Legal Lookout: Mercury Rising

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Courtesy of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

Mercury is a potent toxin that accumulates in the food chain. Emissions come from both natural and human-generated sources. The mercury content in coal, which is released when the fossil fuel is burned, contributes the single largest percentage source of humangenerated mercury emissions in the United States. According to EPA, total global emissions from all sources, both human-generated and naturally-occurring, range from 4,400 to 7,500 tons per year. Human-generated U.S. mercury emissions are estimated to account for approximately 3 percent of the global total. Domestic coal-fired power plants are estimated to account for approximately 1 percent.

Americans are principally exposed to methylmercury by eating contaminated fish. According to EPA, a developing fetus is the most sensitive to the effects of methylmercury, making women of childbearing age the subpopulation of greatest concern to EPA for regulatory purposes.

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