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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 Timid EU ministers shirk tough restrictions on mercury devices
Timid EU ministers shirk tough restrictions on mercury devices PDF Print
Friday, 20 April 2007 01:00
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(Brussels, 20 April 2007) - EU ministers at the Justice & Internal Affairs Council yesterday adopted a common position on restrictions to mercury-containing measuring devices. The position avoided including some mercury-intensive instruments for healthcare, which disappointed health and environment NGOs, who have called for blood pressure instruments and barometers to be immediately included. “Sadly, the Council lacked the nerve to take a decisive step in favour of safer measuring devices”, said Elena Lymberidi, Zero Mercury Project Coordinator at the European Environmental Bureau. “They have shied away from ordering existing, safer alternatives and safer technology to be used for some important devices, which can present a serious risk of mercury contamination when they break or are disposed of.”

Anti-mercury NGOs believe the Council has ducked the issue by avoiding any immediate restriction on specific professional healthcare equipment, like blood pressure instruments. The Council has instead sought a report from the European Commission about alternatives to these instruments, which is to be issued two years after the remaining restrictions on thermometers have gone into effect. “This is better than the Commission’s initial proposal, but it’s not enough” said Lisette van Vliet, of Health Care Without Harm Europe. “Mercury-free blood pressure devices are widely available commercially, are approved by recognised professional bodies and already used in European hospitals, even for difficult diagnoses”.

On barometers, the Council undercut the Commission’s proposal, by allowing two years’ grace for manufacturers to continue using mercury. “It’s plainly irresponsible to continue making new barometers that contain mercury”, said Elena Lymberidi, “Aside from the enormous health and environmental risks when barometers break, (and barometers use nearly a thousand times

more mercury than thermometers), it’s a pointless delay. Europe’s few barometer makers generally already make mercury-free barometers, along with many other types of measuring instruments. Immediately banning mercury barometers simply doesn’t threaten their business! 1”

The NGOs are now calling on the European Parliament to restrict mercury use in all measuring and control equipment as soon as possible when re-examining the legislative proposal in its second reading.

For more information:-

Elena Lymberidi, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Tel +32 2 2891301 Lisette van Vliet, Health Care Without Harm Europe, Tel: +32 2 234 3645

Note to journalists

See also letter sent to the Members of the Competitiveness Council, on 1st December 2006. http://www.zeromercury.org/EU developments/061 201 NGOs Letter to Comp Min EquipDir.pdf

Mercury, particularly in the form of methylmercury, and even in relatively low doses, can have serious adverse neurodevelopmental impacts. The effects of low-dose exposure on children's mental development is analysed in Grandjean, P, Landrigan P J, Developmental neurotoxity of industrial chemicals”, The Lancet, 8 Nov. 2006 available at http://www.env-health.org/IMG/pdf/06tl9094page.pdf

1 http://www.barometerworld.co.uk/default.htm (UK), http://www.comitti.com/ (UK), http://www.russell-scientific.co.uk/ (UK), http://www.barometers.com/index.htm (Belgium), http://www.rosebarometers.nl