Slow shift away from coal cuts global mercury emissions

Global mercury emissions from manmade sources declined 30 percent between 1990 and 2010, according to a new study by Harvard University, Peking University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, and the University of Alberta, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

It said in a statement that the drop had been because of a gradual phasing out of mercury from many commercial products and controls put in place on coal-fired power plants that removed naturally occurring mercury from the coal being burned.

“Many power plants have switched to natural gas and stopped burning coal entirely, further reducing mercury emissions,” the statement said, adding that The observed reduction in atmospheric mercury was most pronounced over North America and Europe.

Mercury is a metallic element that poses environmental health risks to both wildlife and humans when converted to methylmercury in ecosystems.  It can be converted into gaseous emissions during various industrial activities, as well as natural processes like volcanic eruptions.

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