Toxic Metals: Emissions, Deposition, Health Effects, Controls 1-31-2001
& the relation to incinerators, coal plants, acid rain
This paper is primarily an annotated bibliography summarizing articles, books, documents and newspaper clippings relating to the above aspects of toxic metals and their impact on health and the environment. A primary source of the information is the reading files or summary articles of the State Pollution Control Agencies of Florida, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The primary effort made to verify accuracy of information referenced was general screening, cross comparisons, and feedback from other technical sources; and the articles are referenced and available for more detailed analysis
I. Health Effects of Toxic Metals (mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, etc.)
II. Mercury in Fish and the Food Chain of Lakes and Streams and Bays
III. Effect of Toxic Metals on Forests and Plant Ecosystems
IV. Sources of Mercury Emissions and Mercury Content of Fuels
V. Emissions of Other Toxic Metals from Human Activities
VI. The Relation of Acidity and Acid Rain to Toxic Metal Impacts on Aquatic Systems, Fish, the Food Chain, and Health2
VII. European Experience with Mercury Emissions
VIII. Experience with Emissions Control Equipment for Toxic Metals and
Mercury Reduction Options
IX. Toxic Metals in Flue Ash and Bottom Ash
X. Heavy Metals and Drinking Water
XI. Toxic Metals from Sewer Plants and Urban Runoff
Toxic metals(mercury,lead,cadmium,aluminum,etc.) appear to be the number one environmental health threat in Florida currently and appear to be seriously affecting thousands of Floridians, especially children and older people. Toxic metals have been documented to be neurotoxic, as well as reproductive and developmental toxins. Over 60 % of Florida lakes and rivers tested last year by the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission had dangerous levels of mercury in the fish and food chain(33,33.3) and over 20% of all U.S. lakes have similar warnings(64). High levels of mercury are also being found in other wildlife such as frogs, turtles, raccoons, alligators, etc. with many birds and an endangered Florida panther being killed by high levels of mercury. Florida is one of a growing list of at least 40 states and 4 Canadian provinces(24.5,64) with bans or limits on eating fish from thousands of lakes or rivers with dangerously high levels of mercury in fish. Europe has similar experience. Dangerous levels of mercury have also been found in shark, tuna, sea trout, sailcat, mackerel, bluefish, etc., as well as toxic metals in shellfish(16.5). Over 90% of the health risk to the public(and animals) from toxic metals such as mercury(as well as from dioxin) has been found to be related to such toxics that are bioaccumulating in the food chain. Mercury, cadmium, and lead have been found to be estrogenic chemicals that disrupt the endocrine/reproductive/hormonal systems of animals at low levels of exposure, with serious adverse seen on animals and humans
Most of the mercury in Florida lakes and soils is from atmospheric deposition, and the main sources of air emissions are municipal incinerators, medical waste incinerators, and coal combustion. Dental amalgam which is the largest source of mercury in sewers is also a significant source in rivers, lakes, and fish(14.9). A Dept. of Environmental Protection report said that past tests indicate that Florida incinerators and power plants were emitting approx. 6 tons and 3.4 tons per year of mercury emissions to the Florida environment. Such facilities also emit large volumes of lead, cadmium, and other toxics. Of the approx. 6 tons of mercury generated in Fla. by coal plants, approx. 50% appear to be as air emissions with the rest going into the ash. There appear to be only minor natural sources of mercury in Florida, other than recycling of previously deposited mercury by plants, soils, etc. which is significant in some areas. Coal plants from other states and oil combustion in Florida together appear to deposit almost as much mercury as Fla. coal plants, but Florida plants also affect other states.
Studies in Wisconsin and Canada indicated only one gram of mercury per year deposited in an average sized lake(25 acres) is sufficient to contaminate fish and the food chain at dangerous levels requiring a fish consumption ban or limitation(18). The amount of mercury emissions each year by incinerators and coal plants(36 grams/square mile) are enough to uniformly deposit 16 grams and 20 grams per square mile respectively, for each of the 53,800 square miles of Florida. These levels each appear to be well above the level of deposition required to cause dangerous levels of mercury in fish throughout the state(2.5 gm/sm), especially in lakes with low acidity or low alkalinity like many of Florida's lakes(1.5,1.6). The average level of deposition into Minnesota lakes with mercury health warnings was 13 micrograms per square meter(34 grams per square mile) and for Florida
the average deposition throughout Florida in 2001 was 17.6 micrograms per square meter(1.5b).
The levels of the toxic metals mercury, lead, cadmium, copper, selenium, arsenic, zinc, and silver are increasing cumulatively in the environment due to atmospheric emissions from human activity. Mercury levels in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Canada, and Sweden were found to be increasing in sediments, soils, and fish at rates between 2% and 5% per year. Levels in Florida have also been found to be increasing by a Univ. of Florida study. Toxic metals were found in water body sediments sampled at levels exceeding the FDEP toxics criteria in 30% of "reaches" sampled for mercury, 15% for cadmium, 20% for copper, 15% for lead, etc. The higher rates were in areas with major emission sources and in recent years. At this rate of increase, levels double in as little as 10 years. Levels of toxic metals in soils and plants in industrial areas were found to be doubling in many cases every 3 to 10 years. Mercury, lead, cadmium, and manganese are now being deposited in some areas at levels toxic to humans as well as other animals and plants. The other toxic metals previously listed are being deposited at levels toxic to plants or other organisms.
High levels of other toxic metals have also been found in drinking water, surface water, sediments, and the food chain throughout Florida. Toxic metal air emissions have been suggested to be a factor in high lung cancer rates of some areas of North Florida. Toxic metals have been documented to cause large numbers of learning disabilities, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, hormonal problem, reproductive problems, and kidney disease(5.5,1.8,14.7,27.7), as well as being major factors in the promotion of cancer and birth defects(7.5). Approximately 250,000 U.S. children are born each year with birth defects diagnosed at or shortly after birth. Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Congenital anomalies, sudden infant death syndrome, and premature birth combined account for more than 50% of all infant mortality(62).
According to Federal studies, thousands of children appear to have their learning ability and health permanently adversely affected in Florida each year. Because of this, all school systems were ordered by EPA to have their water systems tested. Over 20% of Leon county school water fountains were found to have dangerous levels of lead in the water, and higher levels were found in some other counties. An EPA drinking water survey found that the average lead level in drinking water in many areas of Florida was above the EPA drinking water standard of 20 parts per billion, a level shown high enough to cause significant health effects. A large proportion of drinking water in some areas of Florida appears to have dangerous levels of lead from pipes, solder joints, brass fixtures, or water fountains.
The increase in toxic metals in water and the food chain has been shown to be related to increased acidity of drinking water and surface water. Additional sources of large amounts of metals in bay, lake, or river sediments are sewer or industrial outfalls and urban runoff.
I. Health Effects of Toxic Metals (mercury,lead, cadmium, & chromium, copper, nickel, etc.)
1. The levels of the toxic metals mercury, lead, cadmium, copper, selenium, arsenic, zinc, and nickel are increasing cumulatively in the environment due to atmospheric emissions from human activities(1.9,2,2.1,16.3,1). Mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel, and manganese are now being deposited through atmospheric emissions in many areas at levels toxic to humans, as well as to other animals and plants. The average annual percent increase in emissions of these metals has ranged from 1.5% to 5% (2), with accumulation in soils and plants in some industrial areas of the U.S. and Europe doubling in between 3 to 10 years and in many cases reaching levels known to cause critical health problems. Studies of human bones have found a 500 fold increase in the levels of toxic metals such as lead currently as opposed to preindustrial times. A large British study(15.1) found a statistically highly significant, age related increase in the levels of toxic metals(aluminum,mercury,arsenic,cadmium, lead) accumulating in the British population, as measured in hair, blood, and sweat samples. Increasing body burdens of these toxic metals have been found to be widely accumulating in industrial country populations throughout life, with increasingly significant adverse health effects due to this accumulation as populations age. Brain function and kidney function are being especially adversely affected in large segments of the population of industrial countries over 40 years of age. There has been a large increase in depression, impulsivity, and dementia in the U.S. since 1945(5.5,15.1) and toxic metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium have been found to adversely affect levels of brain neurotransmitters resulting in these conditions(3.1,9.3,9.7,15.1,5.5,1.8).
2. The U.S. Center for Disease Control ranks toxic metals as the number one environmental health threat to children, adversely affecting millions of children in the U.S. each year and thousands in Florida(1.7,2.4,1). According to an EPA/ATSDR assessment, the toxic metals lead, mercury, and arsenic are the top 3 toxics having the most adverse health effects on the public based on toxicity and current exposure levels in the U.S.(1,9.3), with cadmium, chromium and nickel also highly listed. A National Academy of Sciences Report(65) found that 50% of U.S. pregnancies result in birth defects or neurological conditions or other chronic developmental problems. Researchers have documented that the majority of these are due to toxic exposures(5.5,7.5,14,5,14.7,1.8,etc.) According to studies reviewed, over 16% of all children in the U.S. have had their learning ability(ADHD, dyslexia,autism,learning disabilities) significantly adversely affected by toxic metals such as lead, mercury,and cadmium; and over 60% of children in some urban areas have been adversely affected(1.7,5.5,6,9,15.3,47-50).
The toxic metals have been documented to be reproductive and developmental toxins, causing birth defects and damaging fetal development, as well as neurological effects, developmental delays, learning disabilities, and behavioral abnormalities in many otherwise normal-appearing children(5.5,7.5,9.1,9.3,9.7,19.2,47-50,1.8). Other neurological disorders are also increasing, partly due to exposure of millions of American workers to neurotoxic substances such as toxic metals and pesticides(15.7).
3. Lead poisoning is the most prevalent environmental disease in the U.S along with mercury toxicity. According to an EPA survey, over 10% of all Americans and over 20% of all black children under 2 carry unsafe levels of lead in their bodies(over 10 mcg/dl) (9). In an urban east coast area, almost half of children tested in 1998 had lead levels exceeding the federal blood levels guideline(41.5).
Lead is a leading cause of birth defects, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, neurological disease, kidney disease, learning disability, retardation, tooth cavities,etc.(2‑3,5.5,8‑9,15.1,28,41,49,50). An increased lead burden of 5 ug/L in the blood corresponded to an increase in cavities of 80%(41). Lead also has been shown to depress the immune system and increase cancer rates(1.3, 9). Federal studies indicate that exposure to lead in the environment reduces the IQ of hundreds of thousands of U.S. children each year and causes pregnancy complications to over 500,000 U.S. women each year(2.3, 2.4). Children aged 7 to 11 with high levels of lead in their bones were found to exhibit much higher levels of attention problems, aggressive/violent behavior, and delinquency than those with lower levels(5.5).
Drinking water is a major source of lead in humans according to EPA. Other major sources are lead in old paint, lead solder in cans, lead in soils from previous gasoline exhaust, lead emissions from incinerators, and lead in food chain(1.2). EPA studies show that hundreds of thousands of school children are being exposed to dangerous levels of lead in drinking water from fountains at U.S. schools(2.3, 2.4). Levels from gasoline exhaust and cans have decreased in the U.S., but are still extremely high in some other countries.
Studies have confirmed lead in drinking water is a major problem in Florida(2.4). Millions of people are exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxic metals through home drinking water which has absorbed lead or other toxic metals from pipes, solder joints,brass fixtures, etc.
according to EPA(2.4,2.6). An EPA drinking water survey (2.4, 2.8) found that the average lead level in drinking water in many areas of Florida was above the EPA drinking water standard of 15 parts per billion(parts per billion(ppb)., a level high enough to cause significant health effects. Counties with a significant number of homes above the EPA standard were Escambia, Brevard, Volusia, Lee, Broward, and Dade.
4. Lead has been shown to be one of the most potent promoters of cancer and birth defects(2.2, 9). In a Swiss study of residents living on a busy roadside, a group of residents having free blood lead removed by calcium EDTA treatment was compared to a control group that did not. 17% of those not having lead removed died of cancer while only 1.7% of those having lead removed died of cancer(2.2).
A Boston area study found lead to be a potent promoter of birth defects. The study suggest that as much as 46% of all birth defects in the area were facilitated by or related to level of lead in the blood of the fetus. Low levels of lead were found to promote birth defects, with a blood lead level of 6.3 micrograms per deciliter(mcg/dl) being associated with an 87% increase of birth defects. A blood lead level of 15 mcg/dl had a 137% higher risk of birth defects relative to the group with less than 0.7 mcg/dl (9). (1 mcg/dl=10ppb)
Cadmium has also been found to be a promoter of sperm abnormalities, birth defects, uterine fibroids, infertility, spontaneous abortions(1.5,3,42,46,51), lung and brain cancer(40,52,55), and peripheral neuropathy(56).
5. Studies reviewed suggest that exposure to toxic metals may account for as least 23% of learning disabilities, 20% of all strokes and heart attacks, and in some areas be a factor in over 40% of all birth defects. Primary exposure to lead is from drinking water,auto and industrial emissions, and lead in paint. Cadmium,mercury chromium, arsenic, silver, copper, and aluminum are other metals to which Floridians are commonly exposed in drinking water or the food system(3).
6. Researchers at the U.S. Public Health Service and at Harvard Univ. have found that blood pressure in men increases significantly at 20 mcg/dl blood level compared to 10 mcg/dl (4). Another study found a linear relation between elevated blood lead and blood pressure down to 7 mcg/dl (4.5). Other studies have also found both lead and cadmium to be significant causes of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke(4.7 & 3).
7. A study of school children in Maryland found that both lead and cadmium had significant impacts on learning ability. The group of children labeled gifted by teachers all had low levels of blood lead, while all children with blood lead levels of 50 ppm or more were in the very low achiever group. There was a very high correlation between blood lead level and achievement group(5). These results were also confirmed by a recent medical studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine(6.5) and other studies(2.7,6,15.1,15.3,47-50,5.5).
8. Exposure to the 5 heavy metals tested for in a study of school children accounted for 23% of the variation in test scores for reading, spelling and visual motor skills(6,15.3). A Canadian study found that blood levels of five metals were able to predict with a 98% accuracy which children were learning disabled(7). Animals exposes to a very low-dose mixture of six metals displayed severe growth retardation and other abnormalities in the exposed fetuses, indicating a synergistic effect of the metals in combination(10.8,19.8).
9. Medical studies have shown that low levels of lead in the blood of infants(as low as 6.5 mcg/dl) have significant effects on mental development and learning ability. An average level of 14.6 mcg/dl had serious impacts(8, 8.5, 8.7, 2.7,5.5).
10. There is a significant correlation between maternal blood lead level with birth weight and early learning ability. Adverse effects were found as low as 8 micrograms per deciliter(9 & 9.5 & 2.7).
11. A study of 14 to 19 year olds found that the amount of lead in the blood was the most important factor in hearing threshold levels in children. Levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter had a significant effect and there was no threshold level(10). The lead blood level also was found to be a significant factor in the age at which a child first sat up, walked, and spoke(10); as well as being related to reductions in height of children(4.5).
12. A review of studies involving cadmium suggest cadmium is as effective as lead at causing high blood pressure and heart disease. Likewise cadmium has been found to produce learning disabilities and mental retardation in children much like lead, as well as causing kidney damage(54,57.5),sperm abnormalities, and sterility in men(2,3,6,1.2,15.1,15.3,47-51,54). One study(53) found a significant correlation between hair cadmium level and sporadic ALS(53). Cadmium has also been found to bioaccumulate in the food chain and to be reaching dangerous levels in shellfish and animals(28,3.7,1.2). Cadmium has been found to be widely distributed in sediments of Florida's bays and estuaries(3.3), and is acutely toxic to marine life at sediment levels as low as 6.9 parts per trillion(parts per trillion(ppt)(3.5). Cadmium also appears to be an endocrine system disrupter and to cause other biological harm at lower levels (14.5). The FDEP NOEL(no observed effects level) is 1 parts per million(ppm). The FDEP PEL(probable effects level-lower limit of range associated with adverse biological effects) for cadmium is 7.5 ppm. Cadmium levels is sediments of 4 harbor areas in the Indian River Lagoon were found to be .6 to .8 ppm, with much higher levels in several urban coastal areas(3.7,3.3). The U.S.EPA(38) toxics criterion for cadmium in seafood used in coastal monitoring programs is 0.5 ppm. The FDEP NOEL for lead in sediments is 21 ppm and the PEL is 160 ppm, which are also exceeded in some areas of Florida. The EPA toxics contaminant criteria for lead in seafood is 0.5 ppm. The FDEP NOEL for copper of 28 ppm and for chromium of 33 ppm are also exceeded in many areas of Florida. The PEL for copper and chromium respectively are 170 ppm and 240 ppm(3.5). The EPA contaminant criteria for copper in seafood is 15 ppm and for chromium is 1ppm. The EPA criteria for zinc is 60 ppm.
13. European studies have found a correlation between long‑term air exposure to cadmium levels in industrialized urban areas with lowered kidney function (12,15.1). Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from serious kidney dysfunction due to cadmium(2,15.1). As a result of research carried out by the Danish National Agency of Environmental Protection, the EEC Council of Environmental Ministers has concluded that present environmental levels of cadmium are potentially harmful, with harmful levels of cadmium accumulating in the lungs, bone tissue, brain, and kidneys(44). Cadmium(and mercury) has been found to be a major cause of neurological dysfunction such as Alzheimer's disease and other dementia(15.1, 5.5,9.7). Cadmium has also been shown to be toxic to the testes and sperm at fairly low levels and to damage the placenta, which can cause damage or death to the fetus(9.8,46).
Significant levels of cadmium have been found in the German food system. Sweden has instituted a ban on many uses of cadmium such as for paint pigment, and other European countries are considering such bans(3). Japanese studies indicate the lungs, gastrointestinal system, and kidneys are especially susceptible to cadmium poisoning. A daily intake of 200 ug of cadmium was found to significantly increase kidney damage in humans. Normal intake in diet is 50 to 80 ug(13). Cadmium from combustion emissions is also accumulating in coastal estuaries and inland water body sediments, and is widespread in shellfish and other organisms. Cadmium is toxic at relatively low levels and has serious impacts on the organisms in water bodies that accumulate cadmium(4.3,1.2).
14. The heavy metals(lead,mercury,cadmium) tend to concentrate in the air and in the food chain, facilitating metal poisoning which is the most widespread environmental disorder in the U.S. These heavy metals have also been found to be endocrine systems disrupting chemicals having effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems similar to the organochlorine chemicals(14.3,14.5,5.5). Estrogenic chemicals like mercury have been found in Florida wildlife at levels that feminized males to the extent of not being able to reproduce, and also had adverse effects on the female reproductive systems. Chromium is also on the EPA Special Health Hazard Substance List because it is "a cancer-causing agent and a mutagen". Lungs & throat are especially affected. (11.7)
15. "The neurotoxicity of alkylmetals such as mercury represents a major environmental health problem which should be of international concern."(1.7-1.9,9.3,9.7,16.5,1,63) Mercury is found in 3 different forms: elemental mercury vapor, inorganic mercury compounds, and organic mercury. The organic methyl mercury form bioaccumulates to very high levels in the food chain and readily crosses the brain membrane where it can do severe irreversible damage (11,28,9.3,9.7,15.1,16.5, 1.2). Fish and seafood are common sources of mercury in people, but other sources of elemental mercury also result in methyl mercury since it is commonly methylated by bacteria and yeasts in the mouth and intestines to methyl mercury(1.8). The number one source of metallic/inorganic mercury is from amalgam dental fillings(1.8,1.7) but this is also the largest source of methyl mercury for many people. Exposure levels for those with amalgam fillings commonly exceed Govt health guidelines(1.8,1.7,1.2,), which is 0.2 ug/M3 for mercury vapor. Thousands also get harmful exposure levels from occupational exposure such as working in dental offices(1.8). Inhaled metallic mercury vapor is able to diffuse much more extensively into blood cells and various tissues than inorganic mercury (22.8,1.8). Approx. 70% of methyl mercury in consumed fish or food is absorbed and retained in the body. The Govt health guideline for organic mercury is 0.1 ug Hg /kg body weight(1.7). Mercury has been extensively documented to have serious adverse health effects including brain and neurological damage, kidney failure, birth defects, learning disabilities, depression, impulsivity, etc. (1.2,1.8,3,5.5,6,9.7,14,14.7,15.1,15.3,16.5,17,19.2,63). Mercury has been found to adversely affect the brain's neurotransmitter uptake of serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine which control the body's neurologic functions(1.8,14.7). Low serotonin levels have been shown to result in depression, anger, anxiety, aggression, violence, insomnia, obesity, sexual deviance, and other impulse disorders.
Epidemiological studies have found that human embryos are highly susceptible to brain damage from prenatal exposure to mercury(7.5,9.7,5.5,1.8,63). Levels in the fetus are usually higher than the blood level of the mother, and significant levels of mercury are often found in breast milk(7.5,9.2,45,1.8). Normal levels in breast milk range up to 1.0 ug/L Cd, 5 ug/L Pb, and 1.7 ug/L Hg, but levels above this are commonly found. ATSDR staff recommend screening levels for dangerous effects of 5 ug/l Cd, 20 ug/L Pb, and 3.5 ug/L Hg(45). Mercury has also been documented to cause cellular DNA damage and cancer in animal studies(19.4). Mercury has been documented to be causing serious harm to birds, animals, and humans (2,14.5,14.7,16.5,17.4,18,19.4, 28,28.5,33,1.8). Native Americans eating fish on a regular basis have been found to have serious health effects. Over 100 Japanese died and many more were seriously affected neurologically where infants suffered mental retardation, severe cerebral palsy, incoordination, weakness, seizures, vision loss, etc. after eating fish contaminated with 10 to 20 parts per million(ppm) methyl mercury(about 1000 micrograms per 1/4 pound serving)(9.4,18). A large cohort study of occupationally exposed women found an increased risk of spontaneous abortion and other pregnancy complications(9.6,7.5).
The World Health Organization maximum safe level for human ingestion was based mostly on acute toxicity and is 30 micrograms per day. The ATSDR/EPA MRL amounts to between 3 to 7 micrograms per day(9.3,1.7,1.8). The average U.S. average human intake for those with amalgam fillings is over 10 micrograms per day, but most with several fillings have excretion levels of about 30 micrograms per day, and a study of a group in New York eating more than the average amount of fish found many ingesting over 40 micrograms per day. The Minnesota Dept. of Health recommends limiting the intake of mercury to 15 micrograms per week but this level is commonly exceeded. Studies have shown Floridians eat more fish on average than the amounts assumed in setting standards and most Gulf Coast saltwater fish have levels of mercury above government health standards and levels documented to often cause adverse health effects(16.5).
Mercury Health and Wildlife Standards:
The FDEP NOEL for mercury of .1 ppm is also widely exceeded. The FDEP PEL for mercury is 1.4 ppm. The FDA action level for mercury in seafood is 1 ppm(59). The historic U.S. EPA mercury wildlife guideline, adopted by most states including Florida, is 12 nanograms per Liter( ng/L)(1.5)
The mercury health standard to protect human life is 0.3 parts per million(ppm) in fish and shellfish
and 7.9 ng/L for rivers and 3.5 ng/L for lakes under default water conditions. The EPA mercury wildlife standard( adopted only for the Great Lakes and tributaries) is 1.3 ng/L and the corresponding human health criteria is 3.1 ng/L(1.3).
(16) Tin, thallium, platinum, and gold can also be methylated in water bodies and sediments to very toxic methyl forms. The extremely toxic tin compound used in marine paints, tributyltin, was found at levels above the EPA toxics criteria (TBT>1ppb) in 39% of Fla. Gulf Coast sediments tested(38). In addition, the metalloids arsenic, selenium, and tellurium can be converted to volatile products of extreme toxicity(11,3.5). The EPA contaminant criteria for selenium is 1ppm. For silver, the sediment NOEL is 0.5, which is exceeded in some parts of the state(3.7), and the PEL is 2.5.
Arsenic is on the EPA Special Health Hazard List because it is a potent Class A carcinogen in humans(1.2,11.7,11.8), as well as being neurotoxic. An EPA study of cancer incidence for different levels of arsenic in drinking water found a dose related response for all types of cancer(11.3). The cancer rate for people with drinking water levels of above .6 parts per million arsenic were approx. 3 times those for people drinking water below .3 ppm arsenic, with large increases in cancers of internal organs. According to U.S.EPA it also causes birth defects, learning disabilities, damage to bone marrow, and other health problems., and new studies estimate that drinking water contaminated with arsenic at the current federal limit poses a 1 percent lifetime risk of cancer- about the same as radon or tobacco smoke(11.5). EPA staff have proposed lowering the drinking water standard for arsenic substantially to 3 to 5 parts per billion. Arsenic is acutely toxic to marine organisms but also has other effects at lower levels including growth retardation and reproductive failure(3.5). Arsenic is widely distributed in sediments in some areas of Florida and bioaccumulates in the food chain. The FDEP NOEL(no observed effect level) for arsenic is 8 ppm. The FDEP sediment PEL is 64 ppm. The EPA contaminant criteria(38) for arsenic in seafood is 2 ppm.
17. Aluminum is neurotoxic and appears to be a cause of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders(15.1). Yale Univ. researchers found that a population of elderly with high aluminum levels had a much greater incidence of neuropsychiatric deficits, including poor memory and impaired visual motor coordination. A study in Great Britain found that Alzheimer's disease was 50% higher in water districts where the aluminum concentration in drinking water exceeded .11 mg/liter compared to districts with less than .01 mg/liter(15,15.1). Similar findings are available for most developed countries, including the U.S. Aluminum has also been shown to cause learning disabilities in children(15.3). The rate of American's reported dying from Alzheimer's disease has increased 1000% in the last decade(a portion of this increase is due to increased doctor awareness)(15.5). Americans are widely exposed to aluminum through food and medicines, as well as breathing wind blown aluminum particulates(along with other toxic metals)(15.1). Yale Univ. researchers estimate that over 100,000 deaths due to metallic pollution particulates occur in the U.S. each year, and such particulate pollution is increasing in many areas. Investigators found that the constituent metals and their bioavailability determine the acute inflammatory response of PM samples in lung tissue(30.5).
Aluminum is widely dispersed in soils and is a major factor in the adverse effects on fish and wildlife in acidified lakes.
18. A significant positive correlation was found between the level of nickel in drinking water and the rate of bladder and lung cancer in men. The higher the level of nickel, the higher the cancer rate(16). Nickel carbonyl is extremely
toxic and is formed when nickel is burned in the presence of carbon monoxide. Chronic low level exposure can cause serious lung damage, birth defects, kidney disease, lung cancer, etc. (16.3,28,1.2). Beryllium which is released in fossil fuel combustion is highly toxic; chronic inhalation exposure can cause lung degeneration, lung cancer, adrenal gland and immune system impairment, etc.(1.2)
The Federal safety standard is 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, but some
exposed at levels lower than this have had serious lung damage.
19. High levels of copper over long periods can damage the brain, kidneys, cornea, etc. Copper levels in drinking water(from copper pipes) exceeding EPA standards were found in several Florida counties including: Orange, Seminole,
Pasco, Duval, and Hillsboro(15.9). Chromium is neurotoxic and a class A human carcinogen(EPA,1.2).
20. Vanadium and beryllium have been shown to cause acute and chronic respiratory disease, as well as causing other serious health problems including cancer (28,29.1,29.4,30.3). Vanadium causes lung damage and inflammation by several mechanisms, including damage to pulmonary alveolar, interruption of cytokine function, altered macrophage and Ifn response, etc. (29.2,29.9,30.3) - resulting in lung damage lung infections, bronchopulmonary disease, asthma, and lowered resistance to infectious microorganisms. Vanadium is also cytotoxic causing extensive cell death through toxic accumulation and free radical inducement(29.5). Vanadium also causes extensive DNA damage in cells and is a reproductive and developmental toxin(29.6), as well as a proven carcinogen(29.4,30.1,30.2). Vanadium is a major factor in lung damage caused by PM10 particulates in oil fly ash air pollution(29.1,29.8).
Thallium intoxication is characterized by the development of painful peripheral neuropathy, alopecia, mental disorders, and in severe cases, respiratory failure and death. Toxic optic neuropathy is also a feature. Opthalmologic features of thallium poisoning include optic neuropathy,
blepharoptosis, lens opacities, and opthalmoplegia(61). Thallium is common in coal plant emissions and phospho-gympsum waste in Florida.
Vaporized ash from burned residual oils has been shown to cause serious lung injury and respiratory disease by causing cellular death of immune suppressor cell macrophages(29.9). Such damage by small particles in the urban air has been fond to cause over 60,000 deaths per year from lung damage(29.3). EPA studies and other studies have determined that toxic metals in the dust are a major factor in the induced lung damage, and that vanadium is a particularly toxic to such macrophages in the lung(29.1,30.3,30.5). Investigators found that the constituent metals and their bioavailability determine the acute inflammatory response of PM samples in lung tissue(30.5).
High levels of manganese cause manganese madness and result in violent and antisocial behavior(15.1). Studies have found a very significant positive relationship between criminals convicted of violent crime and the level of manganese in hair samples. Manganese has been found to damage the male reproductive system resulting in infertility(10.2), to damage normal hormone production, and to be toxic to the brain, causing neurologic damage including reduced production of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine and excess production of acetylcholine(10.4). A population exposed to manganese in the water supply has experienced severe neurologic and muscle control problems(10.6).
II. Mercury in Fish and the Food Chain of Lakes and Streams and Bays
21.Studies by Univ. of Florida scientists have found that human activities are increasing the quantity of mercury delivered to the atmosphere, soils, sediments, water bodies, and food chain(17.2,28.5,1.5). Mercury accumulation rates in the Everglades reached an average of 6.4 times higher than 1900, with most of the increase since 1940. Atmospheric emissions are the largest source of mercury in lakes, and the main sources of emissions are municipal incinerators, medical waste incinerators, and coal combustion(2,2.1,16.2-17,18,18.9,22.2-23.4, 28,28.7,33,34,35). The rain in areas with incinerators like Broward County has been found to be unusually high in mercury, higher than industrial areas around Lake Michigan(28.3). Some pollution controls have been mandated for incinerators to reduce levels from incinerators and the level of mercury in the everglades appears to be declining some. Ozone pollution and reactive compounds containing chlorine or bromine oxidise elemental mercury to inorganic mercury which is more readily depositied by rain(16.7). Recent studies have found high levels of mercury in the rain all over Florida and throughout the U.S.(1.5). Over a 6 year period, Florida rain samples ranged from 1.3 nanograms/Liter to 81.2 ng/L, depending on location and climatic considerations, with an average of 12.6 ng/L(1.5). The level of mercury in Florida rain sampled exceeded the EPA human health criterion for Hg in lakes in over 97% of samples. Studies by EPA and municipal sewer agencies have also shown that sewer sludge has significant levels of mercury all over Florida, with the main sources being dental offices and excretion by those with amalgam dental fillings(14.9). Studies by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for FDEP have documented that mercury in sewer sludge and landfills is methylated to methyl mercury by soil bacteria and much of the mercury ends up in crops if land spread and in the atmosphere and rain if not(14.9). Thus mercury from dental amalgam is a major source of methyl mercury in rain. Mercury from sewers is also a significant source of mercury in rivers, lakes, bays, and fish(14.9).
22. Mercury in Salt-Water Fish and Shellfish
Studies document that Florida Saltwater fish and shellfish have high levels of mercury in large parts of the state(21.3,22.5,33.5,59.7,33). There are fish consumption warnings/limits for king mackerel and shark in all parts of the state and consumption warnings on jack crevalle, spotted sea trout, Spanish mackerel in several estuaries, and on gafftopsail catfish, and lady fish in Tampa Bay (21.3,33.5). Some areas such as North Florida Bay and offshore Tampa Bay have test levels higher than most other areas(21.3).
Based on the tests that have been done, five saltwater species(king mackerel, black grouper, florida smoothhound, great while shark, tilefish) have average mercury levels on tested samples higher than the FDA action level of 1 part per million(ppm) for fish(21.3,22.5,59.7); 17 species have average mercury test levels above the FDA warning level(0.5 ppm) for mercury in fish(barracuda, black drum, blacktip shark, bluefish, bonefish, bonnethead shark, bull shark, cobia, snook, greater amberjack, jack crevalle, ladyfish, lemon shark, red drum,rock bass, spanish mackeral, spotted bass, stone crab) , and 16 species of fish(blacknose shark, blue crab, gafftopsail catfish, gag grouper, grouper, gulf flounder, permit, red grouper, sand trout, sheepshead, silver seatrout, southern flounder, tarpon, tripletail, white bass, yellow bass, yellow jack), as well as crabs, oysters and shrimp have average test levels near the warning level or some that tested above the FDA action level(21.3,59.7) and all were above the EPA health criterion of 0.3ppp(1.6). All of these have average levels of mercury above the U.S. EPA health criterion for methylmercury of 0.3 ppm(1.6). Studies (22.5) have also found that the level in most large predator species on the Gulf Coast is higher than levels found to adversely affect health(66,67) with mercury contamination being pervasive along the whole coastal area, and that people who eat Gulf Coast fish at least once per week usually have dangerous levels of mercury(22.5). 29% of a coastal sample from Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi ate fish at least once per week(22.5). Several studies including a large CDC study have found those with higher levels of mercury have higher rates of neurological problems, cardiovascular problems, infertility, and cancer(66,67,58,1.8,27.7,14.7). Another study found infertile couples were significantly more likely to have elevated mercury levels than the infertile couples, which was the case for both men (35 percent versus 15 percent) and women (23 percent versus 4 percent). Furthermore, patients who reported eating high levels of seafood showed a clear trend towards elevated mercury levels(67a,f).
A California health clinic study reports that of a California population that eats at least 2 servings of fish per week, 89% had levels of mercury in the blood exceeding 5 micrograms per liter(ug/L), the level considered the safety limit for mercury by U.S. EPA and the National Academy of Sciences(67a). Over 50% had levels over 10 ug/L and 15% had levels over 20 ug/L. The group had chronic health effects including depression, loss of scalp hair, metallic taste, headaches, arthritic pain in joints, irritability, tremors, and numbness and tingling in hands and feet. She also described cognitive problems such as pronounced memory loss, confusion and difficulties in talking. In some cases, those problems were so severe they interfered with the ability to earn a living or attend school. In all cases, health effects improved after several months of avoiding eating fish. Some women in the group were found to have transferred excessive mercury to their infants solely through their breast milk. One breast-fed baby had three times the EPA's safe level for mercury by the time he was 4 months old; and another had 4 times the EPA safe level at 19 months. Some of the infants with high mercury levels suffered severe neurological problems such as autism, and improved when treated for mercury toxicity.
The Mobile Register studies(22.5) have also found that fish and shellfish that feed near offshore oil and gas platforms have significantly higher levels of mercury than other areas(22.5) due to mercury used in drilling. Over 200 tons of mercury has been added to the Gulf through drilling over the last 30 years. More fishing occurs near such platforms since shellfish and fish tend to congregate in such areas. Other known major sources of mercury throughout the coastal area are air emissions and sewer outfalls, with some other large local industrial sites such as chlor-alkali plants. Accumulation of atmospheric oxidants and mercury can cause high levels of mercury deposition in coastal areas when activated by sunlight, which can result in very high levels of mercury in fish and wild life(68).
The U.S. FDA recommends that pregnant women entirely avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish(59.5), because a significant portion of these types of fish have mercury levels above the FDA action level of 1 ppm. However other studies(66,67) including one by the National Academy of Sciences(63) have found the old FDA action level of 1 ppm is obsolete and not adequate to protect the public, as adverse effects have been found for those eating fish at least once per week at average mercury levels below the FDA warning level of ½ ppm(66).
Based on this a coalition of organizations using the name Environmental Working Group(EWG) did a large study to more fully assess mercury exposure effects and safety limits(59.7). In addition to the FDA limits, EWG advises pregnant women, nursing mothers and all women of childbearing age, should not eat tuna steaks, sea bass, oysters from the Gulf Coast, marlin, halibut, pike, walleye, white croaker, and largemouth bass(59.7). And that these women should eat no more than one meal per month combined of canned tuna, mahi-mahi, blue mussel, Eastern oyster, cod, pollock, salmon from the Great Lakes, blue crab from the Gulf of Mexico, wild channel catfish and lake whitefish. The EWG analysis was based on 56,000 test results on mercury in fish from 7 different government agencies, and toxicity studies by U.S. CDC and National Academy of Sciences.
However EWG recognizes that fish is an important health food with nutrients and essential fatty acids hard to substitute from other sources. The following fish are safer choices for avoiding mercury exposure: farmed trout or catfish, shrimp, fish sticks, wild Pacific salmon, croaker, haddock, some varieties of flounder, and blue crab from the mid-Atlantic. (59.7)
22.5. Dangerous levels of mercury(above 1.5 ppm) have been found in over one third of the sharkmeat tested throughout the state of Florida(19.3). A survey conducted by the Minnesota Dept. Of Agriculture of swordfish offered for sale in Minnesota grocery stores found levels of methyl mercury that are higher than the Federal action guideline in over half of the samples(24.9). A joint health advisory warning of the danger of consuming sharkmeat was issued by the Fla. Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of Health & Rehabilitative Services(19.7). Florida commercial fishermen sold over 6.8 million pounds of sharkmeat in 1989, 36% of the U.S. total. Health warnings have also been issued by the Fla. Dept. of H.R.S. for sea trout, bluefish, king & Spanish mackerel, catfish, ladyfish, etc.(33,16.5), and other ocean fish such as tuna and swordfish have high levels. Florida Bay cormorants have also been found to have high levels of mercury(14.3).
23. Mercury in Fresh Water Fish and Wildlife
Studies have found that freshwater predator fish such as bass, pickerel, and bowfin have high levels of mercury in most of the state, with fish consumption warnings issued(21.3,33,33.3,16.5,17,17.9). Eight other species (alligator gar, black crappie, white crappie, blue catfish, flathead catfish, brook trout, drum, striped bass) have average test levels near the FDA warning level or some tested above the FDA action level(21.3). Over 2 million acres of Floridas surface waters have fish with high levels of mercury, averaging above the FDA/EPA warning level of 0.5 parts per million(33.3) and even more above the U.S. EPA mercury health criterion of 0.3 ppm(1.6). The major source of mercury into these water bodies is air deposition that is brought down in rain. A Florida emissions inventory found that the major sources of atmospheric mercury were municipal solid waste combustors (MSW), electric utility industry, and medical waste incinerators(33.3), but incinerator emissions have been reduced in recent years. The most vulnerable groups to mercury exposure are women who are pregnant or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children(65,59.5,59.7,7.5,5.5). These groups should limit consumption of freshwater fish to no more than one meal per week (6 ounces of cooked fish for adults and 2 ounces of cooked fish for young children). Other animal species that eat fish and crawfish, such as cormorants, wading birds, raccoons, alligators, mink,etc. and panthers which eat raccoons have also been found to have dangerous levels of mercury and are have been adversely affected(1.5,17.4-17.7). Three panthers along with many birds that eat fish have died from mercury poisoning and others have very high levels of mercury(14.3,17.4). The majority of Florida panthers in south Florida have high levels of mercury and have had reproductive systems and hormone levels disrupted to the extent of not being able to reproduce. The majority of male panthers were found to have estrogen levels higher than testosterone levels due to estrogenic effects of the mercury and perhaps other estrogenic chemicals in the fish(14.3).
23.5 Studies by the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources(18.4) and Univ. of Wisconsin researchers(18.6,16.3,2.1) found hundreds of lakes and streams in Wisconsin with mercury in fish at above the recommended levels for eating, and concluded the major source of the mercury appears to be air emissions. They also found that one gram of mercury deposition is enough to cause the need for a fish consumption limitation in a 25 acre lake, and that mercury concentrations of 2 parts per trillion(parts per trillion(ppt) in lake water often result in concentrations in fish sufficient to require consumption advisories(Watras,18.6 &16.3,18) Warnings on eating fish have been issued for thousands of rivers and lakes throughout the U.S. and Canada(64), for approx. 20 % of all U.S. lakes including all Great Lakes.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency(MPCA) has also found widespread dangerous levels of mercury(as much as 4.5 micrograms per gram of fish) in 94% of the hundreds of lakes and streams tested in Minnesota (18.8,18.9, 16.3). MPCA studies estimated that virtually all of the mercury in Minnesota lakes come from emissions, with the largest amount from incinerators and coal plants (18,18.9). They concluded that mercury emissions are a larger threat to the states water resources than acid rain, though acidity level is also a factor in the level of mercury and other toxic metals in fish(18.9).
Mercury deposition levels on the surface of lakes in Minnesota were 12 to 14 micrograms per square meter per year. Precipitation measurements in Minnesota were found to have an average mercury concentration of 19 ppt. Levels in sediment in recent years are more than 3.5 times levels in sediment prior to 1900, and approx. 25% of the mercury deposited in a lake catchment area is exported to the lake(18.8). Mercury in the areas atmosphere has increased an average of 2% per year, compared to a 1.5% increase over the N. Atlantic Ocean which also was found to be primarily due to manmade emissions. Deposition levels were found to be increasing throughout the area due to long range transport, but was highest near emission sources. Worldwide mercury atmospheric levels are now at least 3 times the level of 1900, and there is much more mercury in aquatic ecosystems than in past times(24.5), as shown by analyses of polar ice cores, lake sediment cores, and peat cores.
Because of the widespread high levels of toxic metals in fish and the food chain in Minnesota and neighboring Great Lakes states, Minnesota requires emissions limits on lead and mercury for municipal incinerators. The emission limit for mercury was .002 pounds per ton for a 1990 incinerator permitted(18.3). The most recent study recommended emission limits should be no more than 50 pounds per year, whereas current EPA limits are 20,000 pounds(18.9).
24. According to EPA spokesmen, Gary Glass and Ray Morrison, mercury has been found to be entering the food chain throughout the U.S. At least 40 states and 2 Canadian provinces have limited or banned consumption of fish from thousands of affected lakes and rivers in both the U.S. and Canada(19,16.3,33). Mercury has been found to be adversely affecting loons, eagles, ospreys, otters, and mink in the Great Lakes area(28).
Studies by the Electric Power Research Institute, the research arm of the electric utility industry, have confirmed that atmospheric deposition of mercury accounts for most of the mercury accumulating in fish in seepage lakes and that increased acidity enhances mercury accumulations in fish(18 & 18.1). Approx. 90 % of the mercury in fish is methyl mercury, the most toxic form to humans. Based on their research, EPRI believes that most older estimates of mercury levels are inaccurate and questionable, and that clean sampling/clean lab procedures are required for accurate sampling of mercury. Reported mercury removal levels by wet scrubbers have a very wide range, from 25% to 90%, but all of the reported data should be considered questionable(18).
Municipal waste and coal contain large amounts of toxic metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, etc.; large volumes of toxic metal emissions are occurring where stringent controls on incinerator fuel sources and stack emissions are not in effect(18.3) as they are in some European countries.
26. The toxic metals most dangerous to people eating fresh water fish are those that accumulate in the edible muscle of fish‑ including mercury, arsenic, radioactive cesium, and to a lesser degree lead(19.9). Most toxic metals such as lead, cadmium, aluminum, etc. accumulate primarily in internal organs, fat, fins, and mucus under the skin(25.8).
II(b). Bioaccumulation of Toxic Metals in Marine Fish and Shellfish
27. Shellfish, especially oysters, accumulate lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, silver, arsenic, and radioactive metal isotopes(19.9,3.7). Oysters and other shellfish are accumulating increasing amounts of toxic metals, with oysters often accumulating levels of cadmium, lead, and arsenic dangerous to people and above the FDA recommended action level or guideline level(59). The following table gives a summary of some of the levels of toxic metals found in shellfish in Florida.
The data for the Indian River Lagoon is for an area with lower levels of metals in sediments than some other urban coastal areas in Florida. The FDA Action Level is the level at which commercial seafood may be removed from sale; however it is based primarily on acute toxicity criterion and does not take into account that some of the metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium have been found to be endocrine system disrupters at relatively low levels and several of the metals are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and immunotoxic. While there is no FDA Action Level for arsenic, arsenic is more acutely toxic than the other metals for which there is an action level and arsenic is highly carcinogenic(11.7,11.8). The drinking water guideline for arsenic is lower than those for mercury or cadmium. The EPA toxics contaminant criteria for arsenic in seafood is 2 ppm(38).
Range of Toxic Metals Observed in Florida Shellfish (ppm-wet weight*)
Metal Oysters Clams
FDEP 1984 N.O.A.A 1983-1992 FDEP 1984 I.R.L. 1992 FDA EPA source: (3.9) source: (3.7) source:(3.9) source:(3.7) Action Crit.
min/mean/max min to max min/mean/max min to max Level Level
Arsenic .05/ 1.5/ 7.8 1.0/ 4.6/9.5 ** 2 Cadmium .10/ .48/ 1.6 .70 to 5.1 .05/ .35/1.1 .01 to 0.15 1.0 0.5 Chromium .005/.15/ .64 .20 to 0.9 .06/.30/1.28 .03 to 0.08 11 1
Copper .50/ 7.3/28.4 .50/1.5/4.7 1.0 to 4.0 15
Lead .005/.14/1.36 .10 to 1.6 .05/.67/6.5 .04 to 1.73 1.2 0.5
Mercury .001/.017/.05 .10 to .16 .001/.02/.04 .001 to .018 1.0 1
Nickel .005/ .23/1.1 .06/.72/2.6
Selenium .10/ .36/ .67 .18/.45/1.0 1
Zinc 34/ 205/ 546 1 / 12/ 25 1.7 to 53 60
* Indian River Lagoon data was calculated dry weight basis. Since all other data shown here is wet weight, the data for I.R.L. was converted to wet weight by assuming water content of clams was 85%.
From the table it is seen that the FDA Action level for cadmium and lead appear to be often exceeded by oysters and clams from some polluted coastal areas of Florida, and the EPA contaminant criteria for arsenic in seafood. This could indicate that people eating seafood regularly from such a polluted area could experience serious health problems over time. To date there has apparently been no health warnings for shellfish comparable to the warnings for mercury in freshwater fish, even though FDA Action levels may be exceeded by similar levels. In a controlled study, oysters exposed to 10 micrograms per liter of cadmium in water accumulated 18 ppm of cadmium(3.9). None of the cadmium levels in the limited surveys done in Florida have reached this level, but some areas of the state have higher levels of cadmium in sediments than the sampled areas. The Indian River Lagoon study(3.7) noted that areas with the highest levels of metals in sediments were toxic to clams so no clams in these locations could be sampled and all clam samples came from less polluted sites. Mussels and crabs have been found to accumulate cadmium inversely with the salinity or alkalinity of water(19.9).
The Canadian Food and Drug Admin. has established 2 ppm as the maximum safe concentration of lead in fish. Due to recent studies of lead and learning disabilities, some researchers believe this level is too high and a lower guideline is recommended by the FDA of 1ppm. As seen from the sample data oysters often accumulate levels higher than this. Levels of 2 micrograms per liter in water often mean levels in oysters of more than 2 ppm(19.9). Some U.S. rivers have above 20 micrograms per liter of lead in some areas. Increased acidity increases the availability of lead, and fish at PH 6.0 accumulate 3 times as much lead as at PH 7.5 for the same concentration of lead in water.
Arsenic accumulates in shellfish and has been found at levels 20 times the EPA guideline maximum contaminant level(19.9). The toxic arsenite form is the primary form in shellfish and the most toxic form to people. Radioactive cesium is dangerous to people and is discharged from nuclear power plants. Large amounts of radioactive isotopes are discharged into Florida water bodies by coal plants and phosphate mining, and have been found in shellfish. Toxic metals have been found in Florida shellfish in several areas of the state (19.5,3.7).
Crabs and fish often accumulate high levels of copper which has an adverse effect on fish survival, but doesn't usually affect people because the accumulation is not primarily in muscle tissue. Oysters and squid accumulate copper to dangerous levels however; copper use as an algicide and water weed killer is a common source and has been found to cause elevated copper levels in water and sediments in some areas of the state such as the Crystal River.
Atmospheric metal emissions to oceans are significantly altering the marine cycle of the toxic metals(2,2.1). Oceans near areas with high fossil fuel combustion have much higher levels of mercury and other toxic metals, with atmospheric emissions being the main source of mercury in coastal waters. Mercury gets into ocean fish and shellfish similarly to freshwater fish.
A high percentage of coastal bay and estuarine sediments tested in Florida have been found to have significantly elevated levels of toxic metals(36), and sediments in Gulf Coast areas were found to be toxic to marine organisms in 9 percent of the estuarine area(37).
III. Effect of Toxic Metals on Forests and Plant Ecosystems
28. Some metals are toxic to nitrogen-fixing bacteria associated with root-systems of legumes(28). Nitrogen and phosphorus cycling in soils can also be adversely affected by some metals. In addition, litter decomposers can be destroyed by some metals. All of these effects are made worse by acidity.
29. Heavy metals from atmospheric emissions are deposited on leaves and soils of forests and cropland. Crop plants have been shown to directly absorb and retain mercury and other toxic metals through leaf uptake(22.8,2). The interaction of the heavy metals and acid deposition is a factor in the extensive forest decline occurring throughout Europe and North America(20, 20.2). Increased levels of toxic metal emissions are leading to rapid buildups of trace metals in soil and water and likewise to buildups in plants and the food chain, especially in industrial areas and near large emission sources(2). Levels in the U.S. and Europe with large emission sources are currently doubling every 3 to 10 years. The level in plants and crops has reached levels that damage plants and cause human health damage in some areas(2,22.4) and is approaching such levels in many other areas. The loading of the air and environment in urban industrial areas with toxic metals is a major health concern for the next and future generations, but the extent of metals emissions is so large and widespread that even the air of the most remote areas of the arctic and antarctica have significant levels(2).
The solubility of aluminum in soils and other heavy metals (lead,cadmium,zinc,etc.) being deposited on leaves and soils by air pollution increases with increasing acidity. Canada has issued a health warning for Central Canada against eating the livers or kidneys of game animals because of cadmium buildup in the food chain(2). The main sources of such toxic metal emissions are atmospheric emissions.
Mercury and other toxic metals have also been found to be accumulating in the forest floor of European forests; the humus of Swedish forest floors are estimated to contain over 600 tons of mercury. Both inorganic and methyl mercury are toxic to spruce seedlings, suppressing chlorophyll content and interfering with uptake of nutrients. In many areas of Europe, the mercury level is beyond the 0.5 ppm found to be toxic to forests and is approaching this level in many other areas. The accumulating mercury in forest floors was also found to be affecting watersheds and to be cycling through the entire ecosystem(22.4), adding to the thousands of lakes with dangerous levels of mercury in the fish in Scandinavia. Ozone pollution and reactive compounds containing chlorine or bromine oxidise elemental mercury to inorganic mercury which is more readily deposited by rain(16.7). Mercury deposited in the soil has been found by Govt studies to be methylated to methylmercury by soil bacteria, with uptatke by plants and outgassing of methylmercury and elemental mercury when the sun shines(14.9).
At 2 remote stands of Norway spruce showing serious decline, lead contamination/uptake was significantly increased on the exposed windward edge, and there was a negative correlation between lead levels and shoot growth(20.5). This indicates dry deposition is a major factor in lead uptake by forests. However cadmium did not have a similar pattern and apparently cadmium deposition is primarily through rain. Toxic clouds/fog having relatively high levels of toxic metals and very low PH have been found to be a major factor in forest damage in mountainous areas of the eastern U.S. and Europe (20, 20.7).
Uptake of mercury by red mangrove and natural decomposition of leaves appears to play a role in bioaccumulation of mercury in the Everglades ecosystem. Particulate plant detritus is a primary energy source for many aquatic animals, and 80% of detritus in the main area of the Everglades is from red mangrove(20.9). Particulate organic detritus enriched by mercury is subjecting animals in their food web to higher levels of mercury. There is a 10 to 4 enrichment in suspended detritus compared to undecomposed leaves, and a 6 to 4 enrichment for river bottom detritus and peat(20.9). Peat is known to accumulate mercury from emissions, etc. Disturbance of peat soils by burning,
agriculture, drying, etc. is likely to release mercury into the environment. This is likely to be a factor in high levels of mercury in the Everglades(17.4).
IV. Sources of Mercury Emissions and Mercury Content of Fuels
30. There is consensus among researchers that airborne emissions are the major source of mercury in most lakes(2,2.1,16.2‑17, 17.1, 18‑18.9, 22.2‑23.4,28,28.7 33,34,35) and that incineration and coal combustion are the largest sources in most areas. Researchers in Minnesota found a three to four‑fold increase in mercury deposition in northern Minnesota since the mid 1800s(18.8,18.9). A Dept. of Environmental Regulation Spokesman and emission studies indicate that based on past tests, Florida municipal incinerators emit over 8 tons per year to the environment and medical waste incinerators over 4 tons per year (17.1,17,35). Florida coal power plants appear to have emissions of about 3 tons per year, with at least that amount in coal ash that can have air, soil, or water impacts(17.9). About this much mercury emissions also comes from a combination of coal plants from other states or oil burning power plants. A study by Dr.John Simmons(19.3) estimated that several tons per year of mercury emissions in South Florida comes from burning sugarcane bagasse and related soil erosion, but this is largely recycling of previously deposited mercury. C.S. Volland (22.4) points out that Florida's high temperatures and acidic soils high in chloride content make Florida's aquatic ecosystem especially vulnerable to mercury.
31. Florida incinerators in 4 counties: Pinellas, Hillsboro, Dade, and Palm Beach burned approx. 10,000 tons per day of garbage in 1990. Sampling by the Dept. of Environmental Regulation found that the Pinellas facility emitted 21 pounds of mercury per day(19.7). Based on emissions tests at this and other Florida facilities, the Florida facilities appear to be emitting approx. 9 tons of mercury per year(and considerable other toxic metals and other toxics) (17.1,17,19.7,35). (see Appendix) The type of pollution controls on some of these units have been found not to be effective for mercury on most existing incinerators. More stringent controls have been mandated for most incinerators.
32. Based on coal combustion data from the U.S. Dept. of Energy and assuming coal averages 0.28 ppm mercury, U.S. coal burned each year contains approx. 250 tons of mercury‑ the majority of which appears to be emitted into the air. Electricity generators and coal combustion are projected to increase approx. 30% over the next 20 years, with corresponding increases in other air toxics unless counter measures are implemented(28). A study of coal plant emissions at a Tennessee Valley Authority facility(21.6) found that over 92% of mercury emissions were elemental mercury, that the mercury remained in the plume for long distances, and precipitation scavenging was the main mechanism of mercury deposition from such emissions. However depending on the percent of chlorine or similar reactive constituents of the coal burned, as much as 50% of mercury in coal plant plumes can be water soluble inorganic forms which are more easily removed by controls and also have shorter residence times in the atmosphere. The majority of mercury in plumes after emission controls appears to usually be elemental mercury. Much higher levels of mercury deposition is found near point sources, though only a small fraction of total mercury emissions are deposited locally(22.2).
Tests for incinerators indicated that mercuric chloride was the main form of mercury emitted, which appears to be a much more localized deposition source. U.S. municipal incinerators produce approx. 187 tons of mercury emissions per year(25.3). Hospital and hazardous waste incinerators produce additional toxic metal emissions.
Approx. 800 tons of mercury is mined in the U.S. each year(21.6). The following table gives a breakout by the U.S. Bureau of Mines(21.9) of the approx. 1145 tons per year used in manufacturing in 1989:
Use tons percent
soda/chlorine manuf. 328 28.7
batteries 208 18.2
latex paint 192 16.8
wiring/switches 160 14.0
instruments 68 5.9
other chemical products 40 3.5
fluorescent lighting/ 36 3.1
mercury vapor lights
dental supplies 36 3.1
other 76 6.6
33. Recent studies have raised considerable doubt about the accuracy of past mercury level measurements from power plants, incinerators, or natural sources(18,21.1). However most studies reviewed agreed manmade sources of mercury were much more significant on land areas than natural sources(1.9,2,2.1,18.8,18.9,20.4,21.1‑21.5,22.2,22.8,28,28.7,34). They also agreed that atmospheric fluxes from combustion of fossil fuels dwarf those from other sources. The following table gives estimates of emissions by natural sources, manmade sources, and biogenic recycling from the articles reviewed:
Mercury emissions source tons/year total
__________________________________ _________ _____
seasalt spray 20
windblown dust 55
volcanic activity 75
rock weathering/soil outgassing* 500 650
* a significant portion of soil outgassing is of mercury previously deposited
from manmade sources
energy production 1200
waste incineration 750
wood combustion 270
other fossil fuel combustion 600
mine operations 100
mercury related manufacturing 100
consumer products 50 3200
The referenced articles also give estimates of additional man‑made source impacts directly to soils or aquatic systems of over 8000 tons from coal, incinerator, or wood ashes, manufacturing or industrial effluent, sewage, mining/smelting, metal fabrication, etc. According to FDEP staff, the average concentration of mercury found in limestone bedrock range from 33 parts per billion(ppb) to 48 parts per billion(ppb), and the effects of weathering processes appear negligible in Florida(21). There is general agreement among the summary articles reviewed on source of mercury that the major sources are continental and manmade sources are the largest source in local industrial areas‑ amounting to as much as 90% of emissions(1.9,2,2.1,9.3,18.9, 20.4,22.2,22.8,28,34).
Not included separately in either of the above lists is a source that is becoming more important‑ biogenic recycling of toxic metals through the atmosphere and aquatic systems through forest fires, muck farming, dredging, organic uptake and decomposition, ocean/atmosphere interchange, watershed water cycling through soils and humus,etc. Biogenic and hydrological cycling of mercury appear to be on the order of 4000 tons per year(20.4,22.2), including the air/sea exchange amounting to approx. 2000 tons per year. The air/sea exchange appears to not have a major impact on continental areas, however manmade emissions are a major source of deposition to oceans(2,2.1). Much of the mercury(and other toxic metals) being biogenically recycled or emitted came from past atmospheric emissions. Present background fluxes of mercury appear to be from 3 to 6 times those of preindustrial levels; present fluxes are the sum of manmade and background fluxes. However as Sweden has already found out, even if most atmospheric emissions were ended, this supply of mercury already in the biogenic system would continue to have an impact on water bodies and the food chain.
Additional evidence for the primary importance of manmade emissions on land areas is found in the literature. Measurements have found mercury levels in open oceans to be much lower than in coastal areas impacted by manmade and continental sources(2,2.1,20.4, 21.1, 22.2). Estuarine waters average at least twice as high in mercury level as coastal water, and coastal waters sampled (2 to 10 nanograms per liter) had levels at least twice as high as open oceans(0.5 to 2 ng/l). Over 99% of mercury transfer at the ocean boundary is vapor phase, with the majority being elemental mercury. Although some high levels have been reported locally in volcanically active ocean areas, studies reviewed (20.4,21.1, 22.2) estimated the total contribution of submarine volcanism as very small compared to input from rivers, coastal sources, and the atmosphere. The highest levels in coastal waters were found in localized areas impacted by sewer or industrial outfalls or rivers with such sources.
Rainwater in open ocean areas was found to contain very small levels of mercury(<1 ng/l), and approx. 10 % the average levels in coastal waters (21.1,20.4,2,2.1). Mercury in levels over continental areas average several times higher than over coastal waters and over 20 times higher than over open ocean areas. Water soluble gaseous phases from continental sources appear to make up a significant portion of mercury in rainfall over oceans, especially in areas near continental areas with the highest mercury in rainfall. Elemental mercury appears to be oxidized by ozone or other oxidants and scavenged by rainfall slowly(20.4). Levels of mercury in rainfall of the N.W. Atlantic Ocean, where continental mercury sources are highest, are larger than over other oceans‑ consistent with the hypothesis that the largest sources of mercury are continental(20.4). The highest levels of mercury in rainfall(over 60 ng/cubic meter) have been reported in areas with high levels of atmospheric emissions(18.6‑18.9, 22.2).
Studies in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Canada, and Sweden offer additional support that manmade sources are significant (18.3‑18.9, 22.1, 22.2, 22.4, 25.7). These studies have found levels of mercury increasing between 2% to 5% per year in freshwater fish and sediments, with recent sediment layers having much higher levels than sediments deposited before large manmade emissions.
Over 80% of total mercury in the atmosphere is volatile insoluble mercury vapor, primarily elemental mercury which has an average residence time of several months and travels long distances(22.2). This mercury vapor is relatively uniformly distributed throughout the troposphere, with an average concentration of 2 nanograms per cubic meter in the northern hemisphere and 1 ng/m3 in the southern hemisphere; with higher levels near local sources or industrial areas‑ depending on distance and wind direction from the source, emissions levels,etc. The non elemental vapor portion (monomethyl and dimethyl mercury and mercury chloride) represent more localized sources and has a much shorter average residence time. This portion can be a considerably higher fraction of the total in regions with local emission sources(22.2). At temperatures above 70 degrees, a significant and increasing portion of elemental or dimethyl mercury volatilizes from water(or soils), with the air to water equilibrium point being over 30% and increasing with temperature.
34. Generally coal from northern Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, and Washington have the highest levels of mercury, ranging from 0.20 to 0.30 parts per million (28). Western coal ranges from 0.05 to 0.13 ppm, while Midwestern coal ranges from 0.09 to 0.17 ppm. Data is available by state or in some cases by mine (28, Table B-2).
V. MANMADE EMISSIONS OF OTHER TOXIC METALS
35. There was consensus among a panel of experts convened by a group of State governors to assess the impact of air toxics that fossil fuel combustion was the main source of atmospheric concentrations of trace metals(28). Aquatic systems and the food chain were found to be most impacted by atmospheric trace metals. The majority of impact on humans was through the food chain, primarily from fish or shellfish, but toxic metals are also building up in soils, plants, crops, and game animals(2). Average airborne concentrations of most toxic metals in urban industrial areas are 5 to 100 times those of remote/non-industrial areas. Acidity was a major factor in facilitating trace metals in the food chain.
Utilities and incinerators are the largest source of mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, and manganese emissions in the U.S.(28,1.2). Fossil fuel combustion is also responsible for over 90% of nickel and beryllium emissions. Midwestern coal, especially Missouri and Illinois, have very high levels of cadmium, nickel, and lead. Gulf Coast coal is high in most trace metals. Coal from northern Appalachia is high in arsenic, as well as mercury. Tobacco smoke is also a major source of cadmium that is accumulating in people(1.2).
36. Only mercury, arsenic, and selenium are naturally in the vapor phase in the atmosphere, the rest being non‑volatile and entering the atmosphere primarily from combustion or smelting. In addition to large volumes of manmade emissions of the toxic volatile metals, there is significant cycling of these metals deposited from past emissions(1.9,2.0). The following table gives annual atmospheric emissions due to human activity and average levels in precipitation:
Toxic Metal Emissions from Toxic Metal in
Human Activities Precipitation
(tons per year) (micrograms per liter)
Urban(local sources) Rural
lead 2,000,000 34 8
cadmium 6,000 0.7 0.5
arsenic 86,000 5.8 0.3
chromium 103,000 3.2 0.9
nickel 108,000 12 2.4
copper 286,000 40 5.4
silver 5,500 3.2 0.5
vanadium 231,000 40 9
zinc 924,000 34 30
Greatly increased levels of toxic metals such as lead, copper, and zinc have been found in peat bogs, soils, and sediments compared to preindustrial levels(2), and increasing levels are being found in fish, oysters, shellfish, other organisms, and plants. This applies to remote areas and remote lakes indicating atmospheric emissions as the primary source. Levels of toxic metals in urban and rural areas of the U.S. are higher than in remote areas of the world by a factor of over 10, with the highest levels in East Coast areas(2). As PH decreases, the fraction of toxic metal compounds in water in more toxic forms increases.
The level of arsenic, chromium, and radium exceeded the health based screening criteria of EPA in phosphogypsum waste from the majority of sites tested in Central Florida. Concentrations of arsenic,lead,cadmium,chromium,fluoride,zinc, antimony,copper, and thallium exceeded health screening criteria in leachate from some facilities, with arsenic exceeding the criteria at most facilities(13.5). Other toxic metals exceeded the criterion for aquatic life.
VI. THE RELATION OF ACIDITY AND ACID RAIN TO TOXIC METAL IMPACTS ON AQUATIC SYSTEMS, FISH, THE FOOD CHAIN, AND HEALTH
37. Methyl mercury bioaccumulates in fish and food chains; fish‑eating birds and fish‑eating mammals are being seriously impacted in increasing numbers (16.3,17.4,17.9,18.2,18.8). A consistent feature of waters having a methylmercury problem is low PH (acidic) or a steady flow of acid deposition(16.3, 17.9, 18.2, 21.8, 25.8). Mercury concentrations in fish have been found to be inversely correlated with lake PH, alkalinity, and calcium level. Also the permeability of biological membranes to methyl mercury and to other divalent metal ions is inversely correlated to water calcium concentration.
As PH decreases, the fraction of mercury in more toxic forms increases(2).
At PH = 8, almost all of monomethyl mercury is in hydroxyl form which is least toxic; whereas at PH = 6 or less, an increasing fraction is methyl mercury, the most dangerous form. Likewise for inorganic mercury at PH = 8, almost all mercury is in hydroxyl form; whereas at PH = 6 or less, over 90% is mercury chloride‑ a more toxic form.
Microbial net production of methyl mercury at the sediment/water interface and in the water column is more rapid in low PH waters(21.8,25.8). Decreased Ph also decreases loss of volatile mercury from lakes and increases mercury binding to particles‑ factors enhancing the bioavailability of mercury for methylation(21.8). Decreased PH also reduces dissolved organic carbon, which inhibits buildup of methyl mercury in fish. High temperature has been found to promote methylation in lake sediments which peaks in summer. The increased input
of mercury into water bodies in the last century has been a factor in the increased methyl mercury in fish, with levels of deposition 3 to 5 times the past century; however other factors previously mentioned cause differences in net methylation of mercury and content of fish in individual circumstances. In newly formed reservoirs, the decomposition of newly flooded organic material stimulates methylation of mercury and appears to be a predominant that is increasing
mercury in fish in such water bodies(21.8).
Some suggested amelioration strategies(21.8) to reduce mercury in fish include: reduction in mercury emissions, reduction in acidification of lakes and streams, manipulation of conditions affecting demethylation, addition of selenium to water bodies, and addition of lime/calcium source to water bodies.
38. There is a clearcut health danger from acidification of water supplies. The solubility of highly toxic metals such as lead, cadmium, and aluminum increases sharply with decreasing PH. Acid water leaches metals from soil, lake sediment, metal pipes, and solder joints‑all with clear danger to human health. It also releases asbestos fiber from cement‑asbestos pipes commonly used in public water systems(23 &23.3).
The adverse health effects of lead are so well known that the presence of increased lead in drinking water being found is a clear indication of a health problem, according to John Wood of the Gray Freshwater Biological Institute in Navarre, Minn.(25.7) A major new concern is the growing presence of aluminum in water due to acid rain. Aluminum is the third most common element on earth, but is insoluble in neutral or alkaline water. But aluminum becomes increasingly solubilized as PH falls below 6.0, and the aluminum salts formed become much more toxic(25.7). Because of acid rain the increase of dissolved aluminum in lakes is absolutely massive, according to researcher Pamela Stokes of the Univ. of Ontario. Aluminum is toxic to fish at only 100 parts per billion(parts per billion(ppb) and much higher levels are being observed. Adverse effects of aluminum on fish and birds is becoming common. A study on the influence of PH on metal toxicity to fish found toxicity of aluminum increases with decreases in PH, and the recent declines of east coast striped bass is related to decreasing PH(25.9). In test, all fish died within 7 days at PH 5.5 or lower at any concentration of aluminum tested. At PH 6.5, exposure to 100 micrograms per liter(parts per billion(ppb) of aluminum resulted in 97% mortality by day 7. At PH 7.2, exposure to 300 micrograms per liter of aluminum resulted in all fish dead within 7 days.
Considerable evidence exists supporting a relation between aluminum and humans having neurological disorders such as dementia, Alzheimers disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which are becoming more common(23, 23.5, 25.7). Acidification also leads to a buildup of the more toxic form of metalloids such as arsenic and selenium in water(25.7).
VII. European Experience with Mercury Emissions
39. Swedish and Danish studies found that mercury deposition rates in densely settled areas of Scandinavia have increased by a factor of 5 in this century, with most of the increase since WWII; whereas in remote areas deposition rates increased by less than a factor of 2. They concluded combustion emissions are the main source of the increased deposition rates(22.1, 22.2, 22.3). Danish researchers have found that the principal source of mercury in peat bogs is from air borne deposition. Natural input from rock underneath is small due to limited capillary action of bogs(22.4).
The mercury and other toxic metals accumulating in Scandinavia's forest floors was found to be affecting watersheds and to be cycling through the entire ecosystem(22.4), adding to the thousands of lakes with dangerous levels of mercury in the fish in Scandinavia. In Sweden where mercury emissions have been severely reduced, most of the input of mercury into freshwater lakes occurs by
the exchange of mercury from soils and forest floors, where over 600 tons has been estimated to have accumulated, in regions where acid precipitation is severe(25.7).
Because of documentation of dangerous levels of mercury and cadmium in the food chain and humans in some areas of Europe and Europes' widespread use of incinerators, several European countries have placed bans or limitations on use of mercury and cadmium in products such as batteries and paint(23.6). They are also developing emissions caps for mercury and other toxic metals. The Swedish emission limit for mercury is 40 micrograms per cubic meter.
A study by the Swedish Environmental Protection Board found that approx. 50% of mercury in the Swedish environment was due to incinerator emissions(23.6). Mercury emissions in Germany were found to be over 20 tons per year(23.9).
Incineration and wastewater treatment were found to be the biggest sources of metals pollution in Switzerland(13) along with crematoria(14.9). Heavy metals are inevitably concentrated in current incineration plants to dangerous levels.
Studies in several European countries have found 35 to 60% of incinerator emissions of mercury to be due to batteries(23.6,23.7, 23.8,23.9). Both Switzerland and Sweden have declared any battery containing over .025% cadmium or mercury to be a hazardous waste and require labeling. The European Commission is proposing a Europeanwide limitation on the mercury content of batteries to go into effect in 1992(23.6). Emissions of mercury due to batteries have been declining due to such limitations; however emissions of some other toxic metals have increased due to the changes.
VIII. Experience with Emissions Control Equipment for Toxic Metals and Mercury Reduction Options
40. Most air pollution controls such as dry scrubbers and electrostatic filters have not been found to be effective at removing toxic metal emissions such as mercury(17, 17.1, 17,9, 18.3,28,39). A study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency concluded that mercury was not effectively removed in most incinerators that have been tested (18.3). Advanced coal cleaning techniques remove approx. 21% of mercury and 55% of lead(39), and electrostatic precipitators remove the majority of most toxic metals other than mercury and an average of 16% of mercury. Flue gas desulfurization has a mercury removal range of 0 to 60% with a median of 17%(39).
Sampling at Minnesota and California incinerators with dry scrubbers and filters has found most mercury is not removed(often less than 30%). Carefully maintained and monitored wet scrubbers operating at low stack temperatures have been found to be able to control emissions of most toxic metals other than mercury. Wet scrubbers have been found to remove 10% to 65% of mercury depending on the fuel and other conditions(18,39). However operation of scrubbers below 300 degrees faces other problems where acid gases form or in combustion processes where calcium and chlorine are present. Calcium chloride and other such compounds readily absorb water and will blind the filter bags. Also many of these scrubbers or spray dry absorber/fabric filter systems have been found to experience degradation of performance in periods after startup and compliance/performance testing due to caking of solids on filter fabrics, plugging of ash removal systems, and carryover of liquids from the absorber vessel(23). The mercury removal rate for such SDA/FF systems on mass burn incinerators ranged from 30 to 85% (23).
Most dry or semidry air pollution control systems were not found to be effective at controlling mercury, arsenic, or selenium‑ without other more specific control mechanisms (18.3). One study found a dry scrubber plus a baghouse was able to remove 75 to 85% of mercury emissions, while dry scrubbers with electrostatic precipitators removed only 35 to 45% of mercury(24). However some researchers at state and federal environmental regulation agencies as well as university researchers and environmental group researchers indicate that no pollution control technology has been found that effectively controls emissions from some toxic metals such as mercury(21, 17, 21.7, 25.3). They also indicate that toxic ash and dust are a serious health threat to those handling or working with it, as well as a danger to groundwater and drinking water. Hundreds of other toxic chemicals including highly dangerous dioxins, furans, and chlorine/bromine compounds‑ as well as acid pollutants and greenhouse gases have been found to be emitted by incinerators(21,29).
41. The amount of chlorine in fuel affects which forms of mercury are generated and the success of removal by pollution controls. Higher chlorine levels produce more mercuric chloride‑ which is highly volatile but easier to control than elemental mercury(23.2). Mercury in the flue gas of a coal fired power plant was found to be almost totally elemental mercury due to lower chlorine levels in the fuel(22.7,16.3). However higher chlorine levels in incinerators which produce mercuric chlorides also produce more volatile arsenic and chromium compounds which are more likely to escape dry scrubbers or similar controls.
42. A group of toxic air emission experts assembled at a workshop by State governors indicated that energy conservation measures are the most cost effective method of controlling trace metals such as mercury and cadmium(28). Fuel switching to coal low in mercury or cadmium was also very cost effective in specific cases, since coal from certain areas has much higher levels of mercury and cadmium than from other regions. Western coal in general has less mercury than eastern coal(34). Northern Appalachia coal and lignite from the Gulf Coast and North Dakota have the highest levels of mercury. Midwest and Gulf Coast coal has the highest levels of cadmium, with extremely high levels in Missouri and Illinois.
Mercury emission levels can be reduced 35 to 50% by switching from high mercury coal to lower mercury coal(28, Table 3-1). Physical coal cleaning can reduce mercury emissions approx. 30%, higher for some coals(28, Table 3-5).
Existing control technologies mercury removal efficiencies range from almost none for hot-side electrostatic precipitators(ESP) to 35 to 40 % for cold-side ESPs, wet scrubbers, and baghouses(28).
Among new technologies, activated carbon used with scrubbers and ESP or baghouses appear to remove 80 to 90% of mercury(28). Sodium hypochlorite with scrubber, lignite coke NOx Technology, and Sulfur-Impregnated Alumina and Carbon appear to have potential to remove over 95% of mercury from emissions. However, mercury also tends to volatilize from waste piles so net mercury removal is more questionable. Minnesota PCA estimates cost of effective mercury control for coal plants or incinerators at $2500 to $5000 per pound. A policy study by MPCA recommended emission limits should be no more than 50 pounds per year, much lower than current EPA standards.
Physical coal cleaning removes 25 to 69% of cadmium depending on chemical composition, and from 10 to 75% of other trace metals(28, Table 4-3). Baghouses are highly effective at removing cadmium and most trace metals that are not primarily in elemental vapor form such as mercury, arsenic, and selenium. ESPs are more effective for large particle sizes.
IX. TOXIC METALS IN FLUE ASH AND BOTTOM ASH
43. Large volumes of most toxic metals are present in both emissions and ash from municipal or hospital incinerators or from coal power plants. Extensive information on content of waste ash and on emissions is available from EPA, FDEP, the California Air Resources Board, Environmental Defense Fund, Univ. of Florida researchers, etc.(17,21,30,31,32). A listing of average metal content of coal and coal ash from a TVA plant is given in Appendix 3. Coal plants produce approx. 90 million tons per year of ash and 35 million tons of flue gas desulfurization wastes(30). Coal plants with scrubbers produce for each megawatt of power about 308 tons of fly ash, 77 tons of bottom ash, and 364 tons o flue gas desulfurization waste for landfilling. Most coal ash laboratory tests have found cadmium and arsenic at levels considered hazardous per EPA RCRA standards, along with lower levels of other toxic metals(30). Toxic constituents from coal combustion waste disposal sites have been detected in both on-site and off-site ground and surface water. Where the depth to groundwater is less than 30 feet, "there is a reasonably high potential that leachate will reach groundwater unless extensive precautions are taken"(30). The high PH that often characterizes Western coals tends to cause the release of harmful toxic metals such as arsenic, selenium, and manganese.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal(20), most municipal incinerators reduce volume approx. 60% , leaving 40% to be landfilled. This article also found most to be expensive to build and operate and to result in high garbage bills or expensive energy. From California experience the bottom ash and fly ash contain heavy metals and other pollutants such as dioxins at levels that make it hazardous waste and subject to disposal costs at least twice that of normal garbage. Other new technologies such as composting appear to be safer environmentally than incineration and also much lower in cost(20).
44. Minnesota studies have found from 1% to 10% of ash at mass burn facilities to be flue ash, while 30 to 40% of refuse derived fuel(RDF) ash was fly ash(18.3). Minnesota tests have found high levels of cadmium and other toxic metals in most mass burn incinerator fly ash(see Table). RDF plant fly ash tended to have lower levels of mercury due to pre‑sorting of garbage. However RDF plants were found to tend to have higher emissions of dioxins and furans.
Toxic Metals in Flue Ash of Incinerators(18.3)
Heavy Metals Metals in Waste Metals in Flue Ash
(grams per ton) (parts per million)*
Lead 1500 30,000
Cadmium 20 2,000
Mercury 5 3,000
Copper 1000 3,000
Nickel 100 100
Zinc 3200 80,000
* multiply by 0.91 to convert to grams per ton
For incinerators with scrubbers, the distribution of cadmium was 30% in the bottom ash, 62 to 65 % in flue ash, and 5 to 8% as emissions(23.9). Toxic metals have been found to be increasingly soluble in acidic conditions. Cadmium was found to be 85% soluble at a PH of 4.0. Flue ash tends to be alkaline which reduces solubility of toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury,lead, etc. However high PH causes the release of harmful toxic metals such as arsenic, selenium, and manganese, and exposure to acidic water or rainfall over time can reduce the PH.
Nationally, tests have found incinerator fly ash cadmium to exceed the EPA EP toxicity standard 97% of the time(18.3 & 21). Combined bottom and fly ash exceeded the cadmium toxicity standard 14% of the time. For bottom ash only cadmium exceeded limits 2% of the time. RDF plant fly ash in Minnesota tended to have lower levels of mercury due to pre‑sorting. Because of their adverse experience with toxic metals, Minnesota requires all municipal solid waste incinerators to test ash quarterly for leachable metals via EPA Method 1312‑Synthetic Precipitation Leach Test for Soils. Minnesota also requires ash to be disposed of in permitted monofills with liners and leachate collection systems(18.3).
45. A significant fraction of oxidized mercury added to a soil sample is quickly reduced and volatilized(22.9,22.2). The evaporation of mercury captured in soils or fly ash escalates dramatically(exponentially) as surface temperature increases above 70 degrees F(22.8,24.7). One study reported that over a period of 14 days, from 10 to 15% of the mercury in fly ash from a fabric filter evaporated at room temperature(22.6). Emission levels of waste ash piles from
chloralkali plants have been found to be 25% as much as active plant emissions. At a temperature of 86 degrees, an old chloralkali waste pile was found to produce emissions in the vicinity approaching EPA ambient air quality guidelines(22.8,24.7). This is a special problem in Florida where dark fly ash often attains a temperature of 140 degrees.
X. Heavy Metals and Drinking Water
46. Researchers have found the levels of toxic metals in water due to acidic pollutants are having serious and permanent adverse health effects(25). Over 38 million Americans now drink water containing over 20 parts per billion(parts per billion(ppb) lead(25.5). An EPA study estimates that reducing lead content of water in homes to 20 parts per billion(ppb) would bring an economic benefit over $1 billion and a net savings of over $800 million, as well as large scale reductions in health problems and learning disabilities. Recent studies have concluded drinking water is now the number one source of lead in the human blood stream(25.5 & 2). The largest source of lead and heavy metals in drinking water is from the dissolving of lead or other heavy metals like cadmium and copper from home drinking water pipes or lead solder. The more acidic and softer drinking water is, the more heavy metals are absorbed. Heavy metals in some surface water used as drinking water are also increasing(25.5 & 2).
According to EPA, lead in drinking water is a special problem in Florida due to the high acidity of much Florida drinking water, which causes more rapid absorption of lead and other heavy metals from pipes or soil(2.5). An EPA survey of drinking water in 1986 (2.5,2.8) found that average lead levels in drinking water in many areas of Florida were above the EPA drinking water standard of 20 parts per billion(ppb)(mcg/dl); and that thousands of Florida children have been drinking water with lead levels above the level that studies by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and EPA indicate are enough to permanently adversely affect learning ability. Thus EPA ordered all school districts in Florida to test their water for lead, and issued a health warning regarding lead in drinking water in Florida. Several Florida counties including Leon and Broward found water from over 20% of the school drinking fountains to contain levels of lead that have been shown to cause serious decreases in learning ability.
Over 50 % of home drinking water tested in some areas of Florida also had dangerous levels of lead. As seen from other studies, even levels of lead considerably lower than the EPA standard and the average level of lead in Florida drinking water have been shown to have serious health effects.
47. The Center for Disease Control(CDC) standard for" excessive absorption" of lead by children is 25 mcg/dl. However the EPA Clean Air Science Advisory Committee has recommended a reduction to 10 mcg/dl. Over 60% of U.S. children under 5 years of age exceed this level, according to an EPA survey, and over 40% of adults(9). As a beginning to reach the goal for blood lead level, EPA has reduced the EPA drinking water standard to 15 parts per billion(ppb) from 50 parts per billion(ppb)(2.3). The drinking water of approx. 40 million Americans exceeds 20 parts per billion(ppb) lead(9).
48. The following table prepared under an EPA contract and presented at a
New York workshop on acid deposition(26) obtained results very similar to
another study by Richards and Moore(26.3). It gives the estimated relation between lead concentrations in drinking water and human blood levels:
Lead in Tap Water Lead in Blood Due to Water
(parts per billion(ppb) (mcg/dl)
Although lead in drinking water appears to currently be the number one cause of lead in human blood, it is responsible for less than 50 % of lead in humans. Thus lowering the EPA drinking water standard to 15 parts per billion(ppb) does not appear sufficient to reduce the level of lead in people's blood who are drinking water at the EPA standard to the blood lead level recommended by the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee(10 mcg/dl). In fact lowering the standard to 10 parts per billion(ppb) may not be sufficient to lower blood lead level to the recommended level(26.5).
Similar conclusions had also been reached earlier(Moore et al in a 1980 EPA study & 26.5). Several researchers have concluded that lowering standard near 5 parts per billion(ppb) is necessary to ensure protection from significant adverse health effects, and have offered analyses supporting the cost effectiveness of such a lowering of the standard(8.7). A study by Erik Jansson estimated that a program resulting in an average blood lead reduction of 2 mcg/dl would save approx. $6 billion in medical cost and reduce U.S. cancer deaths from approx. 22% of the population to about 20 % of the population(all else being equal). Additional reductions would bring roughly proportional savings(26.7 & 8.7).
XI. Toxic Metals from Sewer Plants and Urban Runoff
49. Sewage treatment plants are a major source of toxic metal discharges into rivers, estuaries, and bays in the U.S. Mercury,lead, copper, chromium,etc. have been found in sediments and the food chain in many areas near sewer outfalls(27). Municipal sewer sludge in Rochester, N.Y. averages 1.24 ppm mercury, with 6% being methyl mercury(27.7). Dental amalgam has been found to be the largest source of mercury in sewers and sewer sludge, with the 2 largest sources being dental office effluent and excretion into sewers by those with dental amalgam fillings(14.9). Sewers are a major source of mercury in water bodies, fish, and wildlife, with over 30% of U.S. lakes having fish consumption warnings and similar for rivers and bays. The average amalgam filling has ½ gram of mercury which is enough to contaminate all fish in a 10 acre lake to dangerous levels. All sewer sludge has high levels of mercury due to dental amalgam which results in mercury in crops and methylation of mercury by soil bacteria, with subsequent outgasing of high levels of mercury(14.9).
Use on gardens was found to lead to buildup of mercury in the soil and uptake by plants. Industrial and commercial discharges have been found to be poorly monitored and enforced by most public sewer systems. Four types of toxic metals and two banned pesticides were recently found in plant samples and sediments taken from St. Joseph's Bay where large areas of sea grasses are dying(27.3). Toxic metals have also been found in sediments and the food chain in other coastal bays and lakes throughout Florida, with an additional source of such toxics in sediments being urban runoff(27.5).
(1) ATSDR/EPA Priority List for 2001: Top 20 Hazardous Substances, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.atsdr.cdc.gov/clist.html;
(1.2) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Hazardous Air Pollutant Hazard Summary, Fact Sheets, EPA: In Risk Information System, 1998, www.epa.gov/mercury/information.htm#fact_sheets &
(1.3) U.S. EPA, 40 CFR Part 132, Water Quality Criteria, Wildlife Protection & Human Health, April, 1999.
(1.5)National Wildlife Federation, Cycle of Harm: Mercurys Pathway from Rain to Fish in the Environment, May, 2003, www.nwf.org/nwfwebadmin/binaryVault/CycleOfHarm111.pdf; & (b) NADP/Mercury Deposition Network, Total Mercury Concentration, 2001; & Total Mercury Wet Deposition , 2001
(1.6) Water Quality Criterion for the Protection of Human Health: Methylmercury, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water 4304 EPA-823-F-01-001, January 2001,
(1.7) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Public Health Service , Toxicological Profile for Mercury",March 1999; & Apr 19,1999 Media Advisory, New MRLs for toxic substances, MRL: elemental mercury vapor/ inhalation/chronic & MRL: methyl mercury/oral/acute; & http://atsdr1.atsdr.cdc.gov:8080/97list.html ;
(1.8) B. Windham, annotated bibliography, Documentation of Common Exposure Levels and Adverse Health Effects due to mercury from amalgam fillings ; (over 2000 medical study or scientific references)
(1.9) U.S. EPA, Mercury Study Report to Congress, Vol 1, 1997.
(2) J.O.Nriagu, "Global Metal Pollution- Poisoning the Biosphere", Environment, Vol 32, No. 7, Sept. 1990; & J.N. Galloway et al, "Trace Metals in Atmospheric Deposition", Atmospheric Environment, Vol 16, #7, P167‑170,1982; & Mason RP, Fitzgerald WF, Morel FM, 1994, The biogeochemical cycling of elemental mercury: Anthropogenic influences, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 58(15): 3191-8.
(2.1) W.F. Fitzgerald & T.W. Clarkson, "Mercury: Present and Future Concerns", Environmental Health Perspective, Vol 96, p159-166, 1991.
(2.2) Blumer and Reich, Environment International, Vol 3,1980; & M.N Weissman, Columbia Univ., Science News, 12-5-95, p391.
(2.3) Tallahassee Democrat, 11‑2‑90 & Tallahassee Democrat, "Cut Lead Level in Water",5‑8‑91 & Florida Times Union, "EPA Orders Reduction in Drinking Water Lead", 5‑8‑91.
(2.4) The Atlanta Constitution, "CDC:Lead levels still poisoning kids", Charles Seabrook, July 17,1990; & Center for Disease Control, in Tallahassee Democrat, "Lead Poisoning", Dec 8,1992, Section 3A; & "Lot of Lead found in School Water", Orlando Sentinel, 4‑28‑89. & The Washington Post, "Dangerous Amounts of Lead in Much Drinking Water" ,Nov 6, 1986; A. Beasley, "The danger within: Lead lurks in pipes", Orlando Sentinel,
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Major Atmospheric Mercury Sources(partial list)
Source Fuel Controls Fuel Emissions Emissions
Burned Rate (4) pounds
Pinellas Co. MSW ESP 860,900 .0074 lb/T(1) 6371
Hillsborough Co MSW ESP 421,500 .0056 lb/T(1) 2360
McKay Bay MSW ESP 295,312 .0070 lb/T(1) 2067
Pasco County MSW DS/FF 322,794 .0026 lb/T(1) 839
Lee County MSW DS/FF 305,000 .0021 lb/T(1) 640
Lake County MSW DS/FF 164,000 .0025 lb/T(1) 410
Key West Incin. MSW ESP 43,800 1.5 ppm 131
Dade Co. Incin. RDF ESP 972,000 .0024 lb/T(1) 2333
South Broward Co MSW DS/FF 1,554,000* .0017 lb/T(1) 2007
North Broward Co MSW DS/FF " .0021 lb/T(1) 946
Palm Beach Co. RDF DS/ESP 730,000 .00036lb/T(1) 263
Bay Co Incin. MSW ESP 159,120 .0024 lb/T(1) 382
Tampa Elec. Plants
Big Bend 1,2,3 Coal ESP 3,900,000 .1575 ppm(2) 1228
Big Bend 4 Coal WS 1,400.000 .063 ppm(3) 176
Gannon Coal ESP 3,100,000 .1575 ppm(2) 976
Gannon 1 Oil ? 1.4 million brl 21.4lb/mbrl 30 Total 2410
Florida Power Plants
Crystal River Coal ESP 7,000,000 .1575 ppm(2) 2200
Oil ? 9.7 million brl 21.4lb/mbrl 200 Total 2400
Gulf Power Plants
Crist Coal ESP 3,350,000 .1575 ppm(2) 1055
Smith Coal ESP 1,200,000 .1575 ppm(2) 378
Scholz Coal ESP 150,000 .1575 ppm(2) 47 Total 1480
JEA Power Plants Coal WS 3,700,000 .063 ppm(3) 466
Oil ? 8 million brls 21.4lb/mbrl 200 Total 666
Gainesville Plant Coal ESP 670,000 .1575 ppm(2) 211 Total 211
FPL Power Plants Oil ? 34.1 million brls 21.4lb/mbrl 720 Total 720
State Total 7887
MSW= municipal solid waste (not all of those in state are listed here)
ESP= electrostatic precipitator, FF= Fabric Filter
WS= wet scrubber plus electrostatic precipitator
DS= dry scrubber
(1) emission rate from KBN Engineering, Inc.- emissions tests, 1992
(2) based on average mercury in Eastern coal(KBN) with 25% removal
(3) based on average mercury in Eastern coal(KBN) with 70% removal
(4) MSW contains over 2000 tons of toxic metals including lead,mercury,cadmium, chromium,nickel,aluminum,etc. per 1 million tons of MSW. Waste burned in the over 300 medical waste incinerators in Fla. which are also major sources is similar. Coal contains over 1000 tons of toxic metals per 1 million tons.
Average Toxic Metal Concentrations in Various Fuels
(parts per million)
Metal #6 Oil Eastern Coal RDF/MSW Sewer
Arsenic 0.1 15 4 1
Berylium 0.03 3
Cadmium 0.30 0.07-16 8 64
Chromium 0.14 23 80 1372
Copper 0.20 16 300 855
Lead 0.6 14 380 1160
Mercury 0.06 0.10-0.30 1 & 3 6
Manganese 0.16 80 170 128
Nickel 10.0 18 60 153
Selenium 3 1 2
Vanadium 5.7 100 28 26
Zinc 0.8 40 600 1372
source‑ for Eastern coal: average of averages quoted by
(1)Radian Corporation,Estimating Air Toxics Emissisions from Coal and Oil Combustion Sources, U.S. EPA, 1989(NTIS PB89-194229).
& (2) California Air Resources Board, 1989.
for all other fuels(2)