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22 September 2017

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New treaty effectiveness will depend on adequacy of data to be collected, say NGOs  

Geneva, Switzerland

Prior to the start of the first Conference of Parties (COP1), the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) welcomed the entry into force of the Minamata Convention. 

“While there are alternatives to mercury, there are no alternatives to global cooperation,” said Michael Bender, international ZMWG coordinator. “We applaud the world’s governments for committing to curtail 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.
During the prior negotiations, the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) approved many of the forms and guidance that the Convention specifies must be adopted at COP 1, which are needed for the swift and smooth launch and running of the Convention.  These include guidance documents on identifying stocks, determining best available technologies and reducing mercury use in small scale gold mining; as well as forms for trade procedures and for exemptions from certain deadlines.

“These INC approvals were achieved by consensus after considerable deliberations, and are ready for approval without further debate,” said Satish Sinha, Toxics Link India.

Among the most critical open issues to be discussed at COP1 are the reporting requirements, which will provide critical information on both the global mercury situation and the effectiveness of the Convention in achieving mercury reductions.   Particularly critical to collect will be data on mercury production and trade, which can change significantly in a short period of time.

 “Countries will not have readily available information about production and trade in bordering countries or within their region, unless there is frequent reporting under the Convention,” said David Lennett, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council “Many borders between countries are “porous,” and where a significant portion of mercury trade is informal/illegal.   Good data on legal trade flows will enable actions to address illegal trade, all of which has a huge impact on artisanal and small scale gold mining, the largest source of mercury pollution globally.

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

For more information, see:




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

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

For information on reporting, please contact 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 "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For further information, please contact:

*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 Breakthrough reached on 'Phasing Down' dental mercury use, at W.H.O. meeting
Breakthrough reached on 'Phasing Down' dental mercury use, at W.H.O. meeting PDF Print
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 01:00
eeb_logo zeromercury_logo mercury_policy_logo

[Geneva, Switzerland, 18th November, 2009] Hailed as “a breakthrough” by Green Groups, an agreement in concept was reached yesterday by a World Health Organization (W.H.O)-convened international expert group, supporting the “phase down” of dental mercury use worldwide [1]. However, the groups note that there is still much work to be done on deciding how and when a global amalgam phase down will occur.

“As a first step, I’m pleased to positively support a global ‘phase down’ on dental mercury use to reduce environmental releases,” said Michael Bender, meeting participant representing the Zero Mercury Working Group and director of the U.S.-based Mercury Policy Project. “We also recognised that fostering the increased use of mercury-free alternatives must tie in with W.H. O. ’s commendable goal of bringing affordable dental healthcare to the global population.”

W.H.O. recognises that world governments reached a consensus on the need for a legally binding treaty to reduce global mercury exposure [2]. They said that the “Meeting on the Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration WHO/HQ” in Geneva was intended “to provide global guidelines and strategies for future biomaterials use,” and address the different challenges for richer and poorer countries [3].

“It was evident from the presentations at the meeting that mercury-free dental fillings are already widely used in some developing countries, so reality may be overtaking policy decisions,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, observer at the meeting and coordinator of the European Environmental Bureau’s Zero Mercury Campaign. “Medical insurance covering alternative materials could be crucial for a swifter transition allowing tooth-coloured fillings to become the rule and not the exception to dental treatment”.

Last week, a letter signed by over 70 non-governmental organisations from around the world called on the W.H.O to establish a schedule to phase out the use of dental mercury fillings as soon as possible [4].

A 2005 W.H.O. Policy Paper on “Mercury in Health Care” states that: “Mercury is highly toxic, especially when metabolized into methyl mercury... Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.”

For further information please contact:

Michael Bender, Director, Mercury Policy Project, Co-founder of Zero Mercury Working Group: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,
Mob: +1 802.917.4579,
T: +1 802 223 9000, www.mercurypolicy.org

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, EEB Zero Mercury Project Coordinator, Co-founder of Zero Mercury Working Group, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ;
T: +32 (0)2 289 1301,
Mob: +32 496 532818, www.zeromercury.org

Editors Notes:

About mercury: Mercury is persistent and can be transformed in the environment into methylmercury, its most toxic form, which readily passes through both the placenta and blood-brain barriers. It accumulates in the bodies of humans and wildlife and can become more concentrated as it moves up the food chain, and poses a particular risk to pregnant women and young children who eat contaminated fish.

Previous relevant PR: Time to pull mercury out of fillings, say Health and Green groups to W.H.O. (also in FR, DE, ES), 16 November 2009

[1] The W.H.O. provisional meeting agenda: http://www.zeromercury.org/UNEPdevelopments/Agenda-22oct09.pdf

Besides W.H.O. and UNEP officials, those attending the meeting were from: FDI World Dental Federation; the American and Canadian Dental Associations, the Nordic Institute of Dental Materials, the Centre for Side-effects of Dental Materials in Norway, the Ministry of Social Protection from Colombia and expert scientists from University Dental Schools’ from the US, China, Kuwait, Sweden, Ireland, S. Africa, Japan, Thailand, UK, as well as environmental NGOs - European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project founding members of the Zero Mercury Working Group. Presentations covered and reported on situation concerning dental treatment in almost all of the world regions.

[2] U.N. Environment Council Decision 25 on mercury (starting on p.20): http://www.chem.unep.ch/MERCURY/GC25/GC25ReportEnglish255.pdf

[3] The WHO’s 22nd October 2009 correspondence recognised that world governments reached a consensus in February 2009 on the need for a global legally binding treaty to significantly reduce global mercury exposure:


“...awareness of the environmental implications of mercury has increased markedly over recent years, and mercury is a matter of concern to several countries and international organizations.... Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has launched an initiative on avoiding the contamination of the environment from mercury which has implications to the use of dental amalgam in countries... The advantages and disadvantages of these alternatives need to be analyzed in order for WHO to update the knowledge base and give advice to countries in this matter. The intention of the meeting is to provide global guidelines and strategies for the future use of biomaterials and the challenges are different for high-, middle-, and low-income countries.”



[4] NGO 13 November letter to W.H.O.: http://mercurypolicy.org/wp­content/uploads/2009/11/091113 ngos sign on letter to who dental.pdf

[5] 2005 WHO paper: http://www.who. int/water_san itation_health/med icalwaste/mercurypolpaper. pdf