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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)

 
Home Press Releases NGOs call for a broader directive restricting the use of all measuring and control equipment contain...
NGOs call for a broader directive restricting the use of all measuring and control equipment containing mercury PDF Print
Friday, 03 June 2005 01:00
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[Brussels 3/6/2005] Environment and Health NGOsi are strongly urging the Commission1 to strengthen its proposed restriction on the use and marketing of non­electrical and non-electronic measuring and control equipment containing mercury. They recommend that all consumer and professional uses be included in the restriction, with exemptions for a limited period of time and only where alternatives do not exist.

The Commission has developed a working document for a proposal - amending a directive - to restrict the marketing of certain measuring devices containing mercury. This working document proposes that new fever thermometers and other mercury containing measuring devices intended solely for consumer use (e.g. manometers, barometers, sphygmomanometers) should not be placed on the market.

“This approach is too narrow and much more limited than the EU Mercury strategy proposed action 72 . As a result, it will not achieve the possible reductions in mercury contamination from measuring and control devices that are both necessary and achievable” said Elena Lymberidi, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Co-ordinator at the European Environmental Bureau, “The EU should not place itself in the position of trying to anticipate every possible use and then undertaking regulatory action to restrict that use. Instead, the EU should start with the proposition that mercury use in products is generally unsafe and unnecessary. Any manufacturer who still wants to use the toxic chemical – in cases where there is no alternative – should then be required to apply for special permission.”

“The burden of proof should rest with manufacturers. They should be obliged to show that their proposed use of mercury is necessary because of the lack of available alternatives”; said Lisette van Vliet , Toxics Policy Advisor for Health Care Without Harm Europe. “This approach has been already used successfully in EU law3 and can be significantly more effective.

Individual Member States4 and some Hospital associations5 have already taken action in banning or restricting the use of such products containing mercury - including professional devices, with several exemptions where adequate alternatives do not yet

exist. 6,7,8,9

The Groups point out that for both consumer and professional uses, other categories of products containing mercury exist, such as Temperature Measurement and Sensing Devices, Gastrointestinal Tubes, Pressure Gauges and Flow Rate Devices, which are

1 http://www.eeb.org/activities/mercury/050603_NGOs_comments_WD_measuring_equipment_directive.pdf

2 http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/com_2005_0020_en.pdf

3 EU directives- 2002/95 on the Restriction of certain hazardous substances from EEE and 2000/53 on Env of Life Vehicles

4 Countries such as Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway

5 http://www.cleanmed.org/europe/2004/english/docs/press/press_vienna_declaration.pdf

6 http://europa.eu. int/comm/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/norway. pdf

7 http://europa.eu. int/comm/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/sweden .pdf 8http://www.eeb.org/activities/mercury/Petra%20Hagstrom%20presentation%20Hg%20Madrid%20042205.pdf 9 French response to Consultation document Development of an EU Mercury Strategy Invitation to Comment, http://europa.eu. int/comm/environment/chemicals/mercury/pdf/france_en .pdf


not currently covered by the proposed directive, but for which cost and functionally comparable or better alternatives exist10,11,12,13,14.

Mercury containing devices can pose a risk to human health and the environment during usage, because they are easily broken. After usage they end up in the waste stream, contaminating air, water and soil. This creates an unacceptable health risk for children and women of childbearing age. There is increasing evidence that residential inhalation at home and in the workplace can be a source of significant mercury exposure15. More than 33 tonnes of mercury are estimated to be used for such equipment annually in the EU, with some 25-30 tonnes of mercury entering the cycle via thermometers alone16. Respective emissions to air are estimated to be 8 tonnes per year, plus 27 tonnes entering the waste stream from old equipment17.

For more information

Elena Lymberidi, EEB, www.eeb.org, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text72202 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +32 2 289 1301

Genon K. Jensen, EPHA Environment Network (EEN), www.env-health.org, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text47102 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +32 2 2333875;

Lisette van Vliet, Health Care Without Harm Europe, www.noharm.org, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +32 2 2333877

Michael Bender, Ban Mercury Working Group, www.ban.org/Ban-Hg-Wg/ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text69328 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , T: +1 802 2239000

i Environmental and Health NGOS include

The European Environmental Bureau, (EEB), www.eeb.org, is a federation of more then 140 environmental citizens’ organisations based in all EU Member States and most Accession Countries, as well as in a few neighbouring countries. These organisations range from local and national, to European and international. The aim of the EEB is to protect and improve the environment of Europe and to enable the citizens of Europe to play their part in achieving that goal.

The Ban Mercury Working Group, www.ban.org/Ban-Hg-Wg/, is an international coalition of 27 public interest non­governmental organisations from around the world formed initially in 2002 by 2 US based NGOs, the Basel Action Network (www.ban.org) and the Mercury Policy Project (www.Mercurypolicy.org). working to end pollution from the toxic metal -- Mercury.

European Public Health Alliance Environment Network (EEN), http://www.env-health.org/ is an international non­governmental organisation advocating environmental protection as a means to improving health and well-being. Member groups and organisations represent health, environment, women, health professionals and others. The group has a diverse membership, 29 members with 5 international organisations, 10 European networks and 14 national/local organisations, including non-governmental organisations, professional bodies representative of doctors and nurses, academic institutions and other not-for-profit organisations.

Health Care Without Harm Europe (HCWH), www.noharm.org, is an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, medical and nursing professionals, community groups, health-affected constituencies, labour unions, and environmental and environmental health organisations. HCWH is dedicated to transforming the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment.

And with the support of NGOs from the USA (Natural Resources Defence Council), India (Toxics Link), China (Global Village of Beijing), Brazil (Association for Combats against the POPS).

10 See www.noharm.org/mercury/mercuryFree for a list of pharmacies no longer selling mercury

fever thermometers and www.noharm.org/mercury/ordinances for a list of laws prohibiting

mercury fever thermometer sales in the United States.

11 See a detailed comparison of mercury and non-mercury measuring devices and instruments

performed for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection at www.maine.gov/dep/mercury/lcspfinal.pdf and the proposed strategy based on that report at www.maine.gov/dep/mercury/productsweb.pdf. Following the submission of this strategy, the Maine Legislature enacted a prohibition on the sale of most mercury measuring devices and instruments effective July 2006. Appendix B to the report contains some examples of substantial cleanup expenditures resulting from measuring instrument breakage.

12 Global Mercury Assessment, UNEP, December 2002, p.141

13 http://www.informinc.org/fsmercalts.pdf and http://www.informinc.org/fsmerchealth.pdf

14 Nordic Council of Ministers, “Mercury – a global pollutant requiring global initiatives”, Copenhagen 2002 http://www.norden.org/pub/miljo/miljo/sk/2002-516.pdf

15 A. Carpi and YF Chen. Gaseous Elemental Mercury as an Indoor Air Pollutant. Environ. Sci.Technol., Vol 35:4170-41 73 (2001).

16 SEC(2005)1 01, Extended Impact Assessment, annex to the Community Strategy on Mercury, p.37

17 Risks to Health and the Environment Related to the Use of Mercury Products, Final Report, prepared for the European Commission, DG Enterprise (2002), p.106