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Summary of the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury

24th-29th September, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, 24th-29th of September 2017 and intervened as appropriate[1]. We were pleased to see the COP1 reached consensus on pending matters from prior meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) which resulted in establishing an effective Convention operational framework for achieving significant mercury reductions.

Our main priorities for COP1 included adoption of forms and guidance that was approved at INC 7, and addressing the issues of reporting, waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, effectiveness evaluation, and matters for future action, which included the following decisions.

  • Article 3 guidance on identifying mercury stocks, and the forms/instructions for complying with mercury trade consent and related certification requirements;
  • The product and process exemption forms and associated register of exemptions under Article 6 of the Convention; a registrar will be kept by the Secretariat and these will also be available to the public
  • Article 8 (air emissions) guidance on BAT/ BEP, options for existing facility control requirements, preparing emissions inventories, and selection of “relevant sources” within the specified source categories; and
  • The Guidance for preparing the ASGM National Action Plan (NAP) under article 7.

COP1 also saw significant progress concerning various other ZMWG priorities, including :

Reporting:          Forms were adopted for use by Parties to report back on the measures undertaken to meet Convention obligations and on the effectiveness of those measures.  In particular, ZMWG most welcomed the decision for a shorter reporting cycle for supply and trade, reporting per year data on a biennial basis. For other obligations, Parties will report every four years. It was also agreed that each Party will submit its first biennial report by 31 December 2019 and its first full report by December 2021. Parties are also encouraged to submit an electronic form,  and the Secretariat is requested to make the Parties electronic reports available.

Furthermore, it was agreed that Parties would provide access to their data related to mercury emissions, under Article 8. Parties would also provide the rational on how they plan to ensure that facilities responsible for at least 75% of the emissions from a source category are subject to controls.

Waste Thresholds:          COP1 established an intercessional work group to further elaborate on waste thresholds, building on a document introduced by Japan. As recommended by NRDC/ZMWG, the terms of reference for the working group were focused more on determining which mercury wastes warrant thresholds rather than assuming thresholds are appropriate for all wastes. The expert group will identify the types of waste that fall within the categories specified in paragraph 2 of Article 11, provide related information; prioritising the types of waste identified that are most relevant for the establishment of waste thresholds, and identify possible approaches to establishing any needed thresholds for those prioritised waste for consideration at COP2. We were also pleased to see COP1 approving the participation of civil society within the working group, another ZMWG priority.

Interim Storage:                             COP1 requested the Secretariat to undertake further revision of the draft guidelines through input from relevant experts, including technical experts from the Basel Convention and present a revised draft for consideration at COP2. Provisional use of the current draft guidelines is encouraged.

Effectiveness Evaluation:             COP1 adopted a draft road map for establishing arrangements both for providing comparable monitoring data and elements of an effectiveness evaluation framework, as ZMWG had sought.  To that end an ad hoc group of experts was established including 25 experts nominated by the Parties – 5 per region, as well as 10 civil society experts, including NGOs, as observers.

Matters for Future Action (Article 3) - (Article 14):              Several matters were brought up for consideration. Under Article 3, trade in mercury compounds was one of several issued identified for future consideration by the COP. In regards to Article 14 – Capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer, Parties and other stakeholder were invited to submit relevant information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer for the Secretariat to compile and present at COP2.

Despite progress made, challenges remain, both related to the location and structure of the Minamata Convention Secretariat and the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the financial mechanism of the Convention with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The Secretariat will be temporarily located in Geneva, with further review of arrangements at COP2.

In summary, the final road map is now in place to ‘zero down’ global mercury pollution, but critical work remains.   ZMWG looks forward to a productive second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Geneva 19-23 November 2018.   

[1] All ZMWG interventions are available on our website http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_content&;;view=article&id=309:unenvironment-minamata-mercury-cop1-24-29-september-2017-geneva-switzerland&catid=54:developments-main-category&Itemid=104

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

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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.



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