Warning: fopen(/home/virtual/jpmph/journal/upload/ip_log/ip_log_2023-10.txt): failed to open stream: Permission denied in /home/virtual/lib/view_data.php on line 83 Warning: fwrite() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home/virtual/lib/view_data.php on line 84 Global Trends in Mercury Management
Skip Navigation
Skip to contents

JPMPH : Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health



Page Path
HOME > J Prev Med Public Health > Volume 45(6); 2012 > Article
Special Article
Global Trends in Mercury Management
Dae-Seon Kim, Kyunghee Choi
Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health 2012;45(6):364-373.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3961/jpmph.2012.45.6.364
Published online: November 29, 2012
  • 99 Download
  • 8 Crossref
  • 7 Scopus

National Institute of Environmental Research, Incheon, Korea.

Corresponding author: Dae-Seon Kim, PhD. 42 Hwangyeong-ro, Seo-gu, Incheon 404-708, Korea. Tel: +82-32-560-7122, Fax: +82-32-568-2035, kimds4@korea.kr
• Received: September 12, 2012   • Accepted: October 24, 2012

Copyright © 2012 The Korean Society for Preventive Medicine

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

  • The United Nations Environmental Program Governing Council has regulated mercury as a global pollutant since 2001 and has been preparing the mercury convention, which will have a strongly binding force through Global Mercury Assessment, Global Mercury Partnership Activities, and establishment of the Open-Ended Working Group on Mercury. The European Union maintains an inclusive strategy on risks and contamination of mercury, and has executed the Mercury Export Ban Act since December in 2010. The US Environmental Protection Agency established the Mercury Action Plan (1998) and the Mercury Roadmap (2006) and has proposed systematic mercury management methods to reduce the health risks posed by mercury exposure. Japan, which experienced Minamata disease, aims vigorously at perfection in mercury management in several ways. In Korea, the Ministry of Environment established the Comprehensive Plan and Countermeasures for Mercury Management to prepare for the mercury convention and to reduce risks of mercury to protect public health.
Mercury discharged into the environment by human activities has extensive influence not only on human beings but also on ecosystems. Biomagnification through the food chain and extinction of species by mercury toxicity are some examples of such influence.
In this regard, the importance of human health and environment protection activities was reaffirmed in the 21st United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Intergovernmental Conference, and Decision 21/5 was adopted on February 2001, which agreed to perform a mercury assessment project at the global level due to the ecological destruction and economic importance of mercury discharge. The final report was presented in the 22nd UNEP Intergovernmental Conference in February 2003 [1].
In accordance with this decision, UNEP launched the Global Mercury Assessment (GMA) project in 2001 and held a working group meeting in September 2002, which comprised 66 countries including the US and the European Union (EU) nations, five international organizations such as United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), World Health Organization (WHO), and EU, and nine non-governmental organizations such as Green Peace and Basel Action Network. In this meeting, the general status and problems of mercury in each country were introduced and identified in order to prepare potential risks. In addition, scientific presentations were arranged, experiences of capacity building for GMA activities were shared, and the importance of information exchanges on related laws and regulations was emphasized [1].
In the 23rd UNEP Governing Council (GC; Nairobi, February 2005), Resource Mobilizing Partnerships were established to secure financial resources that were to be used to reduce the severe damage caused by mercury and mercury composites and the production of mercury [2]. The UNEP GC has made constant efforts including the establishment of the mercury Open-Ended Working Group on Mercury and is now in the preparation of a legally-binding mercury convention. In this review, the mercury management policies of UNEP and various governments will be summarized.
Management of Health Risks Posed by Mercury
The major countries have established daily mercury intake allowances and seafood intake recommendations. According to the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, the recommendations for daily mercury intake are 0.47 µg/kg-BW/d (adults) and 0.23 µg/kg-BW/d (fertile women and children) [3]. The recommendations are assessed according to the amount of seafood intake. In this regard, the EU designated mercury content as 0.5 mg/kg for fish-containing products and 1 mg/kg for predatory fish.
Additionally, the US and the WHO restrict mercury intake by establishing standards for total and methyl mercury concentrations and recommended standards for fish intake (Table 1) [3,4]. In the US, 48 states have established fish consumption advisories, and the US Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend not eating more than 340 g of seafood per week and not eating more than 170 g of high mercury-containing species such as tuna [4,5]. Japan has investigated mercury concentrations in various kinds of fish and has restricted the recommended intake numbers and volume of some predacious species by pregnant or fertile women.
The UK Food Standards Agency has proposed that pregnant women, fertile women, and children under 16 years old should avoid eating swordfish, which contains high mercury, and that pregnant and fertile women not have tuna steak more than twice a week [6].
The Canadian government has recommended that ordinary people not have more than 150 g of predacious fish such as tuna, shark, and swordfish, children aged from 5 to 11, more than 125 g, and young children between 1 and 4 years old, more than 75 g per week [7].
Mercury Management by United Nations Environmental Program
In the Global Atmospheric Mercury Assessment Report (2008), UNEP introduced an assessment of emission distribution by region and pollution source based on studies of mercury circulation and movement (Table 2) [8]. In particular, UNEP has pursued various mercury risk reducing countermeasures through the UNEP GC held every two years since 2001, and Table 3 shows the details of such countermeasures [4,9].
According to the necessity of international actions to reduce mercury by accommodating GMA project results (decision 22/4V), the 23rd UNEP GC (2005) agreed to perform the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership project to reduce mercury hazards, and designated mercury as a global pollutant because its discharge to the environment is hazardous to human beings and overall ecosystems through the food chain. UNEP Mercury Partnership fields and host institutions are explained in Table 4 [4,9].
Additionally, since the 1st Intergovernmental Negotiation Council (INC) was held in June 2010 in Stockholm, UNEP has been preparing all the items regarding the Mercury Convention including the overall content and structure (Table 5) [9,10]. Finally, the UNEP GC approved having a legally binding mercury convention by 2013 [9,10].
At the 4th INC meeting held in Punta del Este, Uruguay from June 26 to July 2, 2012 to launch a mercury agreement, allowing temporary storage only for the storage and waste disposal of mercury instead of permanent storage was discussed. Although, according to the Basel Agreement, mercury waste management and new mercury mine development prohibitions were agreed to, there were some conflicts among nations on some issues. For instance, the EU and African countries proposed prohibiting the use and import/export of major supply sources (e.g., recycling) while the US and Japan wanted to allow for restricted use and export/import [10].
Mercury Management by the European Union
The EU's Mercury Strategy provides comprehensive strategies on mercury risks. As Europe is a major mercury supplier at present and maintains a consistently high demand for mercury, the EU specifies the following goals and actions: 1) stop mercury exports completely by 2011; 2) cooperate globally to regulate mercury transactions, discharge, and mine closure; 3) reduce the demand for mercury containing products; 4) investigate surplus mercury in EU nations and identify a safe storage method; 5) study discharge control to reduce mercury emitted from coal combustion, and review the mercury reduction policy; 6) identify a mercury exposure reduction method by surveying the exposure of fertile women to mercury by food intake, and establish recommendations on mercury intake; and 7) publicize and educate the public about the risks of mercury [11].
Accordingly, the Working Group on Mercury of the EU presented research results on mercury's circulation, risks to humans and the environment, natural and artificial discharge, control technology, and risk assessment in 2001 in the report "Ambient air pollution by mercury" [12].
As a part of the management of mercury-containing products, sales of mercury-containing medical equipment were prohibited as of August 21, 2008, and sales of products containing more than 5 mg of mercury were prohibited.
In most EU nations, regulations against mercury discharge facilities follow Directive 2008/1/EC (revised version of Directive 96/61/EC) called as the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive. The IPPC sets discharge allowance standards based on best available techniques (BAT) like the maximum available control technology (MACT) of the US, and uses the European Pollutant Emission Register (EPER) in order to monitor the application of BAT and the achievement of discharge allowance standards. The threshold for releases of mercury to the environment by EPER was 10 kg/y to the air, and 1 kg/y to water [13].
The European Economic Community Directive 82/176 sets limits and goals for mercury discharge from the chlor-alkali industry, which is the major user of mercury. The Chlor-alkali Association plans to convert facilities into non-mercury facilities in Europe by 2020 and in India by 2012. The restrictions on mercury discharge from waste incineration plants follow Directive 2000/76/EC. This directive applies to facilities generating an artificial discharge of mercury by setting the discharge standard as 0.05 mg/Sm3 for new facilities and 0.1 mg/Sm3 for existing facilities (for designated waste incineration plants approved before December 31, 1996, the limit was set as the mercury composite concentration until January 1, 2007) [4,12,14].
Mercury Management by the US
In 1998, extensive fish tissue sampling in the New England States showed that they were contaminated by methyl mercury. Afterwards, the US EPA established the Mercury Action Plan (1998) and the Mercury Roadmap (2006) as comprehensive plans and presented a systematic mercury management method. The Mercury Roadmap provided countermeasures in 6 areas: mercury discharge to the environment, management of the use of mercury-containing products and processes, mercury supplies, hazard communication, global mercury pollutant management, and mercury research and monitoring. Additionally, it established a mercury research strategy and a long-term study plan for 2002 to 2010 and performs overall management of mercury movement studies through the STAR Grants Program. Fish consumption advisories are under preparation in 48 states at present [15,16].
The US EPA confirmed the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) to set a standard method for managing mercury discharged from thermoelectric plants and prepares regulations on the transaction schemes in mercury discharge rights to cost-efficiently reduce mercury discharge from thermoelectric plants. Additionally, it aims to reduce the annual mercury discharge limit to 38 tons (35.4% reduction from the discharge volume in 1999 [48 tons]) and to 15 tons by 2018, which is 70% less than the baseline of 1999 [17].
However, the CAMR became invalid in February 2008 after a court ruling and the EPA is planning to make an appeal, and at the same time, it is preparing new regulations. Accordingly, MACT, which is currently provided in most trade, is planned to be applied to coal thermo-electric plants. Furthermore, the EPA established technology-based standards on specific mercury discharge sources referring to the Clean Air Act and set the regulation that all mercury discharging sources should maintain the discharge standards in order to obtain an operational permit or license. The regulations on mercury discharge of such facilities are shown in Table 6 [4].
Mercury, which is already being produced and stored in the US, came to be under full-scale management with the passing of the Mercury Export Ban Act in 2008. Mercury reserves retained by the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense are 145 tons and 4435 tons respectively. The EPA designates and manages 5 surplus mercury storage facilities [4,18].
Additionally, the EPA enforces restrictions on mercury-containing products by executing mercury content survey research. For this, it prohibits sales of mercury-containing clinical thermometers and blood pressure gauges and the use of mercury oxide cells and requires that mercury containing products such as batteries be labeled as such.
In August 2006, the EPA announced the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program to collect mercury brake sensors and mercury switches in vehicles. It aims to collect 80% to 90% of the mercury switches by 2017. Related to the final waste management of mercury-containing products, the EPA requires mercury abstraction for products containing more than 260 ppm of mercury and mercury stabilization/solidification for products containing less than 260 ppm of mercury, instead of abstraction [4].
It is estimated that 5% to 36% of mercury in air originates from discharge in Asia, and it was reported that 31% of incidents of high Hg0 in the air in the US were caused by long distance travel from East Asia including China [16]. Studies to identify the relationship between mercury in the air and methyl mercury in fish were conducted through the Mercury Experiment to Assess Atmospheric Loading in Canada and the United States (2007). Additionally, for the systematic management of mercury-contaminated areas, the Mercury Map was created and utilized. The Mercury Deposition Network (1995) monitors mercury concentration and accumulation in rainfall, and compiles a nationwide database [19].
The US is also working on various mercury management guidelines for the water system and establishes a comprehensive mercury management plan and water quality management standards for the five largest lakes in the US through the Water Quality Guidance for the Great Lake Systems (1995). It prepares test procedure guidelines for analyzing mercury in water through Method 1631 and utilizes it for water quality monitoring. There are water quality criteria for managing methyl mercury in seafood, and restrictions and guidelines using the concept of the Total Maximum Daily Load [4,20].
Mercury Management in Japan
Just as in Korea, the US and the EU nations, the major mercury discharging sources in Japan are industrial waste incineration facilities, steel manufacturing facilities, non-metal manufacturing facilities, and cement plasticity facilities. The mercury discharge coefficient of cement plasticity facilities, the biggest mercury discharging source, is 0.16 g-Hg/Mg-clinker. For waste incineration facilities (hospital waste), it was 0.13 to 0.16 g-Hg/Mg-waste.
The management of mercury in Japan can be classified into three activities as follows: 1) conversion to non-mercury-using facilities and manufacturers' contribution such as discontinuing mercury battery production; 2) establishment of a collection system for mercury-containing waste; and 3) setting waste discharging allowance guidelines for air, water, and waste for mercury sources.
The national use of mercury included in alkali button batteries, silver oxide batteries, and zinc-air batteries in Japan was reported to be 0.19, 1.05, and 0.57 tons, respectively, in 2003. The amount of mercury included in the backlight of liquid crystal display (LCD) screens is reported to be 2.4 mg/unit on average. As LCD screens are being more widely used, national use of mercury is increasing. Mercury abstracted from batteries and fluorescent lights is condensed and purified and then reused in fluorescent light manufacturing, universities, and laboratories in the form of elemental mercury or mercury compounds. On 2006, it was reported that 346 kg of mercury was recycled and reused. However, there are cases in which approximately 15 tons of mercury was collected per year from batteries, fluorescent lights, measuring equipment, medical devices, reagents, construction equipment, and absorbers.
Mercury discharge in Japan decreased from 34.6 ton/y in 1990 to 26.5 ton/y in 1998 thanks to robust measures such as the introduction of non-mercury battery manufacturing processes and advanced air pollution prevention facilities to satisfy dioxin allowance standards. However, with the increase of waste use in coal combustion facilities, sewage sludge incineration facilities, and cement plasticity facilities, the discharge in 2006 increased a little to 29.4 ton/y. According to the statistics reported in 2009, mercury discharge from artificial mercury discharge sources in Japan was estimated to be 21 to 28 ton/y [21-24]. Table 7 shows the amount of mercury exported and imported through mercury-containing products in Japan [24].
Health Risk Management of Mercury
The Study on the Exposure to and Health Effects of Mercury (2005-2008) conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER), Korea addressed biological mercury exposure. It reported that the exposure through environmental media was 0.108 µg/d and the intake through food was 18.71 µg/d, which shows that most of the exposure occurs through food intake. Additionally, the exposure per vaccination was approximately 0.00 to 0.42 µg, which makes the total lifelong accumulation 22.24 µg, assuming that the average lifespan is 70 years [25].
In a survey conducted in 2009 on residents in the Gyeongbuk areas who were highly exposed to mercury, it was found that the main cause of the high exposure might be traditional shark intake in those areas [26]. In 2010, there was a follow-up study, which was the biggest in Korea, to investigate mercury exposure of about 5000 residents in the Gyeongnam and the Gyeongbuk areas. It was found that people who live in coastal areas or islands are more likely tobe exposed to mercury [27]. In 2011, however, the blood mercury concentration was successfully reduced through risk communication with residents in the areas with the highest mercury concentration in Korea [28].
According to the results of The Korea National Survey for Blood Heavy Metal Concentration (Ministry of Environment, 2005) and The Korea National Survey for Environmental Pollutants in the Human Body (NIER, 2007-2009), the blood mercury concentration was 4.34 ppb in 2005, while it was 3.0 ppb in 2008 [29,30]. The figures are still high compared to those in developed countries. Thus, countermeasures are needed to reduce human mercury exposure to prevent health damage by mercury.
Mercury-containing Products
Manufacturing and import of mercury batteries is prohibited in Korea. Additionally, the content of mercury in alkali-manganese batteries is restricted to under 1 ppm per unit weight. Although there are no restrictions on mercury content in fluorescent lights in Korea, it is set to less than 5 mg (after 2010) for lamps labeled with the Environmental Mark. There is no legal restriction or prohibition on mercury in amalgam for dental treatments. However, mercury is prohibited from being used in agricultural chemicals and cosmetics, and the mercury allowance for paints is set to 60 ppm per unit weight [31].
When it comes to vaccines, the Korea Food and Drug Administration recommended in 2006 that less than 10 µg/mL of thimerosal or none at all should be included. For finished products such as writing materials, the mercury allowance is set as 60 mg/kg according to the Quality Management and Product Safety Management Act [4].
Mercury in Raw Materials
In Korea, mercury is designated as a toxic material in the Toxic Chemicals Control Act. Mercury and its discharge and distribution are controlled through the Chemicals Discharge Survey System. In the survey on the distribution amount of chemical materials in 2006, the total mercury distribution in Korea was identified to be 18.3 tons [32].
According to the Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers system in 2008 (http://ncis.nier.go.kr), it was found that seven companies discharged mercury and its compounds in Korea. It was also found that the transfer to waste was greater than the transfer to nature [33].
It was noted that there was no surplus mercury storage and management law in Korea. In the report of The Basic Study on Domestic Mercury Distribution and Discharge Status in 2009, a total of 265.8 tons of mercury flowed in Korea, of which 9.1 tons came from domestic production and 256.7 tons from imports [34]. Table 8 shows the amount of mercury exported and imported in Korea, as reported by the Korea International Trade Association [35].
Mercury-containing Product Disposal
In Korea, as the collection rate of disposed mercury-containing products is low, there is the possibility of mercury contamination in waste incineration and landfill facilities. In the domestic producer responsibility scheme, there are distribution and recycling status survey materials on fluorescent lights and batteries among other mercury-containing products. For fluorescent lights and batteries, compulsory recycling rates were set. They were 20.7% in 2006 and 24% in 2009 for fluorescent lights, and 29.3% in 2006 and 49% in 2008 for mercury batteries [4,34].
Mercury Discharge Source Management
Related to the calculation of domestic mercury discharge, UNEP estimated domestic mercury discharge in 2005 to be 32.2 ton/y through the Technical Background Report to the Global Atmospheric Mercury Assessment, 2008. However, under the construction of inventory and under the calculation of the discharge coefficient and discharge amount, which were based on the actual measurement of domestic artificial mercury sources, the mercury discharge was calculated to be 6.5 to 20.2 ton/y in the Mercury Discharge Survey on Atmospheric Emission Facilities [36]. However, according to the report of the Basic Study on Domestic Mercury Distribution and Discharge Status in 2009, the amount of mercury released to the air was 14.4 ton in 2006 [34].
Although the air discharge allowance standards for incineration facilities and thermoelectric plants were reduced from 5 mg/Sm3 to less than 0.1 mg/Sm3 in 2005, this is still too generous compared to the EU (0.05 mg/Sm3) and the US (0.01 mg/Sm3). In the Survey on Mercury Discharge from Thermoelectric Plants, the discharge was measured at 0.08 to 26.3 µg/Sm3, which may be caused by the use of low grade fuels in the plants [37]. Table 9 explains domestic law, regulations and standards related to mercury [4,38].
The mercury discharge allowance in the water system is 0.001 mg/L for clean areas and 0.005 mg/L for other areas. When it comes to wastes, they are regulated if effluent has contained more than 0.005 mg/L of mercury in the effluent test by a waste process test method on the designated waste. However, the mercury discharge from wastewater discharge facilities and mercury-containing wastes has not been calculated [38].
Enforcement of Environmental Monitoring
Whereas mercury exposure occurs through multiple pathways, mercury concentration in a single medium only is measured in Korea. Since mercury assessment in integrated media in the environment has not been achieved, scientific grounds for the evaluation of the local contamination level and trends are insufficient. The allowance is set to 0.001 mg/L for water quality and to 4 to 60 mg/kg for soil, and a measurement network is under operation. However, data on the water system are still insufficient [38].
Policies on Mercury in Korea
With the recognition of the risks of mercury, the Ministry of Environment of Korea prepared the first step of the Comprehensive Plan and Countermeasures for Mercury Management in 2006. Aims were set up for mercury management in several areas from mercury-containing products to discharge management, pollution survey, and monitoring [29].
Through this policy, management of mercury and mercury-related activities was established and implemented, and problems in Korea were identified. In order to address these problems, the second Comprehensive Plan and Countermeasures for Mercury Management was set up in 2010, aiming for the establishment of a foundation for unified mercury management and the preparation of countermeasures for the Mercury Convention. This policy includes the comprehensive management of mercury across the life span through the cycle of production, consumption, and waste, strengthening mercury management in discharge facilities, environmental monitoring, and precautions regarding the health effects of mercury on vulnerable populations (Figure 1) [29].
NIER has been designated to host the 12th International Conference on Mercury as A Global Pollutant in 2015. This will be an important opportunity not only to protect the health of the public from mercury but also to respond to international trends regarding mercury.
The UNEP GC regulates mercury as a global contaminant because discharge of mercury to the environment poses threats to humans and the ecosystem as a whole. Since 2001, it has also executed the Global Mercury Assessment, reinforced mercury partnerships, implemented mercury special task forces, and prepared a legally-binding mercury agreement.
In 2008, UNEP identified the emissions contribution of each region and each contaminant, evaluated their environmental influences through the Atmospheric Emission Report, and requested the list of mercury sources and annual discharge in various countries around the world as a basis for entering into the international Mercury Convention while providing an overall report of mercury discharge by nation and a toolkit to calculate the mercury discharge amount.
Additionally, the EU proposed an inclusive strategy to manage the risk of mercury, executed the Mercury Export Ban Act in December 2010, and pursued regulation of the international movement of mercury by expanding the construction of mercury storage facilities for complete disposal. The US EPA proposed a systematic management method by establishing the Mercury Action Plan (1998) and the Mercury Roadmap (2006) to reduce the risks to human health caused by mercury exposure. Japan, which had experienced Minamata disease, put an emphasis on the management of mercury through reducing mercury use, collecting mercury-containing waste, and establishing guidelines for mercury discharge.
Korea has been irregularly participating in the efforts to reduce mercury discharge from thermoelectric plants among UNEP partnership projects. It is necessary for Korea to find ways to join other partnership programs, prepare for mercury conventions, and play a leading role in international efforts.

The authors have no conflicts of interest with the material presented in this paper.

  • 1. National Institute of Environmental Research. Participation report of global mercury assessment conference. 2003. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 1-10 (Korean).
  • 2. National Institute of Environmental Research. A study of exposure and health effect of mercury (I). 2005. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 2-4 (Korean).
  • 3. Food and Agriculture Organization. World Health Organization. Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives seventy-second meeting: summary and conclusions. 2010. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/chem/summary72_rev.pdf.
  • 4. National Institute of Environmental Research. Fundamental study of domestic circulation and emission of mercury for the comprehensive plan of mercury management (II). Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 1-27 (Korean).
  • 5. US Environmental Protection Agency. Guidance for assessing chemical contaminant data for use in fish advisories: fish sampling and analysis third edition. 2000. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/region6/qa/qadevtools/mod4references/supplemental/volume1.pdf.
  • 6. The UK Food Standard Agency. Mercury in fish. 2004. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/faq/mercuryfish.
  • 7. Health Canada. Mercury in fish. 2008. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php.
  • 8. United Nations Environment Program. Technical background report to the global atmospheric mercury assessment. 2008. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.chem.unep.ch/mercury/Atmospheric_Emissions/Technical_background_report.pdf.
  • 9. Ministry of Environment. The participation plan of the 4th Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee for Mercury Convention, MOE 2012: Division of Chemicals 1193. 2012. Gwacheon: Ministry of Environment; p. 2-3 (Korean).
  • 10. Ministry of Environment. The participation report of the 4th Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee for Mercury Convention, MOE 2012: Division of Chemicals 1390. 2012. Gwacheon: Ministry of Environment; p. 1-2 (Korean).
  • 11. European Union. EU mercury surplus management and mercury use: restrictions in measuring and control equipment. 2006. Luxembourg: European Union; p. 3-7.
  • 12. European Union. Ambient air pollution by mercury (HG): position paper. 2001. Luxembourg: European Union; p. 2-9.
  • 13. European Commission. Guidance document for the implementation of the European pollutant release and transfer register. Annex (II). 2006. Brussels: European Commission; p. 83.
  • 14. Regulation (EC) no 1102/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008: on the banning of exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds and mixtures and the safe storage of metallic mercury (2008)..
  • 15. US Environmental Protection Agency. EPA's roadmap for mercury. 2006. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/roadmap.htm.
  • 16. US Environmental Protection Agency. Guidance for assessing chemical contaminant data for use in fish advisories. Volume 2: risk assessment and fish consumption limits. 2000. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency; p. 95-118.
  • 17. US Environmental Protection Agency. Coal combustion residuals: proposed rule. 2010. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/ccr-rule/index.htm.
  • 18. An Act to Prohibit the Sale, Distribution, Transfer, and Export of Elemental Mercury, and for Other Purposes, Pub. L. No. 110-414, 122 Stat. 4341 (1998).
  • 19. US Environmental Protection Agency. Mercury experiment to assess atmospheric loading in Canada and the United States (METAALICUS): why is METAALICUS necessary?. 2007. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.biology.ualberta.ca/old_site/metaalicus/metaalicus.htm.
  • 20. US Environmental Protection Agency. Water quality guidance for the great lakes system: final rule. 1995. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency; p. 19-37.
  • 21. Progress of mercury waste management partnership area: UNEP global mercury partnership: submission by Japan. United Nations Environment Program. Open-ended Working Group of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. 2010. 2010 May 10-14; Geneva, Switzerland: 2.
  • 22. Ministry of Environment, Japan. Lessons from Minamata disease and mercury management in Japan. 2011. Tokyo: Ministry of Environment; p. 22-45.
  • 23. Takaoka M. Recovery, collection and management of mercury containing waste in Japan: fluorescent lamp. UNEP-DTIE-IETC WEEE/E-waste Management Workshop on Take-Back System. 2011. 2011 Jul 13-15; Osaka, Japan: 4-14.
  • 24. United Nations Environment Program. Japan's current status of supply and demand of mercury, and activities implemented to reduce risks using the most advanced technologies. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.chem.unep.ch/mercury/Call_for_information/Japan-submission.pdf.
  • 25. Kim DS, Kim GB, Kang TS, Lee JH, Yu SD, Park CH, et al. A study on exposure and health effect of mercury (I). 2005. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 69-86 (Korean).
  • 26. National Institute of Environmental Research. Yeungnam University. Detail study of mercury exposure and health effect in some area. 2009. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 95-96 (Korean).
  • 27. National Institute of Environmental Research. Survey of mercury exposure level and related factors in Gyeongnam Province (I). 2011. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 220-222 (Korean).
  • 28. Kim DS, Chung HU, Kwon YM, Yu HY, Yoon YS, Ahn SC, et al. Research on exposure and health effect of mercury in some areas. 2011. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 37-39 (Korean).
  • 29. Ministry of Environment. The 2nd comprehensive plan for mercury management (2011-2015). 2010. Gwacheon: Ministry of Environment; p. 3-19 (Korean).
  • 30. National Institute of Environmental Research. Korea national survey for environmental pollutants in human body. 2008. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 240-246 (Korean).
  • 31. Korea Zero Waste Movement Network. A report on the recycle of waste batteries and waste fluorescent lamp. 2009. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.waste21.or.kr/board/board_content.asp?menu=3&sub=2&idx=1297&b_type=BOARD8&page=1&b_kinds=&b (Korean).
  • 32. Ministry of Environment. The final report on the amount of chemicals circulation. 2007. Gwacheon: Ministry of Environment; p. 36-48 (Korean).
  • 33. National Institute of Environmental Research. Information on pollutant release and transfer system - mercury and its compounds in hazardous chemicals. Pollutant Release and Transfer System. 2010. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from http://ncis.nier.go.kr/prtr/bcid/bcid01data.do.
  • 34. Ministry of Environment. A fundamental study of mercury circulation and emission in Korea. 2009. Gwacheon: Ministry of Environment; p. 347-348 (Korean).
  • 35. Korea International Trade Association. Exported and imported amount of mercury. 2012. cited 2012 Nov 15. Available from: http://www.kita.net (Korean).
  • 36. National Institute of Environmental Research. A study of mercury emission from atmospheric emission facilities. 2008. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 131-132 (Korean).
  • 37. National Institute of Environmental Research. Development of management system of hazardous air pollutants emission (II). 2004. Incheon: National Institute of Environmental Research; p. 71-74 (Korean).
  • 38. Ministry of Environment. A study on assessment and selection of potential hazardous chemicals: risk assessment of lead, cadmium and mercury. 2004. Gwacheon: Ministry of Environment; p. 495-512 (Korean).
Figure 1
Mercury action plan from the 2nd comprehensive plan for mercury management (2011-2015) [29]. Hg, mercury; DB, database.
Table 1.
Comparison of mercury standards for fish in various countries [3,4]
Nation Standards
International Food Stan- dards (Codex Alimen- tarius) Fish: less than 0.5 mg/kg of methyl mercury
Carnivorous fish (shark, swordfish, and tuna): less than 1 mg/kg of methyl mercury
US Fish: less than 1 mg/kg of methyl mercury
EU Fish: less than 0.5 mg/kg of total mercury
Carnivorous fish including shark: less than 1 mg/kg of total mercury
Japan Seafood (excluding abyssal fish and tuna): less than 0.4 mg/kg of total mercury, less than 0.3 mg/kg of methyl mercury
Australia and New Zealand Fish: less than 0.5 mg/kg of total mercury
Carnivorous fish including shark: less than 1 mg/kg of total mercury
Korea Seafood (excluding abyssal fish and tuna): less than 0.5 mg/kg of total mercury
Table 2.
United Nations Environment Program’s estimate of mercury emission to the air (report of 2008, based on data of 2005) [8]
Rank Country Discharge in 2005 Global ratio (%) Fixed combustion1 Industry production Small-scale gold mining Other
1 China 825.2 42.85 387.4 243.2 156.0 38.6
2 India 171.9 8.93 139.7 21.6 0.5 10.1
3 US 118.4 6.15 62.8 31.7 0.5 23.4
4 Russia 73.9 3.84 46.0 18.9 3.9 5.1
5 Indonesia 68.0 3.53 3.3 10.2 50.9 3.6
6 South Africa 43.1 2.24 33.4 5.7 2.6 1.4
7 Brazil 34.8 1.81 4.8 11.4 15.8 2.8
8 Australia 33.9 1.76 17.7 15.2 0.4 0.6
9 Korea 32.2 1.67 18.1 12.9 0 1.2
10 Colombia 30.0 1.56 0.8 2.3 26.3 0.6
Total 1431.4 74.33 714.0 373.1 256.9 87.4

Unit: ton/y.

1 Fixed combustion: fixed discharging source using fossil fuel such as a coal plant or waste furnace.

Table 3.
Major discussions of the UNEP GC [4,9]
UNEP GC Discussion
21st UNEP GC (2001) Agreed to perform the Global Mercury Assessment project (decision 21/5)
22nd UNEP GC (2003) Agreed on the necessity of international actions to reduce mercury by accommodating Global Mercury Assessment project results (decision 22/4V)
23rd UNEP GC (2005) Agreed to perform the UNEP Global Mercury Part- nership project to reduce the hazardousness of mercury, and designated mercury as a global pol- lutant because its discharge to the environment is hazardous to human beings andoverall ecosystems through the food chain
24th UNEP GC (2007) Agreed to produce operational guidelines and busi- ness scope expansion in line with the agreement on the enforcement of the UNEP Mercury Partnership
25th UNEP GC (2009) Discussion on mercury legislation
Compose INC five times from 2010. Aim to complete by 2013
Parallel performance of voluntary actions such as mercury partnership business (see Table 4)
Publish ‘Technical Background Report to the Global Atmospheric Mercury Assessment’ as a related report
Agreed to renew The Global Atmospheric Mercury Assessment: Emission and Transport (UNEP 2008) and propose it to GC 2012

UNEP, United Nations Environmental Program; GC, Governing Council; INC, Intergovernmental Negotiation Council.

Table 4.
UNEP mercury partnership fields and host institutions [4,9]
Fields Hosting Institution Descriptions
Gold refineries and artisanal gold mines UNIDO/NRDC Reduce 50% of mercury use by 2017
Coal combustion International Energy Agency (IEA CCC) Construct thermoelectric power plants in Russia and China and prepare mercury discharge reduction guide
Production of chloride-alkali US EPA Research for the reduction of mercury use and discharge (reduce it to 250 tons by 2015)
Study on mercury movement Ministry of Environment in Italy Published 2008 UNEP Mercury Discharge Report. Perform Mercury Movement Study withparticipating nations
Mercury containing products US EPA Set phased reduction goal by material (additional reduction of 25% by 2015)
Mercury waste management Japanese government Perform studies on environmentally friendly collection and disposal tech- nology through life cycle management (BAP/BEPguidelinedevelopment)
Mercury supply and storage NRDC Kyrgyzstan mercury mine project, pursue mercury export law in EU and US, per- form mercury storage facility construc- tion project in Asia and South America, reduce mercury supply by 50% by 2013

UNEP, United Nations Environmental Program; UNIDO, United Nations Industrial Development Organization; NRDC, Natural Resources Defense Council; IEA CCC, International Energy Agency Clean Coal Centre; EPA, Environmental Protection Agency; BAP/BEP, Biodiversity Action Plan/Best Environmental Practice.

Table 5.
Configuration of mercury convention (draft) [9,10]
Content Clause International trend
Supply Mercury supply source (e.g., mercury mines) Developed countries (strong management) vs. China and Algeria (voluntary management)
International trade Mercury trade with the countries directly involved Details will be discussed later
Mercury trade with the countries not directly involved
Products and processes Mercury added products Korea’s intensive response is needed
Manufacturing process using mercury
Exemption for use
Small-scale gold mining Mercury from small-scale gold mining Agreement was made
Discharge and leakage Emission to the air Korea’s intensive response is needed
Effluent to water and soil
Storage, waste, and contaminated areas Storage of mercury Details of management standards will be discussed later
Mercury waste
Contaminated places
Financial resources and technologyimplementation support Financial resources and mechanism Developed countries (global environmental funding system) vs. developing countries (independent funding system)
Technology support
Implementation committee
Table 6.
Mercury discharge source management according to the Clean Air Act by the US EPA [4]
Applied facilities Related regulations
Cement plants Final rule to limit emissions of mercury and other toxics from Portland cement plants (August 9, 2010)
Iron and steel foundries Regulation to control emissions from iron and steel foundries (April 22, 2004)
Steelmaking facilities (electric arc furnace) EPA issued final National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants rule for electric arc furnace steelmaking facilities (December 28, 2007)
Power plants Development of standards for emissions of mercury from power plants/Clean Air Mercury Rule (vacated February 2008)
Chlor-alkali plants Reduction of Toxic Air Pollutants from Mercury Cell Chlor-Alkali Plants: final rule (December 19, 2003)
Solid waste combustion facilities Solid waste combustion rules
Hazardous waste combustion facilities Reduction of toxic air emissions from combustion sources that burn hazardous waste
Industrial combustion for energy Reduction of toxic air emissions from industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers and process heaters

EPA, Environmental Protection Agency.

Table 7.
Amount of mercury exported/imported through mercury-containing products in Japan [24]
Classification 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Average over 5 y
Battery (silver oxide cells) Export 707 478 420 500 539 529
Import - - - - - -
Fluorescent and HID Lamp Export 491 396 344 467 492 438
Iimport 268 291 297 338 380 332
Thermometer Export 85 82 151 67 43 85
Import 58 57 50 75 40 58
Blood pressure gauge Export 1489 1374 1520 1182 859 1285
Import 505 524 498 610 473 522
Total Export 2772 2330 2435 2215 1932 2337
Import 831 872 844 1022 894 900

Unit: kg/y.

HID, High intensity discharge.

Table 8.
The amount of mercury exported/imported in Korea [35]
Article 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Mercury (kg) Export 258 112 4 30 7 397 3347
Import 15 716 7888 13 738 12 789 13 113 6605 11 168
Table 9.
Domestic laws and regulations and standards related to mercury [4,38]
Content Standards Regulating laws
Atmospheric emission facility Less than 0.1 mg/Sm3 Clean Air Conserva- tion Act
Area A (schools and historical places) Less than 4 mg/kg Soil Environment Conservation Act
Area B (factories and roads) Less than 16 mg/kg
Drinking water Less than 0.001 mg/L Drinking Water Regu- lations (Water Quality Standards)
Streams/lakes Below DL
Seashores Less than 0.0005 mg/L
Clean zones Less than 0.001 mg/L Water Quality Conservation Act (Effluent Quality Standard)
Area A and B and other special areas Less than 0.005 mg/L
Abyssal fish, seafood exclud- ing tuna and sword fish Less than 0.5 mg/kg of total mercury Food Sanitation Act
Abyssal fish, tuna and sword fish Less than 1.0 mg/kg of methyl mercury
Mollusks and shellfish Less than 0.5 mg/kg of total mercury

DL, detection limit.

Figure & Data



    Citations to this article as recorded by  
    • Green gold
      Dirk G. Baur, Allan Trench, Sam Ulrich
      Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment.2023; 13(3): 1200.     CrossRef
    • Retos y oportunidades para la industria minera como potencial impulsor del desarrollo en Colombia
      Juan D. Ospina-Correa, Juan G. Osorio-Cachaya, Angela M. Henao-Arroyave, Diego A. Palacio-Acevedo, Jim Giraldo-Builes
      TecnoLógicas.2021; 24(50): e1683.     CrossRef
    • Irradiation by a Combination of Different Peak-Wavelength Ultraviolet-Light Emitting Diodes Enhances the Inactivation of Influenza A Viruses
      Mizuki Kojima, Kazuaki Mawatari, Takahiro Emoto, Risa Nishisaka-Nonaka, Thi Kim Ngan Bui, Takaaki Shimohata, Takashi Uebanso, Masatake Akutagawa, Yohsuke Kinouchi, Takahiro Wada, Masayuki Okamoto, Hiroshi Ito, Kenji Tojo, Tomo Daidoji, Takaaki Nakaya, Aki
      Microorganisms.2020; 8(7): 1014.     CrossRef
    • An overview of worldwide and regional time trends in total mercury levels in human blood and breast milk from 1966 to 2015 and their associations with health effects
      Brij Mohan Sharma, Ondřej Sáňka, Jiří Kalina, Martin Scheringer
      Environment International.2019; 125: 300.     CrossRef
    • Mercury concentrations in environmental media at a hazardous solid waste landfill site and mercury emissions from the site
      Young-Ji Han, Pyung-Rae Kim, Gang-San Lee, Jae-In Lee, Seam Noh, Seok-Min Yu, Kwang-Su Park, Kwang-Seol Seok, Hyuk Kim, Young-Hee Kim
      Environmental Earth Sciences.2017;[Epub]     CrossRef
    • Mercury emission to the atmosphere from municipal solid waste landfills: A brief review
      Zhengkai Tao, Shijin Dai, Xiaoli Chai
      Atmospheric Environment.2017; 170: 303.     CrossRef
    • An assessment of the potential for transformational market growth amongst the critical metals
      J. P. Sykes, J. P. Wright, A. Trench, P. Miller
      Applied Earth Science.2016; 125(1): 21.     CrossRef
    • Comparative assessment of button cells using a normalized index for potential pollution by heavy metals
      Luis Moreno-Merino, Maria Emilia Jiménez-Hernández, Almudena de la Losa, Virginia Huerta-Muñoz
      Science of The Total Environment.2015; 526: 187.     CrossRef


    JPMPH : Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health