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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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Methodology for Global intake of MeHg and damage costs assessment by Spadaro and Rabl (2008) used and presented in the EU DROPS project (Scasny et al., 2008)

The best understood health impacts of mercury are neurotoxic. The most important studies on neurotoxic impacts have followed cohorts of children among three populations (in New Zealand, the Seychelles, and the Faroe Islands) whose diet contains a particularly large portion of seafood; here significant associations between exposure and neurotoxic impacts have been observed. For instance, based on these findings, Trasande et al. (2005) consider several possible forms of the DRF with and without threshold effect in estimating the social cost of the IQ decrement in the USA. These DRFs are then revised in Trasande et al 2006. Revised function of DRFs for Hg by Axelrad et al. (2007) is based on an integrative analysis of the New Zealand, the Seychelles, and the Faroe Islands studies and Trasende et al. estimates. This function is also used in Spadaro and Rabl (2008) study.

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