Executive Summary of Pombo/Gibbons Mercury Report

Published October 1, 2005

1. Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is ubiquitous in the environment. Most of the mercury existing in the environment is released through natural processes. Thus, we are all exposed to trace amounts of mercury no matter what levels are emitted through human activity, including power plant emissions.

2. U.S. power plants account for less than 1 percent of global mercury emissions.

3. Mercury emissions in the U.S. have significantly decreased since 1990. Industrial use of mercury in the U.S. has dropped by 80 percent since 1970 and emissions from domestic anthropogenic (man-released) sources decreased by 40 percent between 1990 and 1996. Additionally, mercury emissions from power plants were reduced by 38 percent from 1995 to 1999.

4. Mercury levels in fish have remained the same or have slightly decreased. Recent studies comparing methylmercury concentrations in Pacific tuna caught in the 1970s and the 1990s were almost identical. Experts believed they should have increased between 9 and 26 percent as a result of increases in non-U.S. anthropogenic emissions of mercury deposition in the Pacific Ocean.

5. There has been no credible evidence of harm to pregnant women or their unborn children from regular consumption of fish.

6. Research has proven the health benefits of regular fish consumption. Fish is an important part of a healthy diet. Research has demonstrated that a diet rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid through fish consumption has beneficial health effects for people with heart disease and various types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and endometrial. In addition, fish consumption has beneficial impacts on people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and type-2 diabetes.

7. Current, peer-reviewed scientific literature does not show any link between U.S. power plant emissions and mercury in fish.

8. The EPA’s reference dose for methylmercury is the most restrictive in the world and is based on results from a single test of children that is not sensitive enough to discern effects from mercury alone. The study subjects were also exposed to very high levels of toxic organic compounds like DDT and PCBs that mimic mercury’s effects and can make them worse. The study is also not reflective of U.S. fish consumption.