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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 In advance of mercury treaty adoption, Hair testing shows link between fish consumption and higher m...
In advance of mercury treaty adoption, Hair testing shows link between fish consumption and higher mercury exposure PDF Print
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 17:34

EEB LOGO_FINAL_EeAlogo castellano_250pxzeromercury WG_logo

 

 

In advance of mercury treaty adoption,

 

Hair testing shows link between fish consumption and higher mercury exposure

[Tuesday 1 October 2013, Brussels/Seville]  In advance of a new global treaty on mercury, a new report by the Zero Mercury Working Group[i] (ZMWG) has highlighted the importance of the treaty being ratified as soon as possible to reduce global mercury pollution and human exposure to mercury. The treaty is expected to be signed by many of the world’s governments in early October near Minamata, Japan where a major mercury poisoning incident was first discovered in the 1950’s.

Civil society organisations from 9 countries, including Spain, participated in the ZMWG hair testing project in order to ascertain mercury levels in women of child bearing age and to raise awareness about reducing exposure to mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin.

“We collected samples from both rural and urban women,” said Leticia Baselga of Ecologistas en Accion, Spain, "Fish consumption in Spain is one of the highest, at 6.7 fish meals per week, and samples analysed showed a clear link between fish consumption and higher mercury exposure.”

The study results revealed that women of childbearing age in several countries have mercury levels of concern, most likely due to high consumption of mercury-contaminated fish.  Overall, nearly one-quarter (24%) of the samples exceeded the widely recognized U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guideline of 1 microgram per gram (µg/g).

Furthermore, in 4 of the 9 countries a high percentage (defined as more than 20%) of all samples from women of child bearing age exceeded this threshold, specifically:

  • 64% of      those tested in Spain;
  • 71% of      those tested in Japan;
  • 36% of those tested in      Mauritius; and
  • 23% of      those tested in Côte d’Ivoire.

"The results indicate that the mercury hair levels in Spanish and Japanese women of childbearing age were significantly higher than the other countries tested," said Dr. Takashi Yorifuji, Associate Professor at Okayama University Graduate School of Environmental and Life Science, Japan. "Risk of adverse health effects in children following in utero methylmercury exposures is well documented and rises as maternal exposure increases."

While most exposure studies have been conducted in developed countries, much less is known about exposures in other regions of the world, according to the report. 

“It’s imperative to expand capacity to assess exposure variations worldwide,” said Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator and main author of the report.  “Hair analysis is a well-documented method that can be used to assess recent exposure to methylmercury. It also lends itself well to civil society participation, as this pilot project clearly demonstrates.”

“Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, EEB/ZMWG International Coordinator said “Governments should measure concentrations of mercury in fish and issue advisories on safe quantities to eat, especially to protect women of childbearing age, children and those who eat large quantities of fish.”

 

Minamata disease was caused by the release of mercury into industrial wastewater from Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory from 1932 to 1968. Over 2,000 people died from consuming contamined fish from the bay. Although victims’ groups and experts believe the number afflicted is far higher, thus far 10,000 Japanese have received financial compensation resulting from their exposure.

ENDS

Contacts

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

Leticia Baselga, Ecologistas en Acción, T: +34 696 821 808, 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 +32 (0) 2289 13 09 or +32 (0) 489 304 962

Background reading:

ZMWG Report - Assessing hair mercury levels of women of childbearing age in 9 countries: A civil society pilot project

Mercury Contamination, Exposures and Risk:A New Global Picture Emerges, December 2012

Mercury Contamination, Exposures and Risk:A New Global Picture Emerges, December 2012

BRI - Report Mercury in the Global Environment: Patterns of Global Seafood Mercury Concentrations and their Relationship with Human Health

Democophes- human biomonitoring at a European scale, http://www.eu-hbm.info/euresult/media-corner/press-kit

Economic benefits of methylmercury exposure control in Europe: Monetary value of neurotoxicity prevention  http://www.ehjournal.net/content/12/1/3

URL: http://www.eeb.org/EEB/?LinkServID=8BC714FD-5056-B741-DB5B755F31809770



[i] 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.  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.  http://www.zeromercury.org

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest federation of environmental citizens’ organisations. It is the environmental voice of European citizens, standing for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our aim is to ensure the EU secures a healthy environment and rich biodiversity for all. www.eeb.org

Ecologistas en Acción is a confederation of more than 300 ecologist groups all over Spain that defend social ecologism, which understands that environmental problems originate in the current production and consumption models. www.ecologistasenaccion.org