Issue Date: April 9, 2007
EPA panel will examine industry's mercury use
The fate of mercury stocks from mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants will be examined by an EPA-created stakeholder panel, the agency announced. The panel will consider management options for some 2,400 tons of commercially used, non-government-controlled mercury. Most commercial mercury is in the hands of some eight U.S. chlor-alkali chemical plants, EPA says, but stocks also include small amounts of mercury used by labs and product manufacturers, as well as some recovered from gold mining and product collection and recycling programs. U.S. mercury stocks total at least 8,010 metric tons, of which 70% are owned by the federal government, EPA estimates. The government has decided to store, rather than sell, its mercury stockpiles, and those stocks will not be considered by the panel. The agency fears that over the next 10 to 30 years, excess mercury will appear on the world market as chlor-alkali plants shift away from mercury and other industry uses diminish due to concerns about mercury toxicity. Meanwhile, demand for mercury by small-scale gold mining in the developing world is expected to increase, the agency says in a background report. Since mercury is a global pollutant and causes health problems when it is inhaled or consumed, international pressure has grown to contain its use. The first public meeting of EPA's stakeholder panel is slated for May 8 in Washington, D.C. For more information, see www.epa.gov/mercury/stocks.
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