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Global NGOs welcome WHO support for new Mercury Convention

Geneva, Switzerland, [23 January 2014]—Today, NGOs welcomed the adoption of a new resolution by the World Health Organization’s executive board (EB), agreeing to both endorse and lend support for countries to address the health-related aspects of the new Minamata Convention on Mercury. They also applauded WHO for encouraging governments to “promptly sign, ratify and implement” the Convention.

Prompt ratification will result in less pollution and human exposure to mercury, a poison that can affect the brain and the nervous system,” said Michael Bender, international coordinator for Zero Mercury Working Group, who presented a statement on behalf of Consumers International during the WHO EB meeting.  “To protect people’s brains, we are urging more testing of commonly consumed fish, consumption advisories, biomonitoring, and public health campaigns.”

The Convention’s objective is to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic mercury emissions through a range of provisions – including, for the first time in a global multilateral environment agreement – a dedicated health article.

“This type of WHO endorsed resolution will give us more leverage in developing countries (that place a lot of emphasis and trust in the WHO) to undertake mercury activities as per the treaty,” said Rico Euripidou of groundWork in South Africa.

The Convention’s provision on health encourages Parties to develop programmes to protect populations at risk from exposure to mercury through the development and implementation of health-based guidelines. In addition, the Convention requires parties to phase out certain mercury-containing products, including thermometers, sphygmomanometers, cosmetics, and topical antiseptics; phase down dental amalgam, and develop public health strategies to reduce use of mercury in artisanal and small scale gold mining.

Governments and all stakeholders involved need to build upon this momentum by undertaking mercury reduction activities in parallel, and ratifying the treaty as fast as possible,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZMWG International Coordinator.  “We urge 50 countries to step up and ratify by 2015.

The Convention holds critical obligations that affect primary mining of mercury use, trade, emissions and disposal, among others, that taken together will eventually lead to global mercury reductions. 

The WHO EB resolution must next be approved at the World Health Assembly at their annual meeting in May before it is finalized.

Contacts  

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

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, 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 "> 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

Alison Abrahams, EEB Communications Officer at 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 "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it +32 (0) 2289 13 09 or +32 (0) 489 304 962

http://www.consumersinternational.org/

http://www.zeromercury.org

Home Press Releases Mercury treaty rises but weak emissions regime undercuts progress
Mercury treaty rises but weak emissions regime undercuts progress PDF Print
Saturday, 19 January 2013 07:28
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Mercury treaty rises but weak emissions regime undercuts progress

[19 January 2013, Geneva]—After four years of deliberation, a new global regime rises today that will govern toxic mercury worldwide.  The new treaty is a mixture of mandatory and voluntary elements intended to control the burgeoning global mercury crisis.  While heading in the right direction, the Zero Mercury Working Group[i], expressed concerns about the treaty not reaching far enough nor fast enough to address the spiraling human health risks from mercury exposure.

 

“Adoption of a global legal agreement on mercury is a major accomplishment,” said Michael T. Bender, co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group.   “Yet the instrument is hampered by weak controls on mercury emissions from major sources like coal-fired power plants.”

 

For instance,  new facilities will not be required to have mercury pollution controls for 5 years after the treaty enters into force, with existing facilities given 10 years before they begin their control efforts. 

 

Yet ZMWG says there are bright spots in the treaty. These include provisions to reduce trade, prohibit the primary mining of mercury, and phase out the toxic element in most products containing mercury, like thermometers, measuring devices and batteries. 

 

“Some of these steps were unthinkable just a couple of years ago.  Now, alternatives exist for most all products containing mercury,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, of European  Environmental Bureau and co-coordinator of ZMWG. “The treaty sends the right market signal and will eventually lead to less exposures worldwide."

 

The treaty also addresses artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM),  which is both the largest intentional use of mercury globally, and is the largest emission source.

 

“While national action plans will foster reduced use of mercury in ASGM, the treaty fails to include a provision to require an eventual end to this polluting practice,” said Richard Gutierrez, Ban Toxics! Director from the Philippines.  “With the current text, it seems that mercury use in ASGM may go on indefinitely.”

 

The Zero Mercury Working Group looks forward to treaty implementation, as the real challenge begins for the governments especially in developing and least developing states.  The new mercury treaty, in spite its flaws, presents a real opportunity to work towards significant reduction of mercury globally.

 

Michael Bender, tel.: +802  917 4579; email:  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, tel.:+32 2 2891301, +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

 

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[i] The Zero Mercury Working Group is an international coalition of over 100 public interest NGOs from more than 50 countries founded by the European Environmental Bureau and Mercury Policy Project, in 2005 to achieve ‘Zero’ emissions, demand and supply of mercury; www.zeromercury.org