The EEA report ‘Mercury in Europe’s environment – A priority for European and global action’ describes the problem of mercury pollution and the challenges in addressing the issue globally. From dental fillings to fish we eat, we might all be exposed to mercury.
According to the report, mercury presents the biggest risk in rivers, lakes and oceans where it takes a highly toxic form that is absorbed by animals, including fish. The most recent monitoring data for water bodies shows that nearly 46 000 surface water bodies in the EU, out of approximately 111 000, are not meeting mercury levels set to protect fish-eating birds and mammals.
Humans become exposed to mercury mainly when they eat large predator fish, such as tuna or monkfish, that have been eating smaller fish with mercury in their bodies. Mercury presents a particular and significant risk to the neurological development of foetuses, newborn babies and children.
Current emissions of mercury in Europe are mostly limited to combustion of solid fuels, including coal, lignite and wood, the report says. There has been a drastic decrease in mercury pollution in Europe, which accounts for only 5% of global emissions to air. However, globally mercury emissions are much higher, due to emissions from additional sources such as small-scale gold mining and industrial processes.
Source – European Environment Agency
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