Global Mercury Study Shows Twice the Pollution From Burning Products

February 4, 2009

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new international study released today around the world shows that the burning of mercury-added products globally contributes upwards of 200 tons of mercury to the atmosphere every year — 10 percent of the mercury that enters the earth’s atmosphere. According to the study, which was released by several international non-governmental organizations, mercury emissions from product discards have been seriously underestimated.

“Air releases of mercury from products are much more significant than previously suspected,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project and co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group, which released the report. “Based upon our review, this source emits twice as much mercury around the globe than previously thought.”

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that can make its way up the food chain into humans, and poses an increased exposure risk to developing fetuses and young children. The main burning processes investigated in the report were medical waste incineration, municipal and hazardous waste incineration, municipal wastewater sludge incineration, and landfill fires and open burning.

Similar studies have estimated mercury releases to air from the combustion of products containing mercury. However, these studies did not look carefully at the substantial emissions contributed by landfill fires and open burning of domestic waste.

“We urge countries to take immediate steps to stop incineration as a method of waste disposal, including mercury burning practices, and move expeditiously towards safe, just, sustainable and more environmentally sound alternatives,” said Richard Gutierrez, Executive Director of Ban Toxics!, and a member of the Zero Mercury Working Group.

Mercury is a persistent, bioaccumulative transboundary pollutant that contaminates our air, soil, water and fish. Because of this potential for global contamination, mercury pollution requires a coordinated international response.

The report recommends that, at upcoming mid-February meeting in Nairobi, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the purpose of negotiating a free-standing legally binding instrument on mercury.

In the interim period before such an instrument becomes effective, the report recommends that UNEP promote responsibility for the awareness-raising, analytical, technical and legal support activities necessary to encourage manufacturers of mercury-added products, and countries where such manufacturers are located, to identify and implement the actions.

For more information:

The Mercury Policy Project authored this report, see www.mercurypolicy.org

Groups co-releasing the report include the following:

The Zero Mercury Working group is an international coalition of more than 75 public interest non-governmental organizations from around the world, see www.zeromercury.org

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives / Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) is a worldwide alliance of more than 600 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 80 countries, see: www.no-burn.org

Ban Toxics! is an independent non-profit Asian regional environmental non-governmental organization, see www.bantoxics.multiply.com

SOURCE Mercury Policy Project

Source: newswire

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