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Toxic Trade Emerges as Priority Issue for Asia During Mercury Treaty Adoption: Japan mercury exports cited

 Kumamoto, Japan; 10 October 2013:  As world governments bask in the celebration prepared by the government of Japan for the newly minted Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Zero Mercury Working Group [1] is calling on all countries – including Japan – to help stem the rise of Asia as the world’s mercury trading hub.

 “Traders are increasingly circumventing the export bans imposed by the EU and US by seeking safe havens, particularly in Asia,” said Richard Gutierrez, director of Ban Toxics in the Philippines. “Countries can stop this toxic globe trotting by enacting mercury export bans, following the lead of major trading giants the US and EU.”    

 Japanese exports of mercury accounted for about 400 metric tonnes over the past 4 years, according to UN data. [2] The mercury is frequently shipped to countries [3] where artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) is prevalent, or to major trading centers where it can be traded for ASGM purposes. 

 Japan previously resisted NGO calls earlier to enact similar export bans, awaiting completion of the treaty negotiation process.  With the treaty text now finalized, NGOs are calling for Japan to immediately act.

 “Given its experience with Minamata, Japan should be taking the lead by shutting down its mercury exports,” stated Piyush Mohapatra, Coordinator at Toxics Link in India.  “It can not turn a blind eye to its own toxic exports, especially if it could be creating new “Minamatas” elsewhere in Asia and Latin America.”

  The largest mercury trade hub arising is Singapore.  According to UN COMTRADE data, Singapore was the largest supplier of mercury to the global market in 2012.[4]  During 2011 and 2012, Singapore accounted for approximately 444 MT and 478 MT of global mercury exports respectively.[5]

 Since Singapore imported even larger quantities during this period, it is acting as a toxic supply center for private traders. [6] The majority of these exports are directed to countries engaged in ASGM, with Indonesia receiving over half the exports in both years, and substantial quantities also shipped to Guyana, Kenya, Peru, and Malaysia.[7]

 Hong Kong is also a major trading center, with mercury exports of about 211 MT in 2011 and 245 MT in 2012. “Singapore and China need to differentiate mercury from other commodities, since the free trade of mercury endangers public health.” explains David Lennett, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

 Under the Minamata Convention, the trade in mercury will be controlled, largely through an informed consent procedure.  However, 50 countries will need to ratify the treaty before it comes into legal force. 

  “While there are alternatives to mercury and controls for major sources, there is no alternative to international cooperation,” said Michael Bender, ZMWG Coordinator. ”Let’s turn these good intentions into meaningful action on the ground so that developing countries don’t bear the brunt of toxic trade.”

 With the momentum created in Kumamoto this week, and the prospect of financial and technical support coming during the next years, the group believes that the Minamata Convention can set a new standard for the speed of ratification for multilateral environmental agreements.

 “Mercury pollution will not wait for the treaty to enter into force.  It is happening now,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZWMG coordinator.  “The global community should pursue ratification and implementation with urgency.”

- END -

 Contacts: 

Richard Gutierrez, BAN Toxics!, T: +63 2 355 7640, 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

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZMWG International Coordinator,, T: +32 2 2891301, Mobile: +32 496 532818, 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

David Lennett, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council, T 1-202-289-2380, 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: +802-917-4579, 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

Background reading:

 http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/MinamataConvention/ConferenceofPlenipotentiaries/DipConMeetingDocuments/tabid/105833/Default.aspx

 Endnotes:

  1.  Zero Mercury Working Group is an international coalition of over 95 NGOs from more than 50 countries,  see: www.zeromercury.org
  2. This mercury is typically generated within Japan, from metals byproduct generation and other sources.  See: http://comtrade.un.org/db/dqBasicQueryResultsd.aspx?action=print&;;px=H3&cc=280540&r=392, viewed August 23, 2013.  Note:  to view the UN Comtrade database, please see instructions at: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/tradekb/Knowledgebase/How-to-query-data-from-UN-Comtrade.  The commodity code for mercury is (HS 2007) 280540.
  3. Such as Colombia, Brazil, Indonesia, Viet Nam.
  4. See http://comtrade.un.org/db/dqBasicQueryResults.aspx?y=2012&;;cc=280540&px=H3&so=9999&rpage=dqBasicQuery&qt=n, viewed August 23, 2013.  Spain exported a larger quantity of mercury in 2012, but virtually all the trade stayed within the European Union.
  5. See http://comtrade.un.org/db/dqBasicQueryResultsd.aspx?action=print&;;px=H3&cc=280540&r=702, viewed August 23, 2013.
  6. See http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-24/the-slippery-market-for-mercury#p4.
Home Press Releases Evidence shows mercury threat underestimated ahead of UN treaty talks
Evidence shows mercury threat underestimated ahead of UN treaty talks PDF Print
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 11:11
EEB LOGO_FINAL_zeromercury logoBRI-AA

                                Evidence shows mercury threat underestimated ahead of UN treaty talks

[4 December 2012, Brussels]--New reports released today show widespread global mercury contamination of seafood and health effects from methylmercury in seafood occurring below the level that was considered “safe” just a few years ago. The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) [1], in cooperation with the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) [2], is facilitating the release of the three reports.[3] 

“The level of mercury in the Pacific Ocean is projected to increase by 50% by 2050 if current pollution trends continue unabated,” said Richard Gutierrez, executive director of Ban Toxics!, located in Quezon City, Philippines. “This is a wake-up call for all governments to stem the rising tide of mercury pollution and finalize a strong treaty.”

The new scientific findings are to be presented at the start of the fifth and final round of United Nations negotiations to put in place a legally binding global treaty to reduce mercury use and pollution [4]. The legal text negotiated by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee is expected to be completed on 18 January 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The latest science points to the need for strict reduction measures to address the global mercury crisis,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, co-coordinator of ZMWG at the European Environment Bureau in Brussels, Belgium.

Other key science findings include the following:

  •  Larger predatory      fish—such as swordfish, shark and certain species of tuna— are often      listed in national fish consumption advisories due to higher mercury      concentrations. Different seafood varieties can differ by at least      100-fold in their average mercury content.
  • Seafood regularly consumed      by people contains mercury concentrations that commonly exceed “safe” levels      (based upon US EPA standards [5]). However, there are also plenty of low      mercury seafood alternatives with high omega 3 benefits;
  • Several recent      epidemiological studies clearly show that the consumption of ordinary      amounts of fish can cause an unsafe risk to the developing foetus and      children, suggesting that the current health exposure tolerance levels      should be revised to reflect the latest scientific findings; and
  • BRI’s Global Biotic Mercury Synthesis (GBMS) project provides a standardized and      comprehensive database that can be used to      identify mercury data gaps, describe areas where further research is      needed, and evaluate the      effectiveness of the future global mercury treaty. 

“We believe it is crucial to understand global baseline mercury
concentrations in order to make appropriate decisions on how to evaluate the effectiveness of the treaty,”
David C. Evers, Ph.D., executive director of BRI and a member of the UNEP Fate and Transport Partnership Group.

ENDS

[1] Zero Mercury Working Group is a coalition of more than 95 NGOs around the world working towards zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum. www.zeromercury.org

[2] Biodiversity Research Institute’s  mission is to assess emerging threats to wildlife and ecosystems through collaborative research, and use scientific findings to advance environmental awareness and inform decision makers.

[3] The report from BRI reveals patterns of global seafood mercury concentrations. A companion report written by Dr. Edward Groth III for the ZMWG provides an overview of epidemiological evidence for mercury effects on human health and a rationale for lower tolerance levels.  Finally, ZMWG presents a short summary of the report findings, and provides recommendations.  Links to all the reports are available at:  www.zeromercury.org.

[4] http://new.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Mercury/Negotiations/tabid/3320/Default.aspx

[5] The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s health-based reference dose for methylmercury is 1x10-4 milligrams/kilogram-day, a body weight of 132 pounds or 60 kilograms and a fish meal size of 6 ounces or 170 grams.

Patterns of Global Seafood Mercury Concentrations and their Relationship with Human Health [EMBARGOED]

Mercury Contamination, Exposures and Risk: Summary and Recommendations (Zero Mercury Summary and Recommendations)

An Overview of Epidemiological Evidence on the Effects of Methylmercury on Brain Development, and a Rationale for a Lower Definition of Tolerable Exposure

Contacts:

ZMWG /EEB – Alison Abrahams - 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 +32 489 304 962

BRI - Deborah McKew - 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 - +1 (207) 839-7600  x222