US mercury emissions to be cut

The US Environmental Protection Agency is considering cutting emissions from the country's fourth-largest source of mercury air pollutants.

The proposal would also set the nation’s first limits on mercury emissions from the Portland cement kilns and, should also, help limit pollution from newly built kilns by establishing guidelines.

The proposed standards also would set emission limits for total hydrocarbons, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide from cement kilns of all sizes and would reduce hydrochloric acid emissions from kilns that are large emitters.

Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, said: “We can save more than a thousand lives each year, sharply reduce mercury and other toxins in our air and water, and work with industry to encourage innovations and good ideas that are already out there.

“Mercury and other chemicals flowing into these communities are health hazards for children, pregnant mothers, local residents and workers – people who deserve protection.”

Mercury in the air eventually deposits into water, where it changes into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish.

Americans are primarily exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish. Because the developing fetus is the most sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury, women of childbearing age and children are regarded as the population of greatest concern.

The proposal is in response to a request to reconsider the December 2006 emissions standards for Portland cement manufacturing facilities.

The EPA is currently taking public comments in the federal register and will hold a public hearing if residents ask for one and could agree the scheme later this year.

Luke Walsh

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