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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 Mercury in Fish a Global Health Concern: Warrants Immediate United Nations Action
Mercury in Fish a Global Health Concern: Warrants Immediate United Nations Action PDF Print
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 01:00
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February 10, 2009

Pollution Probe and the Canadian Environmental Law Association endorse Canadian
release of report from international coalition

Toronto, ON — In advance of next week’s United Nations meeting to discuss an international treaty on mercury, public interest organizations from across the globe today released a report on the global health hazards created by mercury contamination in fish. The international Zero Mercury Working Group reports that the worldwide health impacts of methylmercury in fish are substantial. They are demanding an effective response from governments and the United Nations.

The Zero Mercury Working group (www.zeromercury.org) is an international coalition of more than 75 public interest non-governmental organizations from around the world formed in 2005. The aim of the group is to continually reduce emissions, demand and supply of mercury, from all sources we can control, with the goal of eliminating mercury in the environment.

“Mercury contamination of fish and mammals is a global public health concern,” said Michael Bender, report co-author and member of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Our study of fish tested in different locations around the world shows that widely accepted international exposure levels for methylmercury are exceeded, often by wide margins, in each country and area covered.”

According to the report, Mercury in Fish: An Urgent Global Health Concern, the risk is greatest for populations whose per capita fish consumption is high, and in areas where pollution has elevated the average mercury content of fish. In cultures where fish-eating marine mammals are part of the traditional diet, mercury in these animals can add substantially to total dietary exposure. These factors have contributed to substantial methylmercury exposure among the Inuit.

Eating large amounts of fish, or even small amounts of high-mercury content fish can cause mercury poisoning. Of most serious concern are the impacts of mercury on the developing brain, especially when exposure occurs in the womb. Toxic effects on the brain may also occur in adults and children with methylmercury intake above reference levels. Research also suggests that methylmercury exposure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The impacts on the brain from mercury are well understood and eating fish is the single largest exposure source. However, we also know that fish is a very healthy food choice. Ironically, eating


fish provides excellent nutritional support to healthy brain development. The solution is not for people to stop eating fish. Instead, educational efforts must ensure that people follow fish advisories: they should choose low-mercury fish and limit or avoid those known to have high mercury content. For example, for Inuit it is recommended to eat more sea-run arctic char, which is very low in mercury, and less marine mammals that have been found to have higher mercury levels. Fish advisories are issued by Health Canada. Since fish species and fishing practices vary widely across Canada, provincial governments and many local public health authorities also issue guidance on choosing low-mercury fish.

Education is essential to reduce human exposure to mercury; however, it should not be a substitution for the ultimate goal to reduce mercury concentrations in the environment to the lowest level possible. Mercury contamination from human activities exists on a global scale and calls for a global response. Global reduction and elimination of mercury is necessary to protect human and environmental health. Based on the findings of the report, Pollution Probe and the Canadian Environmental Law Association join our international counterparts in endorsing the recommendations in Mercury in Fish: An Urgent Global Health Concern. We further recommend the following actions in Canada:

  1. The Government of Canada should support the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council in establishing an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the purpose of negotiating a free-standing legally binding instrument on mercury at the upcoming mid-February meeting in Nairobi.
  2. 2. Canada should demonstrate leadership and ban non-essential uses of mercury in products and processes.

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For More Information, please contact:

Rebecca Spring, Project Manager, Pollution Probe
(416) 926-1907 x23 8, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text60202 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project (802) 223-9000, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text84483 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher, Canadian Environmental Law Association 705-341-2488 (cell) This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text35632 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The report is available on the websites of:

Mercury Policy Project: www.mercurypolicy.org,

Canadian Environmental Law Association www.cela.ca

Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment www.healthyenvironmentforkids.ca

For more information on fish advisories, please visit:

Health Canada advisory: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php

Ontario Ministry of Environment Sport Fishing advisory: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/guide/

Toronto Public Health fish consumption advisory: http://www.toronto.ca/health/fishandmercury/advice eat fish.htm