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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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Thermostats, Switches and relays PDF Print

Electrical and electronic switches, relays and contacts with mercury are normally used in various applications such as:

  • level or “tilt” switches in thermostats, car boot or bonnet lids (lighting), car ride control systems, freezer or washing machine lids, “fall alarms” for the elderly, railway signals, sewer pumps, water pumps, car ABS sensors, light-activators in children's shoes, among others.
  • multiple-pole level switches in excavation machines,
  • mercury-wetted contacts (in electronics),
  • data transmission relays or "reed relays",
  • thermo-switches, among others

Mercury in electrical components has been under substitution in some countries for nearly two decades, and mercury-free substitutes are being used for most or all of these applications. Even though the level of awareness of the mercury-free substitutes is on the rise, the status and extent of substitution varies considerably from one country to another.

Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

The European Union has developed and adopted two pieces of legislation regulating the content and disposition of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE); Directive 2002/96/EC (WEEE) mainly ensures separate collection and recycling of EEE, while Directive 2002/95/EC (RoHS) bans the use of certain hazardous chemicals – including mercury or any components containing mercury – in new equipment marketed after 1 July 2006.

The RoHS directive presently covers EEE such as large household appliances, small household appliances, information and communications technology equipment, consumer devices, lighting equipment, electrical and electronic tools, etc.

The directive is currently under revision. The revised RoHS is expected to cover EEE measuring and control devices (including switches, relays) as well as medical devices.

Several countries inEuropehave already taken action to ban or restrict the use of some or all products containing mercury. These countries include:Sweden,Denmark,Netherlands,France,Norway,

From theSwedenandDenmarkexperiences, there have been many detailed studies comparing the cost and functionality of mercury and non-mercury products. All these studies demonstrate the feasibility of banning the sales of most mercury-containing products.

Globally

InCanadaand theUSsome states are much more progressive than others and have already proposed relevant restrictions. In situations where adequate alternatives do not yet exist, most of these countries allow specific exemptions for specialized uses.

For the US information is provided at http://www.epa.gov/hg/regs.htm, at http://www.epa.gov/hg/consumer.htm#bat and at http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/modelleg.cfm