Burning of coal is the largest single anthropogenic source of mercury air emissions, having more than tripled since 1970. Coal burning for power generation is increasing alongside economic growth. The releases from power plants and industrial boilers represent today roughly a quarter of mercury releases to atmosphere. Household burning of coal is also a significant source of mercury emissions and a human health hazard.
Although coal contains only small concentrations of mercury, it is burnt in very large volumes.
Up to 95% of mercury releases from power plants can be reduced. This can be achieved by improving coal and plant performance, and optimizing control systems for other pollutants.