A recently completed survey conducted by Zogby shows that 81 percent of the public wants mercury-free treatment. More than half of adults surveyed nationwide (54%) are highly concerned about accidental mercury contamination of their hometown water supplies, and nearly two-thirds (65%) want Congress to act immediately to ensure that mercury-free water treatment technologies are included in implementation guidelines for new water treatment rules.
The Zogby survey findings come amid increasing public attention to the risks associated with the mercury. The National Academy of Sciences has found that consumption of mercury by pregnant women can cause serious neuro-developmental harm in the fetus, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration and 44 states have warned the public regarding consumption of mercury.
Despite those warnings, the new EPA rules will provide guidelines to U.S. water systems on application of technology that relies on mercury-based ultraviolet light (UV) lamps to disinfect drinking water supplies. The EPA currently is testing new mercury-free UV alternatives, and the surveys find that nearly eight-in-10 (79%) of Americans want the EPA to complete that testing and include the alternatives before implementing the new rules.
Findings of Zogby polls reveal that an overwhelming eight-in-10 (81%) Americans would prefer their drinking water treated with the mercury-free UV alternative being tested by EPA, while only 3 percent would choose the mercury-based technology currently included in the EPA guidelines. The surveys also find broad concern among Americans - 22 percent are moderately concerned and 36 percent are very concerned - that their local water system would follow the current EPA guidelines and install the mercury lamp treatment system before the EPA testing of mercury-free alternatives is completed.
These results are underscored by related findings that more Americans are concerned about the mercury risks of the treatments used than the objectives of the new EPA rules to reduce disinfection byproducts of chlorine and reduce pathogens like Cryptosporidium. A majority (54%) describes its concern as “high” regarding risk of accidental mercury contamination, compared to similar high concerns about the risks of Cryptosporidium (52%) and disinfection byproducts (44%).
Two-thirds (65%) of respondents want Congress to intervene with the EPA to ensure that testing of the new mercury-free UV alternatives is completed before implementing the new EPA rules. Support for such Congressional action cuts across party lines, with majorities of Republicans (53%), Democrats (77%) and independents (65%) all strongly supporting steps by Congress to change the EPA's actions. This support crosses a number of demographic groups, with residents of large and small cities, suburbs, exurbs and rural areas throughout all regions of the country with municipal water supplies all strongly supporting congressional action to halt the EPA plan until after testing of mercury-free alternatives is completed.