- Pollutant information
Pollutant Information: Mercury
Category: Heavy metals and base cations
Acute exposure to high levels of elemental mercury vapour can lead to irritation of the lungs as well as causing coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath. High levels can also result in central nervous system (CNS) effects such as tremors and mood changes. Chronic exposure also leads to CNS disorders, with effects such as increased excitability, excessive shyness and irritability.
Emissions have declined by 91% since 1990. The main sources in 2020 are coal use in public electricity and heat production and industrial combustion, iron and steel production processes, cremation, and emissions from the disposal of products containing mercury. Emissions from coal use have decreased by 95% since 1990 due to the declining use of coal. The manufacture of chlorine in mercury cells was a major source in 1990 but emissions have fallen by 99.99% since then as a result of improved controls on mercury cells and, subsequently, their replacement by diaphragm or membrane cells.
» View and Download Mercury emission summary data
Time series graph
|Start year||End year||Sector||Information||Impact|
|1992||1996||Waste Incineration||Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) incinerators not meeting the new standards closed in the period leading up to December 1996. Improved abatement at waste incineration plant from 1993 (and requirement to including heat recovery/electricity gen.)||Decrease in emissions|
|1993||1996||Waste Incineration||Improved abatement at crematoria.||Decrease in emissions|
|1993||1998||Production Processes||Decline in emission due to abatement and declining activity in Chloro Alkali and metal industry||Decrease in emissions|
|1984||1985||Combustion in Energy and Transformation Industry||1984 miners' strike led to a significant decrease in the use of coal for combustion in electricity generation. A noticeable dip in emissions from coal-fired combustion sources in 1984 but increase in use of alternative fuels (e.g. Oil) and resulting emissions of pollutants (Cadmium & Lead).||Decrease in emissions|
|1984||1985||Other stationary combustion||1984 miners' strike led to a significant decrease in the use of coal for combustion in electricity generation. A noticeable dip in emissions from coal-fired combustion sources in 1984 but increase in use of alternative fuels (e.g. Oil) and resulting emissions of pollutants (Cadmium & Lead).||Decrease in emissions|
|1999||2011||Chemical Industry||Tightening emission controls for the chemical industry under IPPC enforced by the Environment Agency and Defra.||Decrease in emissions|
|1990||2016||Combustion in Energy and Transformation Industry||Deregulation in the use of gas for electricity production. Increased use of Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) stations and other gas fired plant rather than coal for electricity generation.||Decrease in emissions|