Conversation with David Schmeltz, Senior Analyst, Atmospheric Science and Policy, US EPA
“Mercury pollution is widespread, affecting every region on this planet,” says David Schmeltz, Senior Analyst, Atmospheric Science and Policy, at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. David is working with scientists around the world to share information and find solutions to an issue that is considered one of the top six global toxic threats. As an avid fisherman, David first learned of mercury pollution when fishing the bodies of water near his childhood home just outside of New York City. “I remember seeing advisories that said not to eat the fish because of contamination. It’s always stuck with me, and so from a pretty young age, I wanted to do something about it.”
Today, David is helping to lead the Asia-Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network (APMMN), a program of the International Environmental Partnership working to develop consistent, long-term measurements of mercury pollution in the environment to learn more about what actions are working to reduce mercury’s harmful effects on humans and wildlife. Adverse health effects of mercury exposure include impaired neurological development in young children, adverse cardiovascular effects in adults, and other health effects such as diabetes risk, compromised immune function, and endocrine disruption. East and Southeast Asia are the largest sources of mercury emissions and also the world’s largest consumer of fish and seafood. Although Asia carries this double burden, few measurements of mercury in the air and environment are made, and available data and information are limited. APMMN recognizes that consistent measures of where and how much mercury is moving through atmosphere and deposited in the region are needed—both to get a better sense of the extent of the extent of the problem, and to also assess the effectiveness of mercury reduction efforts.
In support of the Minamata Convention a global treaty signed by more than 120 countries in 2013, APMMN is collaborating with government and academic scientists to address important mercury data gaps and share information that can help communities grappling with this systemic issue. And David couldn’t be more proud to contribute to this effort: “Through APMMN I have met some truly amazing people from different countries with diverse backgrounds and perspectives who all share a common vision to solve the global mercury problem. It’s really inspiring to work with a dedicated group of scientists who are cooperating to track mercury in the environment and share information to improve the health of our community.”
If you are interested in learning more, please visit the APMMN website - apmmn.org