Mercury Research Strategy
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Office of Research and Development (ORD) is pleased to announce the availability of its Mercury Research Strategy. This strategy guides ORD's mercury research program and covers the FY2001 2005 time frame. ORD will use it to prepare a multi-year mercury research implementation plan in 2001.
The Mercury Research Strategy summarizes the human health and ecological risks posed by mercury and methylmercury, and indicates that mercury needs to be considered at local, regional, and global scales. It identifies the key scientific questions of greatest importance to the Agency, and then describes a research program to answer those questions. The key scientific questions cover: (1) transport, transformation, and fate, (2) risk management for combustion sources, (3) risk management for non-combustion sources, (4) ecological effects and exposure, (5) human health effects and exposure, and (6) risk communication. The goal in addressing the questions is to reduce scientific uncertainties limiting EPA's ability to assess and manage mercury and methylmercury risks. The exposure route targeted in the Mercury Research Strategy involves fish consumption where mercury is: released to the air, transported and deposited on land and water, converted to methylmercury in water bodies, consumed by fish, and then accumulated in mammals, including humans, that eat fish.
A number of scientific and technical studies contributed to the strategic directions and the key scientific questions posed in the Mercury Research Strategy. One of the most important documents was the Mercury Study Report to Congress which described the magnitude of mercury emissions in the United States, identified mercury emission sources, assessed the health and environmental implications of those emissions, and evaluated the availability and cost of technologies for emission control. It is the most comprehensive human health and environmental investigation of mercury and methylmercury available and serves as the foundation for EPA's understanding of mercury risk assessment and risk management issues. Another important document was the National Academy of Sciences report on the Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury. This report confirmed EPA's Reference Dose (RfD) of 0.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day as a scientifically justifiable level for protecting human health from the adverse effects of methylmercury.
A team of scientists from ORD's national laboratories and centers, the Office of Air and Radiation, the Office of International Activities, the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, and the Office of Water prepared the Mercury Research Strategy. Technical staff from EPA's Regions I, IV, V, IX, and X also contributed to the writing effort. An internal review was conducted by the Associate Directors for Ecology at ORD's three national laboratories and the National Center for Environmental Assessment in November 1998. An external peer review was performed by a group of experts at a work shop in Washington, D.C., on December 9 11, 1999. The strategy reflects the recommendations of these internal and external peer reviewers, as well as comments received from individuals on the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.