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EPA Leadership in the Global Mercury Partnership
The majority of mercury deposited in the United States is from global sources, including a combination of: natural sources (such as volcanoes); historically deposited mercury that is re-emitted to the atmosphere; and man-made emissions from a variety of sources, such as coal fired power plants, industrial processes, production of gold and other metals, and artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Global Mercury Partnership Exit engages countries and stakeholders to reduce mercury use and releases of mercury to the environment. Work under the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership began in 2005. EPA is actively involved in the Partnership, working with governments and stakeholders to reduce mercury use and emissions.
This work has and will continue to make tangible improvements in the health of communities in many parts of the world, with seven active partnership areas:
- coal combustion,
- artisanal gold mining,
- mercury waste management,
- mercury supply and storage, and
- mercury air transport and fate research.
- Addressing Products Containing Mercury
- Reducing Mercury Emissions from Industrial Processes and Mining
- Reducing the Supply of Mercury in the Global Market
- Understanding the Movement of Mercury in the Atmosphere
- This program promotes substitution, where feasible, and development of alternatives where none are currently available.
- It also seeks to identify, reduce, and eliminate mercury releases from the manufacture and use of mercury-containing products.
- In one initiative, EPA has worked in several countries to eliminate mercury-containing medical devices in hospitals.
Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining
- In Senegal, EPA trained miners on the health impacts of mercury, and helped miners reduce risk with practices such as the use of locally-made, hand-held “retorts,” small devices which capture mercury vapor.
- In the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon, EPA teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to pilot locally-built, inexpensive mercury vapor recovery systems in gold processing shops, dramatically reducing mercury levels for workers, customers, and the surrounding communities.
- Download a report on the technology demonstration (PDF)(84 pp, 2.67 M, About PDF) Exit
- EPA helped develop a more robust mercury emission inventory in China, in order to understand how much mercury is coming from the zinc sector.
- EPA is also supporting studies on mercury emissions from other nonferrous metals production.
Mercury is sometimes used in the chlor-alkali process, which refers to the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda (lye). EPA leads the Mercury Use in Chlor-Alkali Partnership Area.
- EPA leads global work providing technical assistance and information exchange on non-mercury technologies, best practices, and management of surplus mercury.
- As part of this effort, EPA has assisted Russian chlorine producers in upgrading plant processes and equipment to reduce releases by almost 1 metric ton per year.
- EPA has also helped the Partnership create a global inventory of mercury-cell chlor-alkali facilities. Exit
- EPA contributed to the planning and development of a comprehensive report Exiton the current status of the science in mercury air emissions, air modeling and air monitoring on a global scale.
- This effort, led by Italy, involved over 70 scientists from 12 countries.