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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 One in ten skin lighteners found to contain dangerous neurotoxin mercury, report finds
One in ten skin lighteners found to contain dangerous neurotoxin mercury, report finds PDF Print
Thursday, 15 November 2018 11:00


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 One in ten skin lighteners found to contain dangerous neurotoxin mercury, report finds

A high percentage of skin lighteners sold worldwide contain dangerous levels of mercury, according to test results contained in a new report by the Zero Mercury Working Group.  

In 2017 and 2018, 338 skin-lightening creams from 22 countries were collected and tested for mercury.

Ten per cent of the creams (34 creams) had mercury concentrations vary many times higher than levels allowed under the international agreement to control mercury, the Minamata Convention. The levels found in the cosmetics ranged from just over 90 times to an incredible 16,000 times the allowed level post-2020.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin which builds up in the human body and cause serious damage to the skin, lungs, kidneys, digestive, immune and nervous systems.

Fifteen out of the twenty-two sampled countries have legislation or other requirements consistent with the Minamata convention provisions. Out of the 7 countries where high mercury samples were found, only 4 have legal requirements prohibiting creams with more than 1 ppm mercury content.

On the eve of the Second Meeting of the Minamata Convention of the Conference of the Parties in Geneva, Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager at the European Environmental Bureau and Zero Mercury Working Group International Coordinator said: “The exposure and toxic trade in illegal high mercury skin lighteners is a global crisis which is expected to only worsen with skyrocketing global demand. To combat this, it’s important for governments to quickly enact and enforce regulations and effectively warn consumers.”

Despite being identified on many government detention lists, recent testing indicates the wide prevalence of high mercury and illegal products indiscriminately sold on the internet.

In a separate exercise, the Mercury Policy Project, the Sierra Club and the European Environmental Bureau purchased skin lighteners from eBay and Amazon websites. The brands purchased included many previously identified as high mercury by New York City, the state of Minnesota, the European Union, Singapore, UAE, the Philippines and many other national governments. Nineteen products had illegal mercury levels, typically more than 10,000 times higher than the legal threshold of 1ppm.

“Internet platforms Amazon and eBay must stop breaking the law with their toxic trade in illegal cosmetics,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project.  “They have the responsibility and resources to prevent exposing their customers to toxic products.”

Over 50 civil society groups from more than 20 countries sent letters today to Amazon and eBay, calling on them to stop marketing illegal mercury-based skin lightening creams. In their letters, the groups are calling on Amazon and eBay to among others to ensure the products they sell comply with government regulations, develop and monitor lists of toxic skin lighteners and require prior sale approval for those to be sold.


Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +32 2 2891301

Michael Bender, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +1 802 223 9000


Notes to the editor:

  1. The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG, www.zeromercury.org ) is an international coalition of over 100 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 ratification and implementation of the Minamata Convention  on Mercury.
  2. ZMWG Report- “Mercury Added Skin-lightening creams: available, inexpensive and toxic” 
  3. ZMWG Report’s executive summary in EN, FR, ES
  4. Letters to Amazon and eBay, and results of creams’ analysis.
  5. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Public Health Statement for Mercury (March 1999) (www.atsdr.cdc. gov/PHS/PHS.asp?id=112&tid=24).
  6. Minamata Convention on Mercury, http://www.mercuryconvention.org/
  7. http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/mercury_flyer.pdf