2001-S 531A
Enacted 07/13/2001

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Introduced By:   Senators Tassoni, Hunter, Fogarty, Caprio, Celona, Date Introduced:   February 13, 2001

It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:

SECTION 1. Title 23 of the General Laws entitled "Health and Safety" is hereby amended by adding thereto the following chapter:


23-72-1. Legislative findings. -- The general assembly finds and declares:

(1) Mercury from trash incinerators, coal fired power plants, municipal solid waste, hazardous waste sites, and other human made sources has been identified in virtually every body of water in New England, as well as the oceans.

(2) Nearly all fish contain at least trace amounts of methyl mercury, which is formed by the action of bacteria on elemental mercury.

(3) Many types of freshwater fish caught in Rhode Island and some saltwater fish sold in Rhode Island may be contaminated with mercury, a toxic element that causes neurological damage.

(4) According to the US food and drug administration, certain species of tuna, shark and swordfish can have mercury levels over 1.0 parts per million, the FDA limit for human consumption.

(5) The FDA advises pregnant women of childbearing age to limit their consumption of shark and swordfish to no more than once a month. Other persons are advised to limit their consumption of shark and swordfish to no more than seven (7) ounces per week.

(6) However, this health advisory information, which is necessary to protect public health, is not widely known nor widely disseminated by the state or federal government, potentially threatening many Rhode Island residents who may unknowingly ingest harmful amounts of mercury from fish.

23-72-2. Definitions. -- "Department" means the department of health.

23-72-3. Consumer mercury alert notice. -- (a) The department, in consultation with the department of environmental management, shall prepare a consumer's mercury alert notice that the department shall provide for free, to professional medical offices that provide gynecological, obstetrical or pediatric care and in the patient or client areas of all maternal and child health and nutrition programs, who shall post said notice in all patient areas.

(b) The department shall establish a toll free telephone number service for interested persons to call for further information about the health advisories concerning the consumption of mercury in freshwater and saltwater fish.

(c) The notice shall explain the danger to women who expect to become pregnant, women who are pregnant or breast feeding their children, and young children of eating mercury contaminated fish. The notice shall summarize most current mercury health advisories prepared by the state and the federal government concerning fish consumption, the toll free number, which may be called for further information, and shall contain such other information as the department deems appropriate. The notice shall be printed in large type in English, Spanish and other languages in which persons commonly doing business with such offices can understand. The department shall update the notice as necessary, and shall make additional copies of the notice available to health care providers upon request.

23-72-4. Mercury consumer's guide. -- (a) The Department of Health shall prepare a consumer's guide to mercury and other health advisories. The Department of Health shall make copies available to the department of environmental management, division of fish and wildlife, at no charge, for distribution to private and public entities designated to issue fishing licenses.

(b) The department shall update the consumer's guide as necessary, and shall make copies of the guide available to other members of the public upon request. The guide shall be printed in large type in English, Spanish and other languages used in the state. The guide shall also list the telephone number that consumers may call for further information about the health advisories.

(c) The department of environmental management shall require that a copy of the consumer's guide be distributed to all applicants for a fishing license at the time the license is issued. Said department shall include on each fishing license issued in Rhode Island one hundred eighty (180) days after the effective date of this act the telephone number established that residents may call for further information about the health advisories.

23-72-5. Penalties. -- Whoever violates these sections inclusive or any order, rule or regulation promulgated or adopted thereto shall be punished by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000). This section shall be enforced by the department and may be enforced by the board of health. The superior court shall have jurisdiction in equity to enforce such rules and regulations and may restrain by injunction any violation thereof.

23-72-6. Severability. -- If any clause, sentence, paragraph or part of this chapter or the application thereof to any person or circumstance shall, for any reason, be adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction to be valid, such judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder of this chapter or its application to other persons or circumstances.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.

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