Domestic releases and uses of mercury have decreased significantly over the last 25 years, according to a report released today by EPA. For example, U.S. mercury air emissions have been reduced by 45 percent since 1990, and mercury use in products and processes decreased 83 percent between 1980 and 1997. “EPA’s Roadmap for Mercury,” the first-ever comprehensive overview of agency mercury activities, describes progress and ongoing efforts in reducing mercury in the environment, both domestically and internationally.
The roadmap highlights the agency’s decade-plus efforts to address mercury risks to human health and the environment. The roadmap will also help the agency maximize coordination of its diverse efforts in advancing EPA’s long-term goal of reducing risks associated with mercury. In addition to providing a roadmap for EPA activities, the report provides important information about EPA’s mercury efforts to other federal agencies, our partners in state, tribal and local governments and to the public.
“We’re moving in the right direction Ã¢â‚¬â€œ mercury emissions have declined dramatically over the past two decades,'” said Susan Hazen, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. “This report details previous and current activities that have contributed to these mercury reductions, and it will help outline EPA’s overall effort to continue protecting public health and the environment.”
The roadmap focuses on six key areas: 1) addressing mercury releases to the environment; 2) addressing mercury uses in products and industrial processes which can lead to releases to the environment; 3) managing commodity-grade mercury supplies; 4) communicating risks to the public; 5) addressing international mercury sources and 6) conducting mercury research and monitoring.
As part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to reduce mercury emissions, EPA has also signed a proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) today. Automakers voluntarily discontinued uses of elemental mercury switches in convenience light assemblies and anti-lock brake systems in post-2003 cars sold in America. This proposed SNUR, issued under the Toxic Substances Control Act, would give EPA an opportunity to evaluate any resumed use of mercury in these switches and, if necessary, to prohibit or limit such activity before it occurs to prevent unreasonable risk of harm to human health or the environment.
In the last 15 years, EPA has focused its mercury reduction efforts on large point sources of air emissions from municipal waste combustors or incinerators, medical waste incinerators and hazardous waste combustors. More recently, EPA has focused its efforts on industrial boilers, chlor-alkali facilities and a Bush Administration regulation that, for the first time, will achieve a 70 percent reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, when fully implemented. EPA now has standards in place limiting mercury air releases from most major known industrial sources in the United States.
EPA is also working to advance the state of the science surrounding mercury, while taking action now to help reduce risks. Major offices at EPA are continuing to work to better understand the sources of mercury and how it impacts human health and the environment. At the same time, the agency is focusing on risk communication and outreach activities that will help the public reduce exposure to mercury.
A copy of the roadmap, the proposed SNUR and other information on the agency’s efforts to reduce mercury are available at http://www.epa.gov/mercury.