On the final day of the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant, the "conference declaration" was released in which it was noted that Mercury pollution can threaten the health of people, fish, and wildlife everywhere from industrial sites to remote corners of the planet, but reducing mercury use and emissions would lessen those threats.
"The declaration essentially says that mercury pollution is a problem of global magnitude," says James Hurley, assistant director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Aquatic Sciences Center and a co-chair of the conference.
Research Scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey and another co-chair of the conference, David Krabbenhoft, added that the social and economic costs of mercury are probably higher than currently estimated considering mercury's impact on wildlife.
The conference declaration summarizes a yearlong effort of 37 top scientists to review the last decade of mercury science and all of them endorsed the declaration in full. "The declaration summarizes what we know about mercury in the environment, from a wide array of expertise," Krabbenhoft says.
The declaration notes that there is solid scientific evidence to show that methylmercury has toxic effects, particularly to the developing fetus, and also new evidence that indicates that methylmercury exposure may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in humans, particularly in adult men.
It also notes that people, especially children and women of childbearing age, should be careful about how much and which fish they eat. To increase the benefits and reduce the risks, consumers should choose fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of methylmercury the study notes.
More than 10 percent of the mercury in earth's atmosphere has been noted to be resulting from human activities such as use of mercury in small-scale gold mining polluting thousands of sites around the world and posing long-term health risks to up to 50 million inhabitants of mining regions.
The declaration also notes other points on sources of atmospheric mercury deposition, recovery of mercury-contaminated fisheries, and socioeconomic impacts of mercury use and pollution.