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EPA Sets First National Standard to Reduce Mercury Emissions from Gold Production

Release Date: 12/17/2010
Contact Information: Enesta Jones (News Media only), jones.enesta@epa.gov, 202-564-7873, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is cutting emissions from gold ore processing and production facilities with a new standard that will reduce annual mercury emissions by more than 75 percent from 2007 levels. This action is one of several steps EPA is taking to reduce mercury levels in our environment, which can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born.

EPA’s action sets the first national standard for mercury air emissions from industrial gold production, the seventh largest source of mercury air emissions in the country. Cuts made to meet the standard will build on the progress that has already been made under the state of Nevada’s successful program for controlling mercury emissions from precious metal mining.

There are more than 20 facilities that extract gold from ore that will need to meet the requirements of the rule within three years. Some facilities in Nevada already are making significant progress toward the federal requirements under that state’s program.

Mercury in the air eventually deposits into water, where it changes into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish. People are primarily exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish. Because a developing fetus is most sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury, women of childbearing age and children are regarded as the populations of greatest concern.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/new.html