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Socio-economic costs of continuing the status-quo of mercury pollution

image of Socio-economic costs of continuing the status-quo of mercury pollution

Mercury is considered a global pollutant and it has been concluded that a significant portion of humans and wildlife throughout the world are exposed to methyl mercury at levels of concern. The Governing Council of UNEP has concluded that long-term international action is required. Most of the measures needed to reduce emissions will lead to costs to society. However, mercury pollution also results in costs to society including for example damage costs from negative impacts on human health and the environment, loss of income from reduced commercial fisheries, administrative costs for scientific research and development, control and risk communication. The aim of this report is to present an estimate of the socio-economic costs of continued mercury contamination of the environment as an input to the global considerations on what international long-term action should be taken. The study contains an analysis of the damage costs of continuing mercury pollution without any further measures until 2020. The analysis has mainly focussed on IQ losses due to the exposure to methyl mercury via ingestion of contaminated fish. Other human health, social and environmental damages are also discussed as are costs of controlling mercury emissions. Furthermore, societal benefits of reducing mercury emissions are presented for two emission reduction scenarios.

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Evaluation of regions that will face the highest impacts of continued mercury pollution

Due to its capacity for global transport, mercury contamination can occur in all regions of the world. Large impacts are expected in highly contaminated areas in the vicinity of sources as is the case for many environmental contaminants. These are of great importance when assessing the overall impacts of mercury contamination and the benefits of reducing emissions, but these assessments can only be made with information about local conditions and extent of contamination. For remote areas, a wealth of scientific literature is available describing mercury inputs and cycling as well as exposure and impacts in e.g. the Nordic Countries, North America and the Arctic. In the 2002 UNEP Global Mercury Assessment (UNEP, 2002), information on environmental levels and human exposure to mercury via fish consumption and other pathways was compiled. For many regions, information is very scarce and a global assessment of the actual impacts is difficult to make based on available measurement data. Nevertheless, it was concluded that a significant portion of humans and wildlife throughout the world are exposed to methyl mercury at levels of concern, primarily due to consumption of contaminated fish.

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