FROm next year, us power plants will be forced to test the coal they burn for traces of mercury. The us Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will also require a selected number of plants to test their emissions for the heavy metal. This will help EPA decide whether mercury emissions should be regulated and to inform the public of the scale of the problem. The initiative, which will affect 1,400 coal-fired power plants in the us, is part of the Clinton administration's 'right-to-know' public disclosure policy on potential environmental hazards. The EPA will begin gathering the data from January 1, 1999, and will post the results on the Internet by early 2000. The EPA plans to cut mercury emissions by 50 per cent by 2006. The EPA reported to us Congress last year that utility companies are the largest source of airborne mercury emissions in the country. Mercury emissions often accumulate in rivers and lakes and can cause health hazard through the food chain. Exposure to the chemical can also damage nerves.
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