Mercury causes severe health problems for humans and wildlife. Although there has been much public education about the effect of lead and other heavy metals, current information on mercury does not adequately inform the public about the threat people face from mercury pollution. Clean Air Council is concerned about the dangers surrounding mercury and addresses them in its mercury program.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is released into the environment from a number of different sources. The largest anthropogenic source of mercury comes from coal-fired electric power plants, accounting for about 40 percent of total U.S. man-made mercury emissions. Mercury in the atmosphere falls in precipitation into the nation's lakes and rivers. Once in the water, bacteria can transform the mercury into the particularly dangerous organic form, methylmercury. Methylmercury is a fat-soluble molecule that is easily absorbed through fish gills, and because it is bioaccumulative it remains in body tissue and builds up along the food chain. The effects of methylmercury can be devastating for humans, especially for fetuses and nursing infants. Mercury is also found in electric switches and relays, medical and measuring devices, dental amalgam (silver fillings), thermostats, lamps and other sources.
The Council works to reduce mercury in the environment by advocating for the removal of mercury in consumer and industrial products. The Council also advocates for limits on the amount of mercury that can be released from coal-fired power plants.
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