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Mercury pollution threatens health worldwide, scientists say

Madison -- Mercury pollution can threaten the health of people, fish, and wildlife everywhere, from industrial sites to remote corners of the planet, but reducing mercury use and emissions would lessen those threats, according to a declaration ratified today at an international conference on mercury pollution.

The "conference declaration" was released on the final day of the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant. 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 evidence of mercury's health risks is strong enough that people, especially children and women of childbearing age, should be careful about how much and which fish they eat.

"The declaration essentially says that mercury pollution is a problem of global magnitude," says James Hurley, assistant director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Aquatic Sciences Center and a co-chair of the conference.

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.

Krabbenhoft says the conference declaration summarizes a yearlong effort of 37 top scientists to review the last decade of mercury science. All 37 scientists endorsed the declaration in full, Krabbenhoft says. He added that all participants at the conference were invited express their opinion of the findings, and a large majority of those who did so agreed with the conclusions.

"The declaration summarizes what we know about mercury in the environment, from a wide array of expertise," Krabbenhoft says.

Grouped into four major topics, other points of the declaration included:

  • Sources of atmospheric mercury deposit
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Contact: James Hurley
hurley@aqua.wisc.edu
608-262-0905
University of Wisconsin-Madison
11-Aug-2006


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