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New treaty’s entry into force set to curtail global mercury crisis, say NGOs

BRUSSELS - 16 AUGUST 2017
TODAY’S ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE MINAMATA CONVENTION ESTABLISHES THE FIRST NEW MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENT IN OVER A DECADE.  THE ZERO MERCURY WORKING GROUP* HAS BEEN CALLING FOR A LEGALLY BINDING TREATY FOR OVER A DECADE AND WELCOMES THE NEW PROTOCOL.

“While there are alternatives to mercury, there are no alternatives to global cooperation,” said Michael Bender, coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Mercury respects no boundaries and exposes people everywhere”
“Only a global pact can curtail this dangerous neurotoxin.”

In October 2013 the convention text was adopted and signed by 128 countries, but would not take legal effect until at least 50 countries had ratified it formally.  This milestone was reached in May of this year, and the convention enters into force today 16 August. 

“We are now on the right track,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager, European Environmental Bureau and ZMWG co- coordinator. 

“Over time, the Convention is expected to provide the necessary technical and financial resources to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury worldwide. Governments must therefore move swiftly towards efficient implementation of the Treaty’s provisions”.

The aim of the Convention is "to protect the human health and the environment” from mercury releases.

The treaty holds critical obligations for Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.  In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

The First Conference of the Parties will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.  Over 1,000 delegates and around 50 ministers are expected to assemble in Geneva to celebrate and lay the groundwork for the treaty’s overall effectiveness.

The Minamata Convention joins 3 other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

ENDS 

For more information, see:

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/Negotiations/COP1/tabid/5544/language/en-US/Default.aspx

www.zeromercury.org

Contacts 

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, ZMWG International Coordinator
T: +32 2 2891301,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, T: +1 802 917 8222,   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notes to the editors:

Mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury - accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in our bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children. 

*The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of over 95 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project.  ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.  Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe's largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations, standing for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our experts work on climate change, biodiversity, circular economy, air, water, soil, chemical pollution, as well as policies on industry, energy, agriculture, product design and waste prevention. We are also active on overarching issues as sustainable development, good governance, participatory democracy and the rule of law in Europe and beyond.

We have over 140 members in over 30 countries.

EC register for interest representatives: Identification number 06798511314-27
International non-profit association - Association internationale sans but lucratif (AISBL)

 
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Paints and varnishes PDF Print

Phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA) and similar mercury compounds have been widely used as water-based paint additives, and may still be used in some countries. These compounds were used as “in-can” preservatives to extend the shelf life by controlling bacterial fermentation in the can (biocides), as well as to retard fungus attacks on painted surfaces under damp conditions (fungicides).

Inorganic mercury compounds of very low solubility have also been used as additives in marine coatings and paints to impede bacteria formation and to hinder the development of marine organisms. This use is believed to have been largely discontinued by the mid-1970s (US DOC, as cited in NJ MTF, 2002).

Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

The European Union directive 76/769/EEU restricts the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations, and includes a prohibition of the use of mercury substances in marine anti-fouling paints, wood preservatives, among others.

Globally

In theUSAthe use of mercury biocides in paint officially ended in 1991. Prior to that, mercury compounds were used in 25 to 30% of all interior latex paints (it was not used in oil-based paints), and in 20 to 35% of outdoor latex paints (Heier, 1990). An estimated 227 metric tons per year of PMA and other mercury compounds were used in paints in the USA between the mid 1960s and 1991 (NJ MTF, 2002). It would be interesting to carry out an inventory of the obsolete stocks of these paints that could still be stored in households.

Information is provided at http://www.epa.gov/hg/consumer.htm#bat bat and at http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/modelleg.cfm

In a reported incident of mercury poisoning in 1989 in theUS, the walls were painted with latex paint containing 930-955 ppm mercury (MMWR, 1990).

The use of mercury in paints has now been substantially reduced or eliminated in a large number of countries. Among others,Mauritius,Cameroon,Costa Rica,Japan,Norway, theUSAandSwitzerlandhave all discontinued this use (UNEP, 2002). Some paint industries inThailandhave no mercury in their processes or paints since 1991, and are certified as “green label.”

During the Global Mercury Assessment (UNEP, 2002) Thailand reported that less than 25% of the paint factories in Thailand still use mercury compounds as additives, and in quantities of not more than 0.5% of total weight. In Costa Rica, the regulation on the content of lead and mercury in paints sets a maximum limit of 50 ppm (0.005 %) mercury. Australia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Ireland, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago (mostly discontinued now) have also indicated recent or continued use of mercury in paints (UNEP, 2002),