Workshop on Mercury - Needs for Further International Environmental Agreements

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This report is the outcome of a workshop arranged to support the development of the EU strategy on mercury (based on the Council decision in December 2002), and to support international conventions aimed at reducing emissions, environmental contamination and human exposure to mercury. Specific objectives of the workshop were,

a) To summarise the state-of-the-art on sources, emissions-distribution-deposition-exposure, options and technologies to reduce uses and releases, the waste problem and waste management options, and health/environmental impacts of mercury.

b) To identify and discuss priority problem areas.

c) To derive recommendations for an effective European mercury abatement strategy especially:

- How to deal with the surplus mercury from the chloralkali industry?

- How to deal with mercury in products and waste?

- How to deal with mercury from coal-fired power plants and other atmospheric point sources?

d) To review national, regional and international programs e.g. the UNEP mercury programme and the revision of the CLRTAP Protocol on Heavy Metals.

The report consists of an executive summary, reports from group discussions and background papers prepared by participants. About 100 participants representing research, policy, industry and NGOs were present at the workshop.



Workshop aim and expected outcome

Mercury is present in various environmental media and food (especially fish) all over the globe at levels that adversely affect humans and wildlife. Widespread exposure is occurring due to human-generated sources and past practices have left a legacy of mercury in landfills, contaminated sites, soils and sediments. Even regions such as the Arctic are adversely affected via atmospheric transport and deposition. A fraction of the environmental mercury burden is present as methylmercury, which is the most toxic form of mercury and also has the capacity to bioaccumulate, especially in the aquatic food chain. Consumption of fish and seafood contaminated with methylmercury is the critical exposure pathway for most population groups. Some population groups are especially susceptible to methylmercury exposure, most notably the unborn foetus and young children. For this reason, consumption guidelines and/or restrictions for fish consumption by pregnant women and women of childbearing age have been issued in a number of countries.


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