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As new global mercury treaty enters into force, worldwide mercury production skyrockets, 
notes Global NGO Coalition on World Environmental Health Day

Geneva, 26 September 2017- As 156 countries convened for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention, 
a new UN report shows mercury mining skyrocketing in the last 5 years. Moreover, much of that mercury is used in artisanal and 
small scale gold mining (ASGM), the largest source of global mercury pollution.

Currently, countries do not have reliable information about trade in neighboring countries and within their own region. 
This problem is compounded where borders between countries are “porous,” and a significant portion of trade is informal or illegal. 
For example, mercury may enter a region through legal trade to one country, but then be traded illegally across borders to neighboring countries. 

“Informal trade is difficult to track, and therefore does not appear in the official trade statistics,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, 
Project Manager, Zero Mercury Campaign at the European Environmental Bureau. 
“With timely reporting, Parties can better understand mercury flows in order to better enforce trade restrictions in the Convention.”

“In recent years there have been a number of shocks to the global market, resulting in a doubling of the price of mercury in the last 12 months alone,” 
said Michael Bender, Co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “In addition, EU and US export bans now in place have resulted 
in a major shift in the main trading hub to Asia.”

“The emergence over the past five years of new small-scale producers of mercury in Mexico and Indonesia has made a difficult situation worse,” 
said Satish Sinha, Associate Director at Toxics Link in India. “Between these two countries alone, around 1000 tonnes are produced annually.”

“The main objective of the Minamata Convention is to protect human health and the environment by, in part, simultaneously 
reducing mercury supply and demand,” said  Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health Campaign Manager at groundWork 
in South Africa. Without adequate reporting on the global movement of mercury it will 
be difficult to monitor the overall effectiveness of the Convention, say NGOs.

“Annual reporting is consistent with the requirements of other environmental conventions such as Basel and the Montreal Protocol,” 
said Leslie Adogame, Executive Director at Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development in Nigeria.
“Legal trade flows must be understood before informal or illegal trade can be adequately addressed.”

An analysis of publicly available UN COMTRADE data over the period 2013-2016 (see below) reveals that the majority of global mercury flows 
from commodity trading centres (such as Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE) to developing country regions (such as Africa and Latin America) 
where mercury use in ASGM is prolific in response to the largest global gold rush the world has ever seen. 

see table at the pdf

see also PR in FR 

Notes to the editor

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/

 https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/21725/global_mercury.pdf?sequence=1&;;isAllowed=y

http://www.ifeh.org/wehd/

www.zeromercury.org

For further information, please contact:                                         

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 " target="_blank"> 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 ">  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " target="_blank"> 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 " target="_blank"> 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 ">  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " target="_blank"> 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

David Lennett, Natural Resources Defense Council, T:  +1 202 460 8517    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " target="_blank"> 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 "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " target="_blank"> 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

*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.

Cultural uses PDF Print
Friday, 11 March 2011 17:21

The characteristics of mercury have led to a range of beliefs across the world. For instance its sudden movement’s characteristic is believed to mean that it will furnish remedies more quickly. It is also said to prevent evil and bad luck form sticking to a person because of its slippery nature.

Mercury has long been used in ethnocultural or religious practices such as Santeria (an Afro-Hispanic belief system), Palo Mayombe (Caribbean), Candomble (Afro-Brazilian), voodoo (Afro-Haitian) and Yoruba Orisha (Afro-Hispanic) among others. Most of these uses are associated with African roots and many of them are related to the Roman Catholic teachings of Spaniards.

In Hindu scriptures, parad (mercury) is regarded as the best of all metals. The opportunity to touch and worship a parad Shivalinga (statue or icon) is believed by some to reward one's holy and good deeds done in the previous and present life. If one meditates beside a parad Shivalinga, it is believed the mind naturally gets concentrated. Mercury is used in such statues, objects and amulets throughout Hindu areas of India for a range of health-related, ceremonial and religious purposes. Mercury is also applied to the skin or used in bathwater, perfumes, lotions and soaps; injected subcutaneously to ward off evil and protect against exposure to diseases while travelling (Prasad 2004) or intramuscularly to help athletes build muscle mass.

Mercury was brought to the new world by Spaniards for use in extracting gold from ores. Its amalgamating properties led to a belief that mercury attracts good fortune, wealth and love.

Mercury is also used in many Asian (especially Chinese) medicines. Ernst and Coon (2001) reported that dozens of Chinese medicines contain Cinnabaris – a complex of sulphides that contain mainly mercuric sulphide; Calomelas – mercurous chloride (calomel); or Hydrargyri

oxydum rubrum – red mercuric oxide. (See also Guangdong, 1997.) No doubt these are among the approximately 1000 homeopathic products identified by the US Food & Drug Administration to contain mercury in varying amounts (Maxson, 2004). China’s emperor, QIN Shi Huang Di (260 BC – 210 BC) took mercury pills in an attempt to achieve eternal life, but instead he dies from mercury poisoning.

Certain herbal remedies and religious items are said to contain substantial amounts of mercury. A good example is the ‘azogue’ – a metallic mercury capsule known to contain up to 8 - 9mg mercury. This capsule is supposedly used to attract luck, love, good health or money; to protect against evil; or to speed the action of spells through a variety of recommended uses. Other uses include:, carrying mercury in a sealed pouch prepared by a spiritual leader, wearing it as an amulet, sprinkling it on the floor or in an automobile, mixing it with perfumes or adding it to devotional candles or oil lamps. For pharmaceutical purposes it is also sometimes taken internally to treat gastrointestinal disorders, or added to bath water, detergent or cosmetic products (NJ MTF, 2002).

In such uses, mercury vapours are released if the mercury is not contained in sealed containers. Such practices as sprinkling it in homes and automobiles, and especially burning it in candles and oil lamps, increase the rate of vaporization.

Researchers estimated that this use of mercury is likely to cause long-term contamination of more than 13,000 homes or apartment buildings in New York City each year, where toxic vapours can linger for months or even years, leading to possible neurological and respiratory symptoms in appartment residents (NRDC, 2004).

A major problem associated with ritualistic mercury use is the contamination of wastewater, where it is estimated that 27% of the users dumped their residual, unused mercury down the drain> In addition, when it is used in bathwater, it gets into the wastewater streams.


Relevant legislation
and NGO policy work

No specific legislation appears to exist restricting use of mercury in religious artifacts.

In 2005, the Indian NGO Toxics Link, under the Zero Mercury Working Group work, released a report on 'The Religious use of Mercury In India: A Case Study of “Parad”

In the US see relevant laws and regulations