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Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is present throughout
the environment. Human activity can release some of that mercury into
the air, water and soil. In the U.S., coal-fired power plants are the
biggest source of mercury emissions to the air.
When liquid mercury is spilled, it forms droplets that can accumulate
in the tiniest of spaces and then emit vapors into the air. Health problems
caused by mercury depend on how much has entered your body, how it entered
your body, how long you have been exposed to it, and how your body responds
to the mercury. All mercury spills, regardless of quantity, should be
Mercury concentrations in air are usually low and of little direct
concern. But when mercury enters water, biological processes transform
it to a highly toxic form that builds up in fish and animals that eat
fish. People are exposed to mercury primarily by eating fish.
The Environmental Protection Agency is working to reduce the amount
of mercury in the environment.
Power Plant Emissions
EPA is committed to regulating and reducing power plant mercury
emissions for the first time ever. EPA is on track to issue
the rule by March 15, 2005.