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The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday banned the use of mercury in interior paints because of possible poisoning from inhalation and other exposure.

"EPA and the registrants of mercury paint preservatives have agreed to ban the use of mercury in indoor paint effective Aug. 20, 1990," said Linda Fisher, assistant administrator for pesticides and toxic substances.

Mercury is regulated as a pesticide by the EPA. Mercury compounds are used as a preservative in about 30 percent of the water-based latex paint products currently on the market. Oil-based paints do not contain mercury.

Despite uncertainty about how long inhalation risks exist, the agency did not recommend paint removal or repainting areas covered some time ago but said "painted rooms should be thoroughly and frequently ventilated."

Although the ban does not extend to exterior paint, the agency will require new warning labels to inform consumers when paint contains mercury.

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