Mercury pollution threatens health worldwide, scientists say
The Eighth International Conference on "Mercury as a Global Pollutant", held last week at Monona Terrace, concluded Friday, Aug. 11 with the ratification of a Conference Declaration.
Endorsed by all 37 scientists who crafted the declaration, the document states that mercury pollution is a global threat to humans, fish and wildlife.
The scientists also declared that a significant portion of the mercury deposited near industrial sources comes from those sources rather than from natural sources and that the problem therefore could be reduced by decreasing mercury use and emissions.
The declaration further suggests that people -- and, in particular, women of childbearing age and children -- should exercise caution regarding the amount and types of fish they consume.
David Krabbenhoft, a research scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey and also a co-chair of the conference, adds that the document declares that the social and economic costs of mercury are probably higher than currently estimated, because they don't take into account mercury's impact on wildlife.
Among the declaration's other key points:
Atmospheric mercury deposition has tripled in the last 200 years.
For the last 30 years, emissions from developing countries have increased, offsetting decreased emissions from developed nations.
Climate change, increased ozone levels and other factors may
be complicating the global mercury cycle and influencing the element's
Methylmercury's toxic effects are supported by strong scientific evidence.
New evidence suggests a link between methylmercury exposure and cardiovascular disease in adult men.
At local and regional levels, reducing point-source mercury emissions can decrease mercury levels in affected fish and wildlife.
In remote habitats, increased mercury concentrations are being found in some wildlife species that consume fish.
Methylmercury exposure may cause population declines in birds, fish and mammals.
Over a period ranging from years to centuries, reduced mercury inputs can result in lower methylmercury concentrations in fish.
Mercury use and pollution has adverse social and economic consequences.
Most people are exposed to methylmercury by dietary
consumption of marine fish, and methylmercury levels in marine fishes
Mercury use in small-scale gold mining accounts for more than
10% of the atmosphere's mercury load, presents long-term health risks
for almost 50 million residents of mining regions, and pollutes
thousands of sites around the globe.