Mercury pollution is widespread and knows no borders. Since its inception, BRI has been a leader in research designed to understand the exposure and effects of mercury in ecosystems. Mercury concentrations in fish and wildlife in the United States are known to routinely exceed human and wildlife health thresholds.
At present, scientists must rely on limited information to understand and quantify the critical linkages among mercury emissions, deposition, environmental response, and potential wildlife and human health concerns.
BRI is investigating mercury concentrations and associated effects in many species of fish and wildlife around the world. Areas of greater concern, known as biological mercury hotspots, are typically related to aquatic and wetland ecosystems. BRI discovered that the biomagnification of methylmercury in invertivores (e.g., bats and songbirds) is just as great and problematic as in piscivores (e.g., otters and loons).
For an overview booklet about our Center for Mercury Studies, click here.
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) were finalized in 2011 and currently regulate emissions of mercury, acid gases, and other hazardous air pollutants from US electric utilities. The MATS rule is expected to reduce mercury emissions from the power sector by 90%, improve public health, and play an integral role in meeting US commitments under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
A proposal to weaken the MATS rule is currently under interagency review at the Office of Management and Budget and could result in lifting limits on mercury emissions.
BRI and collaborators have submitted a formal comment letter to the EPA, and issued a background summary paper called Mercury Matters 2018: A Science Brief for Journalists and Policymakers to provide context including the most up-to-date research on the health and environmental effects of mercury, the improvements that have occurred since the adoption of MATS, and evidence that the health benefits of reducing mercury have been substantially underestimated.
Mercury policy development, implementation, and associated monitoring rely on accurate and neutral science to improve certainty. The Center for Mercury Studies strives to meet those scientific requirements in the following ways:
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Major highlights of the Convention include a ban on new mercury mines and the phase-out of existing ones, control measures on air emissions, and regulations for artisanal and small-scale gold mining. BRI projects related to this Convention include:
Mercury Connections provides a model that fosters research collaboration among distinguished scientists across various disciplines and regions, as well as land-use managers, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions. The research, however, is only part of the story. BRI is also committed to bringing our scientific findings to the forefront of public awareness. The Mercury Connections reports are an important and necessary tool for decision makers and regulators in the critical process of developing and regulating policy.
Sampling broadly throughout the landscape helps biologists identify “hotspots” of contaminant exposure, and sampling annually helps us determine if contaminant levels are changing over time. Such information has proven pivotal in guiding policy decisions to regulate pollutants.
Many BRI studies on taxonomic groups and ecosystems include a mercury component:
While BRI is focused on compiling and generating new scientific data, communicating technical information to decision makers and others is a critical component of our approach and philosophy.
Mercury Air Transport and Fate Research Partnership Group
In partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), BRI is assisting in the process of developing a global mercury monitoring system, and was engaged in the deliberations for an internationally binding treaty for monitoring mercury as a global pollutant. Click here for BRI’s Scientific Communication Series: Mercury in the Global Environment.
Mercury Legislation in the United States
BRI is dedicated to providing sound scientific information to policymakers, helping to inform critical decisions regarding environmental health and integrity.
Government and Agency Briefings
The Ecological Society of America, in partnership with BRI, the Great Lakes Commission, and the Northeast-Midwest Institute, cosponsored a Congressional briefing entitled: “Mercury and Air Pollution Impacts on Ecosystems: Policy-Relevant Highlights from New Scientific Studies.”information.
BRI Scientific Reports
As BRI works with various clients on projects to examine mercury in specific ecosystems, we generate reports detailing our work and findings. To obtain a specific report, or details on our work, please contact BRI directly or use our Multimedia Library.
BRI’s Wildlife Mercury Lab can analyze tissues, such as feather, fur, blood, muscle, liver, talon tips, fish, eggs, and human hair using its Direct Mercury Analyzer for total mercury.
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