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Contact: David Krabbenhoft
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Mercury contamination of fish warrants worldwide public warning

MADISON -The health risks posed by mercury contaminated fish is sufficient to warrant issuing a worldwide general warning to the public -- especially children and women of childbearing age-to be careful about how much and which fish they eat. That is one of the key findings comprising "The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution" published today in a special issue of the international science journal Ambio.

Developed at the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant last August in Madison, Wis., the declaration is a synopsis of the latest scientific knowledge about the danger posed by mercury pollution. It presents 33 principal findings from five synthesis papers prepared by the world's leading mercury scientists and published in the same issue of Ambio. The declaration and supporting papers summarize what is currently known about the sources and movement of mercury in the atmosphere, the socioeconomic and health effects of mercury pollution on human populations, and its effects on the world's fisheries and wildlife.

Five other major findings in the declaration were:

"The policy implications of these findings are clear," said James Wiener, a Wisconsin Distinguished Professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse who served as technical chair for last summer's conference. "The declaration and detailed analyses presented in the five supporting papers clearly show that effective national and international policies are needed to combat this global problem." Published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Ambio (www.ambio.kva.se) is widely recognized as an important international forum for debate on scientific, social, economic and cultural issues affecting the human environment.

Wiener said the Madison Declaration summarizes a year-long effort by many of the world's leading mercury scientists, assembled into four expert panels, to review and synthesize the major mercury science findings. Every member of all four scientific panels endorsed the declaration, he said. Wiener added that all 1,150 participants at the conference were invited to express their confidence in the experts' findings, and the vast majority of those who did so agreed with the experts' conclusions.

Other major findings in the declaration include:


Besides Wiener, conference organizers included James Hurley of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Sea Grant Institute, David Krabbenhoft of the U.S. Geological Survey and Christopher L. Babiarz of the UW-Madison Water Science & Engineering Laboratory. Wisconsin Sea Grant, USGS and UW-La Crosse were among the major sponsors of the 2006 conference.


CONTACT: David Krabbenhoft, U.S. Geological Survey, (608) 821-3843, dpkrabbe@usgs.gov; or James Hurley, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, phone (608) 262-0905, email hurley@aqua.wisc.edu

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