstrating that endangered species such as the Florida panther are being effected--in moderately and highly exposed panther populations research shows reduced litter size.

As you can see, there is great interest in my state in mercury pollution. I am pleased that this Committee is beginning to look at the science related to the human health effects of mercury. I look forward to future work on the efforts we begin here today. Thank you,. Mr. Chairman.