Friday, September 01, 2006

Report Says EPA Right In Approach To Religious Use of Mercury

The Inspector General's office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a report yesterday (full text) concluding that the EPA is acting properly in addressing the risks of using the toxic metal mercury in religious rituals. Certain Latino and Afro-Caribbean religions, such as Santeria, Palo, Voodoo, and Espiritismo use mercury ritualistically, wearing it in amulets, sprinkling it on the floor in it s liquid form or adding it to a candle or oil lamp. While this can pose serious health hazards to those using it and to others living in the same building, the EPA has chosen to deal with the issue through a public education campaign instead of by regulation. The report concludes that this was proper, since regulation could drive the religious practices underground and might also pose First Amendment issues. It also concluded that the problem is not widespread and that United Nations action to reduce the use of mercury may help the problem. Reuters yesterday reported on the Inspector General's conclusions.