"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:
- Increased mercury emissions from developing countries over the last 30 years have offset decreased emissions from developed nations.
- There is now solid scientific evidence of methylmercury's toxic health effects, particularly to the human fetus.
- New evidence indicates that methylmercury exposure may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in adult men.
- Increasing mercury concentrations are now being found in a number of fish-eating wildlife species in remote areas of the planet.
- The actual socioeconomic costs of mercury pollution are probably much greater than estimated because existing economic analyses don't consider mercury's impacts on ecosystems and wildlife.
- The concentration of methylmercury in fish in freshwater and coastal ecosystems can be expected to decline with reduced mercury inputs; however, the rate of decline is expected to vary among water bodies, depending on the characteristics of a particular ecosystem.
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