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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.

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