MADISON, Wis. (8 March 2007)—Mercury use and emissions pose a serious threat to the health of people, fish and wildlife around the world, according to a declaration by the world’s leading mercury scientists published today in a special issue of the international science journal Ambio.
“The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution” stems from
four expert panels assembled at the Eighth International Conference on Mercury
as a Global Pollutant held last August in
The major findings include:
Sources of Atmospheric Mercury
> On average, three times more mercury now falls from the sky than before the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.
> The mercury deposited in areas downwind of major industrial sources of oxidized mercury tends to be predominately mercury from a human source rather than natural sources.
> Increasing mercury emissions from developing countries have offset declining emissions from developed nations during the last 30 years.
Risks to Humans, Fish and Wildlife
> Methylmercury exposure at present levels constitutes a public health problem in many parts of the world.
> There is now solid scientific evidence of methylmercury’s toxic health effects, particularly to the human fetus.
> New evidence indicates that methylmercury exposure may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in adult men.
> The health risks posed by mercury contamination of fish warrant issuing a worldwide warning to the public—especially children and women of childbearing age—to be careful about how much and which fish they eat.
> Increasing mercury concentrations are now being found in a number of fish-eating wildlife species in remote areas.
> Continued methylmercury exposure may lead to population declines in fish-eating birds and mammals and possibly in fish as well.
> Little is known about the behavior of mercury in marine ecosystems and methylmercury contamination of marine fishes, the ingestion of which is the primary way most people at all levels of society worldwide are exposed to this highly toxic form of mercury.
> The actual socioeconomic costs of mercury pollution are probably much greater than estimated because existing economic analyses don’t consider mercury’s impacts on ecosystems and wildlife.
> The unregulated use of mercury in small-scale gold mining is polluting thousands of sites around the world, posing long‑term health risks to an estimated 50 million inhabitants of mining regions and contributing more than 10 percent of the mercury in Earth’s atmosphere attributable to human activities.
Recovery of Mercury-Contaminated Fisheries
> The concentration of methylmercury in fish in freshwater and coastal ecosystems can be expected to decline with reduced mercury inputs; however, the rate of decline is expected to vary among water bodies, depending on the characteristics of a particular ecosystem.
“One of the purposes of this scientific declaration is to provide
a synthesis of scientific knowledge about the scope and nature of the mercury
problem to guide the development of effective mercury pollution
policies,” said conference technical chair Dr.
Published by the
Wiener said the Madison Declaration summarizes a year-long effort by many of the world’s leading mercury experts, assembled into four conference panels, to review and synthesize mercury science findings. All members of the scientific panels endorsed the declaration, he said. Wiener added that all 1,150 participants at the conference were invited to express their confidence of the experts’ findings, and the vast majority of those who did so agreed with the experts’ conclusions.
“This declaration summarizes what scientists around the world have learned about a series of key questions that are directly relevant to the discussion and crafting of policies to reduce the environmental mercury problem,” Wiener said.
Besides Wiener, conference organizers included
NOTES: (1) The appended portable document files (PDF) contain a
formatted version of this news advisory and the text of the entire declaration
with nontechnical summaries of the principal findings. (2) The journal Ambio can be viewed online at http://ambio.allenpress.com/ambioonline/?request=index-html.
Ambio subscribers can view the
entire issue; others may view only the abstracts. (3) Additional information
For more information, please contact the lead authors of the five synthesis papers:
Steven Lindberg, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (emeritus), (530) 927-7627, TUlindberg@now2000.comUTH
Human Health Effects
Edward B. Swain, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, (651) 296-7800, HTUedward.email@example.comUT
Wildlife Health Effects
Anton Scheuhammer, Environment Canada, (613) 998-6695, firstname.lastname@example.org
Recovery of Fisheries
John Munthe, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, +46-31-7256200, email@example.com
or Conference Co-Chair:
Description: News Advisory_MERCURY_THREAT.pdf
Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution with Nontechnical Summary.pdf
Description: Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution with Nontechnical Summary.pdf