Frequent Questions

What laws apply to mercury?

For a general overview, see: Environmental Laws that Apply to Mercury

In addition, EPA has taken a number of actions to reduce mercury pollution, including issuing stringent regulations for industries that contribute to U.S. mercury emissions. These regulations eventually will reduce nationwide mercury emissions significantly. EPA's actions affected emissions from the following sources:

  • Municipal waste combustors (MWCs), which emitted about 57 tons of mercury emissions into the air in 1990.
  • Medical waste incinerators (MWIs), which emitted about 50 tons into the air in 1990. EPA issued emission standards for MWIs on August 15, 1997, and these incinerators must now comply. Compliance information indicates that mercury emissions from MWIs are 95 percent less than in 1990.
  • Chlor-alkali plants. EPA issued final standards for mercury from chlor-alkali production on December 19, 2003. EPA estimates that mercury emissions from chor-alkali plants have been reduced by approximately 88 percent from the pre-2003 levels; this estimate includes reductions resulting from plant closures.
  • Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) from Power plants: On December 21, 2011, EPA issued final mercury and air toxics standards to limit mercury and other toxic pollution emissions from power plants. EPA expects these standards, when fully implemented, will prevent 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted to the air.

In addition, other factors that have influenced mercury emissions include:

  • Federal bans on mercury in paints and batteries,
  • Efforts to encourage removal of mercury switches from metal scrap going to iron and steel foundries,
  • State-required recycling programs, and
  • Voluntary actions by industry.

Learn how EPA leads efforts in the Global Mercury Partnership.

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