PORTLAND (AP) – A new federal report that highlights the dangers of antiques that contain mercury is being met with skepticism and anger by some Maine antique dealers, who fear it could hurt business.

“This is way overblown,” said Neville Lewis, who sells barometers in Cushing and pushed for an exemption in Maine’s sweeping 2005 law that bans on sales of many products containing mercury. The exemption was quietly passed by the Legislature last month.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that vintage clocks, barometers, mirrors and lamps that crowd the shelves of antique shops pose a hidden danger if they have mercury, a toxic heavy metal.

Exposure to high levels of mercury can damage fetuses, nervous systems, kidneys, lungs and vascular systems.

In a research paper published last week, the CDC recommended that antique collectors steer clear of items that are sources of mercury that can leak.

“If the seller is uncertain, have the seller verify the item is mercury-free,” says the report, which has some Maine antique dealers rolling their eyes.

“The CDC is making a very destructive announcement about something that is not at all endangering,” said Pamela Jorgensen Higgins, whose family owns R. Jorgensen Antiques. The Wells shop has several mercury-containing barometers for sale.

Jorgensen said lead-contaminated toys coming out of China, such as the Thomas the Tank Engine toys that were recalled in the U.S. last week, are much more dangerous than antiques containing mercury.

Some antique shoppers aren’t bothered by the CDC advisory.

“I don’t lick the antiques,” Amanda Huotari of South Paris said as she browsed among items at Judy Pascal Antiques Interiors in Portland. “These things have been around for hundreds of years and handled by thousands of people,” with no ill effects, she said.


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