HC Deb 10 July 2003 vol 408 cc918-9W
Mrs. Helen Clark

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to assess the health impacts of mercury emissions into the environment(a) generally and (b) from crematoria; and if she will make a statement. [124047]

Mr. Bradshaw

The information requested is as follows.

(a) The UK has already taken steps to assess the impacts of mercury in a range of environmental compartments. We contributed to the production of WHO Air Quality Guidelines for Europe, and have adopted the same statutory limit for drinking water as the WHO drinking water guideline value. The WHO drinking water guideline is currently being revised and we will consider what, if any, reassessment would be required in light of changes made. An assessment of health impacts from mercury contaminated soils has been undertaken and two reports "Collation of toxicological data and intake values for humans—Mercury" and "Soil Guideline Values for inorganic mercury contamination" were published last year. Both are available on the Defra website at www.defraweb/environment/landliability/pubs.htm. Dietary exposure to mercury is mainly in the form of methylmercury in fish and is assessed against international guidelines for methylmercury. The Food Standards Agency issues advice to consumers to limit consumption of certain species offish, so that exposure is within these guidelines.

(b) My Department issued a consultation on an assessment by the Environment Agency's Local Authority Unit on mercury emissions from crematoria on 7 May with comments requested by 7 August. A copy is available on the Defra website at www.defraweb/corporate/consult/crematoria/consultation.pdf

Work is continuing in this area. A global assessment of mercury was published by the United Nations Environment Programme earlier this year and an action plan is being developed. In addition, the European Commission propose to develop a Strategy on Mercury in 2004 to protect human health and the environment from the release of mercury. This work is expected to reassess the health impacts of mercury and the UK will contribute to the development of this Strategy.

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