Socioeconomic consequences of mercury use and pollution

Edward B. Swain, Paul M. Jakus, Glenn Rice, Frank Lupi, Peter A. Maxson, Jozef M. Pacyna, Alan Penn, Samuel J. Spiegel, Marcello M. Veiga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


In the past, human activities often resulted in mercury releases to the biosphere with little consideration of undesirable consequences for the health of humans and wildlife. This paper outlines the pathways through which humans and wildlife are exposed to mercury. Fish consumption is the major route of exposure to methylmercury. Humans can also receive toxic doses of mercury through inhalation of elevated concentrations of gaseous elemental mercury. We propose that any effective strategy for reducing mercury exposures requires an examination of the complete life cycle of mercury. This paper examines the life cycle of mercury from a global perspective and then identifies several approaches to measuring the benefits of reducing mercury exposure, policy options for reducing Hg emissions, possible exposure reduction mechanisms, and issues associated with mercury risk assessment and communication for different populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-61
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


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