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E-M:/ EPA Mercury Release

Enviro-Mich message from asagady@sojourn.com

Because of the importances of the mercury contamination 
issue in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region, I am forwarding this EPA news 
release concerning the report to Congress on this 


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     EPA today released a Congressionally-required eight-volume 
technical report evaluating air emissions of mercury,  and the human 
health and environmental impacts of these emissions.
     The report is a multi-year effort that represents a full 
scientific assessment of  the health and environmental effects of 
mercury.  The report makes no regulatory or policy recommendations.

     The new report affirms the guidance on safe levels of mercury 
which EPA has had in place since 1995.

     The publication, "Mercury Study Report to Congress," was required 
by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.  It estimates that all U.S. 
industrial sources combined emitted about 159 tons of mercury into the 
air in 1995.  Major sources of mercury air emissions are electric 
utilities, municipal waste combustors, commercial and industrial 
boilers, medical waste incinerators, and chlor-alkali plants.

     "This report has been subjected to extensive peer review by 
independent scientists and health experts," said  EPA Administrator 
Carol M. Browner.  "It reflects the current science  about mercury in 
our environment today. EPA has  already has taken  a series of  
actions to reduce emissions of mercury into the environment 50 percent 
by 2006.  This report will help us  assess the need for additional 
actions to ensure that public health and the environment are 

     Mercury is a heavy metal that, with high exposure, can cause 
developmental neurotoxicity in humans, especially developing fetuses.  
High exposure can result in delay of walking and talking in children, 
as well as lower scores on nervous system function tests.  It is of 
particular concern because it persists in the environment.  Mercury 
emissions to the atmosphere can end up in waterways as a result of 
rainfall and runoff.  Mercury then can enter the "food web" and build 
up as methyl mercury in the tissues of predatory fish that feed on 
contaminated smaller fish.

     The greatest exposure of humans to mercury is for those 
subsistence fishers and others  who regularly eat large amounts of 
non-commercial fish from mercury-polluted waters.  Women of child-
bearing age in this group should pay careful attention to the state 
advisories that warn people against eating fish caught in mercury-
polluted waters.  Thirty nine states issued mercury fish advisories 
for non-commercial fishing in 1997. 

     The levels of mercury encountered in commercial fish are 
generally low.  Therefore the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 
and EPA advise consumers that it is safe to eat fish and other seafood 
from grocery stores and restaurants.  (Specific questions on the 
safety of commercial seafood should be directed to the FDA Washington 
Press Office at 202-205-4144).
     EPA has already taken steps to reduce mercury emissions from 
three significant industry sources  nationwide.  In October 1995, the 
Agency issued final regulations cutting  mercury emissions by 90 
percent from  municipal waste combustors; in April 1996, EPA proposed 
a rule --- scheduled to go final in late 1998 --  that will 
significantly reduce mercury emissions from hazardous waste combustion 
facilities; and in August 1997, the Agency announced a final 
rulemaking which will reduce  mercury emissions 94 percent from 
medical waste incinerators.
These rules will significantly reduce mercury emissions when fully 
implemented by the states.

     Administrator Browner and top agency managers are now assessing 
any need for enhanced research on health effects;  research on new 
pollution control technologies; community right-to-know approaches; 
and additional regulatory actions.  EPA will fully consult with the 
public as part of its assessment.

     The study released today was reviewed and approved by consensus 
by EPA's Science Advisory Board.  Other scientific experts outside EPA 
also provided peer-review, and their comments were incorporated into 
the report.  The publication  also contains substantial input from 
other major stakeholders, including industry groups, the general 
public, and state, local and federal government agencies, including 
the  Fish and Wildlife Service, the  Department of Energy, the 
Department Of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the 
Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Environmental 
Health Sciences, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 
and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

     The executive summary of the report will be computer-accessible 
on the Internet at the following address 

     Copies of the entire mercury study will be available from the 
National Technical Information Service (NTIS) in several weeks.  No 
report number is available yet.  Check the above internet address for 
further information.

     For specific state fish and wildlife advisory information for 
local waters, the general public can call state government agencies, 
which in most cases are listed as state health departments.  To get 
the phone numbers of these departments, people should call "411" or 
look in the Blue Pages of their phone book.  The advisories are also 
available -- in most cases -- in state fishing regulation booklets, 
which anglers receive when they purchase fishing licenses.  In 
addition, the database is available for downloading from the Internet 
at: http://www.epa.gov/OST/fishadvice.
     For further technical information on the study, contact Martha 
Keating of EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at 919-

R-175          	                   #   #   #

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        Email:  asagady@sojourn.com
Environmental Consulting and Database Systems
PO Box 39  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039  
(517) 332-6971 (voice); (517) 332-8987 (fax)

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