The largest anthropogenic source of Hg emissions to air on a global scale is the combustion of coal and other fossil fuels. Others sources include metal production, cement production, waste disposal and cremation. In addition, gold production makes a significant contribution to global air emissions of Hg. The main natural sources of Hg emissions are diffusion from the Earth's mantle though the lithosphere, evaporation from the sea surface and geothermal activity. Mercury emitted in inorganic forms is converted biologically to methyl mercury in soil and water (EEA, 2013).
Mercury can damage the liver, the kidneys and the digestive and respiratory systems. It can also cause brain and neurological damage and impair growth. Methyl mercury is a potent neurotoxin. Unborn children are the most vulnerable population group in terms of exposure to Hg (EEA, 2013)(EEA 2014).
Mercury bioaccumulates and adversely impacts
both terrestrial and aquatic systems. It can affect
animals in the same way as humans and is very toxic
to aquatic life (EEA, 2013).
Estimated external cost of Mercury emissions from EU22 electricity production in 2013 (€)