RIVM: Mercury in natural gas from Groningen is not harmful to health

Photo: Katharina Glazenborg

GRONINGEN – Natural gas can naturally contain mercury. This mercury could end up in your home. Especially when cooking on gas. In 2014, the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) calculated mercury exposure at daily peak times. At the end of 2022, the State Supervisory Authority for Mines (SodM) asked the RIVM to investigate whether this had health consequences. This study shows that exposure to mercury through domestic use of natural gas is not harmful to health. Mercury concentrations are very low for that.

Mercury exposure is well calculated

RIVM demonstrated for the first time that NAM had correctly calculated mercury exposure. However, NAM seems to estimate exposure at 3 peak moments per day to be higher than it would actually be. In the study, NAM assumes in the worst case that exposure can be too high. Such as the combination of a small kitchen and a high concentration of mercury in natural gas.

Home use is not harmful to health

In order to assess whether this peak exposure could be detrimental to health, the RIVM examined the scientific literature. Mercury exposure can cause neurological damage, among other things. It can have an effect on the brain, motor skills, and (development of) behaviour.
RIVM does not expect these effects to occur at the calculated peak exposure.

Forward to the audit report NAM

In 2022, the Disaster Management Unit received questions about the NAM report. SodM therefore asked the RIVM to verify these NAM accounts and assess whether exposure to peak mercury could have health consequences.

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At the end of 2022, the RIVM answered questions about whether NAM’s research was based on real-world conditions among users and whether the method for calculating the amount of mercury in the air in the home was correct. The institute has now concluded that exposure to mercury through domestic use of natural gas is not harmful to health.

Source: RIVM

Megan Vasquez

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