Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA)

Mercury Reductions from U.S. Plants Alone Yield Little Public Benefit, New Study Says

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Pittsburgh, PA (March 31, 2005) – A reduction in mercury emissions that is limited to U.S. coal-fired plants is unlikely to yield significant public health benefits for Americans, and alternative policies could be more beneficial, according to a study to be published tomorrow by the Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA).

The study, which appears in the April issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, compares the various epidemiological studies of child health and mercury, a known neurotoxicant that is widespread in seafood. Rather than investing in costly unilateral reductions in U.S. mercury emissions, the researchers suggest a diverse range of policy alternatives. Among their recommendations:

  • Eliminate seafood with the highest concentrations of mercury through enhanced inspections at tuna canning factories.
  • Increase expenditures on public health programs to improve infant health, such as prenatal care or programs to reduce maternal smoking and alcohol abuse.
  • Provide technical assistance to developing countries where coal use is expected to dramatically increase.

“Early benefit studies focused on mercury concentrations in freshwater fish,” says Fred Lipfert, a private consultant and lead author on the study. “Yet, freshwater fish represent only a small fraction of seafood consumption, and these fish often contain other contaminants, such as PCBs and lead, that would be unaffected by mercury controls. A more responsible environmental policy would propose emission control programs that yield effective health benefits.”

The Journal is one of the oldest, continuously published environmental journals in the world, providing peer-reviewed technical research for more than 50 years. The Journal provides those occupationally involved in air pollution control and waste management with timely and reliable information for use in improving environmental protection.

Media Note: A PDF copy of this study can be obtained by contacting Ed Costello at (412) 232-3444, ext. 3140 or ecostello@awma.org .

The Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional organization that provides training, information, and networking opportunities to thousands of environmental professionals in 65 countries. For more information, visit www.awma.org.

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