Mercury flows in China and global drivers
Mercury (Hg) pollution control has become an urgent need at global and national scales. This study, for the first time, comprehensively examines Hg flows in Mainland China and uncovers domestic and external causal drivers of China’s Hg emissions/releases. Results show that China’s Hg input reaches 2643 t in 2010. China discharges 1368 t of Hg to the environment (to air, 633 t; water, 84 t; and land, 651 t). Embedded Hg transfers across production sectors via waste/byproduct flows reduce Hg releases to land, but lead to secondary Hg emissions to air. Such revelations of embedded Hg transfers adjusts China’s comprehensive Hg control that would otherwise only tackle primary emitters. Domestic consumption causes 67% of China’s Hg emissions/releases, and external consumption induces the remaining 33%. Besides traditional production-side Hg control measures, demand-side measures and international joint efforts are required to effectively combat Hg pollution. Uncovering embedded and embodied Hg flows within the global economy can assist a paradigm shift necessary to make real progress in global Hg control and the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.