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The establishment of EVISA is funded by the EU through the Fifth Framework Programme (G7RT- CT- 2002- 05112).

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Dissension on the best way to fight mercury pollution


The background:
Mercury is a global pollutant and reaches even areas remote from any direct emission sources such as pristine nature and even the artic and antarctic. Mercury is unlike many other air pollutants; as a neurotoxin it is more dangerous and more pervasive. Researchers have linked it to learning difficulties and abnormal fetal development in the past. And it is pervasive: scientists have estimated that 8% of American women have mercury levels above those considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The main sources of mercury in the environment include coal-fire power stations and chlorine-production plants, as well as gold and silver mines. Coal-burning power plants are responsible for 40 percent of domestic mercury emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports. Power plants spew mercury in two forms (species): elemental mercury and mercury oxides. Elemental mercury can carry for many hundreds of miles. Mercury oxides drop to the ground more closer to the emitting plant. When they enter the food chain, both become in part methyl mercury, accumulating in fish and other wildlife.
The most common way people get mercury poisoning is by eating too much poisoned fish. Infants are especially susceptible, methylmercury damaging their central nervous system, leading at least to reduced interlectual capacity, which is why warnings are more dire for pregnant women.

EPA mercury rule:
Last month (March 21, 2005) EPA announced the Clean Air Mercury Rule, which is announced to significantly reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants across the US. According to the EPA, the new rules would cut mercury emissions from the nations 600 coal-burning power plants by nearly half within 15 years, from 48 tons of mercury pollution a year down to 24.3 tons in 2020. Taken together, the recently issued Clean Air Interstate Rule and the new Clean Air Mercury Rule are claimed to reduce electric utility mercury emissions by nearly 70 percent from 1999 levels when fully implemented.

However, the new rules anticipate several years of gradual reductions in mercury pollution that would be a ''co--benefit" of mandates to limit other emissions, such as sulfur dioxide. By 2018, a cap on all mercury emissions would be in place, but power plants with high levels of mercury could continue spewing it by buying emission credits from other plants that exceed reduction targets. This would create mercury hot spots around plants with high emission levels.
The debate:
Environmentalists argue that technology exists now to prevent 90 percent of mercury emissions. If that's the case, why would the EPA create a system for control of mercury emissions that, according to its own Web site, would result in a reduction of only 70 percent when fully implemented, sometime after 2018?

In 2000, Bill Clinton's EPA ordered utilities to curb mercury by using the ''maximum achievable control technology." This is called for by the Clean Air Act in the case of hazardous pollutants such as arsenic or lead. Industry, however, has talked Bush's EPA into rescinding the 2000 order. Strict enforcement of ''maximum achievable control technology" would result in reductions three times greater than the EPA rule's cap. The EPA justifies its failure to crack down harder by arguing that much mercury comes from foreign sources. However, it was the Bush administration which opposed an agreement on global mercury restrictions pushed forward by representatives from European countriest, who promoted the idea of a treaty to ban the export of mercury completely.
During the UN Environment Programme's Governing Council Meeting, which was held from 21 to 25 February in Nairobi, the United States championed the development of voluntary partnerships to help countries improve their mercury management. The lack of a legally binding pact to regulate this harmful heavy metal has led environment groups to label the UNEP meeting a "missed chance". One expects such complaints from environmentalists, but the environmentalists are hardly alone in this case.
Nine US state attorneys sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week for adopting a rule that potentially exposes the public to more harmful mercury emissions. Their case will be strengthened by a report in The Washington Post last month that the EPA, in its regulation-making process, ignored a Harvard study it paid for that showed a much greater health benefit to mercury reductions than the EPA has acknowledged. The Harvard study that was stripped from public documents by EPA officials estimated health benefits from mercury reductions at 100 times the level used by the EPA. Its disclosure was just the latest evidence that the agency cooked the books to arrive at its weak rule. In the past two months, both the EPA's own inspector general and the Government Accountability Office have faulted the agency's use of scientific evidence in making the mercury rule.
    Michael Sperling
Scientific publications:
 Leonardo Trasande, Philip J. Landrigan, Clyde Schechter, Public Health and Economic Consequences of Methylmercury Toxicity to the Developing Brain, Environ. Health. Perspect., 113/5 (2005) 590-596. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.7743
Related information:
US EPA: Clean Air Interstate Rule
US EPA: Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Final Clean Air Mercury Rule
US EPA: Mercury Study Report to Congress - Vol. II - An Inventory of Anthropogenic Mercury Emissions in the United States
US EPA: Mercury Study Report to Congress - Vol. III - Fate and Transport of Mercury in the Environment
US EPA - Mercury Study Report to Congress - Vol. IV - An Assessment of Exposure to Mercury in the United States
US EPA: Mercury Study Report to Congress - Vol. V - Health Effects of Mercury and Mercury Compounds
US EPA: Mercury Study Report to Congress - Vol. VI - An Ecological Assessment for Anthropogenic Mercury Emissions in the United States
 US EPA: Mercury Study Report to Congress . Vol. VII - Characterization of Human Health and Wildlife Risks from Mercury Exposure in the United States
US EPA: Mercury Study Report to Congress - Vol. VIII - An Evaluation of Mercury Control Technology and Costs
UNEP: Action on Heavy Metals Among Key Decisions at United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Council Meeting
North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation: North American Power Plant Emissions in 2005
American Council on Science and Health, September 9, 2005: Regulating Mercury Emissions from Power Plants: Will It Protect Our Health?
EWG Report, November 1999: An Analysis of Mercury Pollution from Coal-Burning Power Plants
National Wildlife Foundation (NWF). September 1999. (Ann Arbor,MI:NWF): Clean the Rain, Clean the Lakes: Mercury in Rain is Polluting the Great Lakes
Edison Electric Institute (EEI): Mercury

Related News:
 NRDC, March 24, 2005: New EPA 'Do-Nothing' Mercury Pollution Rules Dangerous To Public Health
EVISA News, April 27, 2004: FDA/EPA recommends pregnant women to restrict their fish consumption because of methylmercury content
ES&T Science News, January 5, 2005: Asia pumps out more mercury than previously thought
North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, January 11, 2005: First look at air pollution from over 1,000 fossil-fuel power plants in North America
The Seattle Times, February 24, 2005: World environmental officials weigh proposals to cut mercury emissions
BBC News, February 25, 2005: Pact to curb mercury is rejected
Voice of America, February 25, 2005: UN Environment Program Seeks Reduction of Harmful Mercury Emissions
nature news, February 28, 2005: Countries reject global mercury treaty
Environment News Service, March 1, 2005: Mercury Damages IQ of U.S. Children, Billions in Earnings Lost
CBS News: Study: IQ Loss from Nercury Costly
The Washington Post, March 8, 2005: EPA Distorted Mercury Analysis, GAO Says
The Seattle Times, March 8, 2005: GAO: EPA slanted mercury analysis to favor Bush plan
US EPA News, March 10, 2005: EPA Announces Landmark Clean Air Interstate Rule
Fox News, March 14, 2005: Mercury Rises Over EPA Pollution Rules
NewKerala, March 14, 2005: U.S. to regulate mercury emissions
US EPA News, March 15, 2005: EPA Announces First-Ever Rule to Reduce Mercury Emissions from Power Plants
Denver Post, March 16, 2005: EPA's mercury rule attacked
Disinfo, March 16, 2005: New EPA Mercury Rule Omits Conflicting Data
GNN, March 18, 2005: Official: Mercury rule hurts state policy
EV World, March 19, 2005: Mercury Study Identifies Northeast Problem Spots
EVISA News, March 20, 2005: New results on the distribution of mercury in the US is fueling the discussion on the necessity of the reduction of its emission
Medical News Today, March 21, 2005: EPA Announces First-Ever Rule to Reduce Mercury Emissions from Power Plants, USA
Business Wire, March 24, 2005: U.S. Power Industry Plans $3.9 Billion in Mercury Reduction Projects as EPA Passes Mercury Emissions and CAIR Reduction Rulings,
Toledo Ohio, March 28, 2005: Half-measure on mercury
Waste News, March 28, 2005: Senators request probe of charges that EPA withheld info on mercury rule
The Union Leader, March 30, 2005: NH sues EPA over rule on mercury emissions
Medical News, March 31, 2005: Nine US States File Suit Challenging Federal
Mercury Emissions Rules, Say Policy Does Not Protect Fetuses, Children
The Telegraph, April 1, 2005: Mercury rising
Boston Globe, April 1,2005: Retrograde on Mercury

Business Wire, April 4th, 2005: Coal Goes Cofiring, Mercury Air Emissions
Reduced up to 90 Percent; Green Energy Resources Positioned to Meet National Demand

Business Wire, April 8th, 2005: Mercury emissions, Clean Air, the EPA, Science and a simple solution; GER Estimated US Biomass market over $12.5 billion dollars annually
SFGate News, May 18, 2005: Groups Seek Tougher EPA Rules on Mercury
post-gazette, May 19 2005: 11 states sue EPA on mercury rules - Pennsylvania joins suit saying emission standards inadequate
toledoblade, May 19, 2005: Mercury output rule challenged - Environmentalists attempting to overturn new U.S. guidelines
commondreams, May 20 2005: NRDC Challenges Second EPA Mercury Rule
Environmental Science & Technology, A-pages, June 1, 2005: Mercury rule lets hazardous air pollutants off the hook
Environmental Science & Technology, A-pages, June 1, 2005: UNEP’s voluntary mercury approach
Bloomberg, June 14, 2005: Health Groups Join Suit Against U.S. EPA Over Mercury Emissions
Bloomberg, June 30, 2005: U.S. Senators File Measure to Halt EPA Mercury Emissions Rule
Associated Press, August 5, 2005: Court rejects effort to block EPA rules on mercury pollution
Bridget M. Kuehn, Medical Groups Sue EPA Over Mercury Rule, JAMA, 294 (2005) 415-416.
Florida Sportsman, September 9, 2005: EPA Allows for More Mercury Pollution
Indystar, September 10, 2005: Bird's illness fuels debate on mercury
Chicago Tribune, September 14th, 2005: Repeal of mercury-emissions rule fails
Bridget M. Kuehn, Mercury Rule Challenged, JAMA, 294 (2005) 1201.
Toledoblade, September, 18th, 2005: Senate punts on mercury
Billings Gazette, October 1st, 2005: Montana's Department of Environmental Quality turns down request to limit mercury pollution 


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