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Mercury pollution: Parties to Minamata Convention discuss non-binding declaration but can it help

  • Published
    23rd Mar, 2022
Context

Consensus is building among various stakeholders meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to adopt a non-binding declaration that will enhance international cooperation and coordination for combatting illegal trade in mercury.

About

About the Minamata Convention:

  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a multilateral environmental agreement that addresses specific human activities which are contributing to widespread mercury pollution.
  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the most recent global agreement on environment and health, adopted in 2013.
  • It is named after the bay in Japan where, in the mid-20th century, mercury-tainted industrial wastewater poisoned thousands of people, leading to severe health damage that became known as the "Minamata disease."
  • Since it entered into force on 16 August 2017, Parties have been working together to control the mercury supply and trade, reduce the use, emission and release of mercury, raise public awareness, and build the necessary institutional capacity.

The non-binding declaration calls upon parties to:

  • Develop practical tools and notification and information-sharing systems for monitoring and managing trade in mercury
  • Exchange experiences and practices relating to combating illegal trade in mercury, including reducing the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining
  • Share examples of national legislation and data and information related to such trade

About Mercury:

  • Mercury (Hg) is a global pollutant that affects human and ecosystem health.
  • Mercury occurs naturally in the earth’s crust, but human activities, such as mining and fossil fuel combustion, have led to widespread global mercury pollution.
  • Mercury emitted into the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water.
  • Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change it into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish.
  • Most human exposure to mercury is from eating fish and shellfish contaminated with methylmercury.
  • Mercury is poisonous in all forms - inorganic, organic or elemental.
  • Methyl mercury is a neurotoxicant: it can damage the developing brain as it crosses the placental and blood-brain barriers easily.
  • The threat to the unborn is, therefore, of particular concern.
  • It can also trigger depression and suicidal tendencies, paralysis, kidney failure, Alzheimer's disease, speech and vision impairment, allergies, hypospermia and impotence.
  • Even miniscule increases in methyl mercury exposures may adversely affect the cardiovascular system.
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