Media advisory: International mercury conference coming to Madison Aug. 6-11

Madison -- More than 1,000 scientists, academics, natural resource managers, environmental managers and policymakers will gather Sunday-Friday, Aug. 6-11, in Madison for the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant.

Eligible media representatives will receive complimentary registration for all presentations, abstracts, advance materials and use of newsroom facilities during conference hours.

Throughout the week, conferees will consider a conference declaration summarizing the findings of four expert panels, each of which is addressing policy-relevant issues pertaining to environmental mercury pollution. The declaration will be the first such statement produced by this series of international conferences.

A news conference will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, in Hall E on Level 5 of the Monona Terrace Convention Center. The room is equipped with a "mult" box to record sound directly from the microphones.

Registered reporters will receive an advance copy of the declaration on the morning of Aug. 11, prior to the press conference. Reporters who cannot attend in person are invited to access the declaration online and participate via conference call. E-mail [email protected] to receive telephone call-in information for the news conference.

News conference speakers include:

  • Steve Lindberg, emeritus fellow, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (source attribution of atmospheric mercury);

  • Donna Mergler, professor of biological sciences, University of Quebec at Montreal (methylmercury exposure and health effects in humans);

  • John Munthe, department head, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute (recovery of mercury-contaminated fisheries);

  • Tony Scheuhammer, research scientist, Environment Canada (effects of methylmercury exposure on the health of wild birds, mammals and fish);

  • Edward Swain, research scientist, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (socioeconomic consequences of mercury use and pollution);

  • James Wiener, Wisconsin Distinguished Professor, UW-La Crosse (conference technical chair).

  • Program highlights will include an address by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who will speak during the opening ceremony at 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 6. The title of his address is "Perspectives on Mercury."

Another address is titled "Remembering Minamata 50 Years Later." Fifty years ago, mercury-contaminated industrial waste polluted Minamata Bay and ultimately led to the death and disability of thousands in Japan. At the opening ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 6, Komyo Eto of the National Institute for Minamata Disease will observe the 50th anniversary of the Minamata disaster and the first diagnosis of mercury poisoning.

The conference will also feature a session on "Mercury and American Indian Tribes." Subsistence fishing is central to the cultures of many American Indian tribes. George Goggleye, chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, will address how mercury affects American Indians in the Upper Midwest, during the conference opening ceremony, when members of the Sokaogon Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will also perform.

Other research presentations include:

Global trade in recycled mercury: Many communities focus on mercury recycling, urging homeowners and businesses to take old thermostats and fluorescent light bulbs to special recycling sites as a way to keep mercury out of landfills. Although those creating these programs have good intentions, many people may not realize that this recycled mercury often ends up sold to less developed nations. Selling recycled mercury may have the effect of increasing mercury use and release through increased supply and decreased price.

Mercury and omega-3 fatty acids: Risks versus benefits: Methylmercury exposure among people occurs almost exclusively through the consumption of seafood. However, seafood also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Mercury in dental amalgams: Mercury as amalgam has been used as dental fillings for more than 150 years. Although many dentists around the world now use alternate filling material, concern still exists about the health risks of mercury vapor exposure in dental patients, past and present exposure to inorganic mercury by dentists handling amalgam, direct discharge of mercury at wastewater treatment plants, and mercury released from dental amalgams incinerated by the crematoria industry.

Small-scale gold mining endangers millions: The two main pathways for human exposure to mercury are exposure to methylmercury through eating fish and direct exposure to vaporized mercury, primarily through small-scale gold mining. An estimated 10-15 million people make their living in small-scale gold-mining operations by amalgamating gold with mercury. More than 10 percent of the modern anthropogenic loading of mercury to Earth's atmosphere comes from this type of mining.

Mercury invades remote polar ecosystems: For the last five years, scientists have intensified their research on mercury in remote polar ecosystems. In their search to better understand background mercury levels, scientists have found that unique atmospheric conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic enhance mercury deposition in forms that could readily be converted to methylmercury and enter food webs in these remote regions. They are also beginning to examine the link between mercury deposition and global climate change. Biologists have documented increasing concentrations of mercury in Arctic marine mammals, fish and seabirds, despite reductions in anthropogenic mercury emissions to the atmosphere in North America and Europe.


Media registration is open to all credentialed reporters. Public information officers who can demonstrate current membership in the National Association of Science Writers, the Canadian Science Writers Association, the International Science Writers Association or the Society of Environmental Journalists are also eligible. All others must register as regular conference attendees and pay regular registration fees. The Conference Organizing Committee retains the right to determine eligibility.

Registration will be available at the conference site, but advance registration is highly encouraged. Reporters should visit the conference Web site at to register in advance (click the "media" tab in the left column). The preregistration deadline for media is Thursday, Aug. 3.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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