Ambio, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences journal, today is publishing a special edition featuring "The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution" crafted here during the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant last August at Monona Terrace.
Isthmus examined this issue in a local context in advance of the conference, looking particularly at the risks mercury in Madison's lakes poses to persons fishing for food. Seven months later, the declaration summarizes the papers delivered to the conference by many of the world's leading experts on human health risks associated with mercury contamination in fish, and endorsed by all members of the panels that vetted the pronouncement.
Among the document's central conclusions:
- Dietary exposure to fish contaminated with mercury poses health risks pervasive enough to support global public advisories regarding which fish to eat and how much fish to consume -- with special urgency to communicate the advisory to women of child-bearing age and their children, due to fetuses' and children's heightened developmental vulnerability to mercury's potent neurotoxic effects.
- Dietary exposure to the potent fish-borne neurotoxin methylmercury has become a public-health threat to most regions of the world.
- Methylmercury toxicity in fish-eating birds and mammals in some regions of the world may be approaching levels that could result in population declines for some species.
- Due to industrial emissions and other increased uses of the element, the average amount of mercury falling from the skies onto land and water is three times what it was before the Industrial Revolution.
- Unregulated mercury use in thousands of small gold-mining operations around the globe accounts for more than 10% of human contributions toward atmospheric mercury loads, exposing an estimated 50 million people to long-term health consequences.
- More study is needed regarding the behaviors of mercury in marine environments and marine fish.
The declaration goes on to cite a series of other dire consequences resulting from mercury's increasing pervasiveness around the world, underlining the need for global measures to address the health, economic, social and cultural threats posed by mercury pollution. For these and other details, refer to the publication announcement available in the related downloads at right. An index to the special issue of Ambio containing "The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution," and supporting articles can be found here.
Additional background material available online includes the proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (featuring the declaration's complete text and videos from the conference's opening, plenary and closing sessions), the grass-roots advocacy perspective provided by the Mercury Policy Project, and a localized take on the threat from the Madison Environmental Justice Organization.