New reports released today show widespread global mercury contamination of seafood and health effects from methyl-mercury in seafood occurring below the level that was considered “safe” just a few years ago. The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) in cooperation with the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is facilitating the release of the three reports.
“The level of mercury in the Pacific Ocean is projected to increase by 50% by 2050 if current pollution trends continue unabated,” said Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja, Senior Advisor, Chemicals and Sustainable Industrial Development, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad, Pakistan. “This is a wake-up call for all governments to stem the rising tide of mercury pollution and finalize a strong treat,” he added.The estimated maximum and minimum emission and transfer of mercury in Pakistan is approximately 36,000/- and 11,000 kg per year, respectively. The major uses of mercury in the country are in the production of a chlor-alkali plant, followed by lighting sources & dental amalgams
The new scientific findings are to be presented at the start of the fifth and final round of United Nations negotiations to put in place a legally binding global treaty to reduce mercury use and pollution. The legal text negotiated by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee is expected to be completed on 18 January 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.
“The latest science points to the need for strict reduction measures to address the global mercury crisis,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, co-coordinator of ZMWG at the European Environment Bureau in Brussels, Belgium.
Other key science findings include the following:
- Larger predatory fish—such as swordfish, shark and certain species of tuna— are often listed in national fish consumption advisories due to higher mercury concentrations. Different seafood varieties can differ by at least 100-fold in their average mercury content.
- Seafood regularly consumed by people contains mercury concentrations that commonly exceed “safe” levels (based upon US EPA standards). However, there are also plenty of low mercury seafood alternatives with high omega 3 benefits;
- Several recent epidemiological studies clearly show that the consumption of ordinary amounts of fish can cause an unsafe risk to the developing foetus and children, suggesting that the current health exposure tolerance levels should be revised to reflect the latest scientific findings; and
- BRI’s Global Biotic Mercury Synthesis (GBMS) project provides a standardized and comprehensive database that can be used to identify mercury data gaps, describe areas where further research is needed, and evaluate the effectiveness of the future global mercury treaty.
“We believe it is crucial to understand global baseline mercury concentrations in order to make appropriate decisions on how to evaluate the effectiveness of the treaty,” said David C. Evers, Ph.D., executive director of BRI and a member of the UNEP Fate and Transport Partnership Group.