Burning of coal releases tons of mercury to air in South-Africa

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The need for energy in South-Africa is huge but traditional methods of burning coal release tons of mercury in air. - That make South Africa to one of the world's worst offenders for pollution by the toxic heavy metal, says Jozef Pacyna, senior scientist at NILU and advisor to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa. As a source for atmospheric mercury, South Africa ranks seventh in the world.

- It is urgent to reduce mercury pollution because emissions produced by human activities are quite high globally, Pacyna told South African newspaper The Times. - At this rate, by 2020 they will be at least 25 percent higher than in 2005.

South Africa is estimated to produce 40t of gaseous mercury annually — most of it from burning coal — compared with the global total of 1535t. Mercury occurs naturally in coal and is released into the air when the coal burns. Once the mercury lands on earth or in water, some of it is converted into a highly toxic form, methylmercury, which easily is taken up in the food chain, and can affect brain development in children.

Burning of coal releases tons of mercury to air in South-Africa
Jozef Pacyna is assigned by UNEP – United nat. Environmental program to prepare three documents on the basis of research as a basis for global agreement on emission reductions of mercury to the environment in the near future. The documents are available here: Global Atmospheric Mercury Assessment: Sources, Emissions and Transport

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