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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)

 
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