The materials flow of mercury in the economies of the United States and the world

Circular 1197
By:  and 



Although natural sources of mercury exist in the environment, measured data and modeling results indicate that the amount of mercury released into the biosphere has increased since the beginning of the industrial age. Mercury is naturally distributed in the air, water, and soil in minute amounts, and can be mobile within and between these media. Because of these properties and the subsequent impacts on human health, mercury was selected for an initial materials flow study, focusing on the United States in 1990. This study was initiated to provide a current domestic and international analysis. As part of an increased emphasis on materials flow, this report researched changes and identified the associated trends in mercury flows; it also updates statistics through 1996. In addition to domestic flows, the report includes an international section, because all primary mercury-producing mines are currently foreign, 86 percent of the mercury cell sector of the worldwide chlor-alkali industry is outside the United States, there is a large international mercury trade (1,395 t 1 in 1996), and environmental regulations are not uniform or similarly enforced from country to country. Environmental concerns have brought about numerous regulations that have dramatically decreased both the use and the production of mercury since the late 1980?s. Our study indicates that this trend is likely to continue into the future, as the world eliminates the large mercury inventories that have been stockpiled to support prior industrial processes and products.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title The materials flow of mercury in the economies of the United States and the world
Series title Circular
Series number 1197
DOI 10.3133/cir1197
Year Published 2000
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description 28 p.
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