Countries in final step to put global mercury agreement into force
Over 550 governments representatives, stakeholders and experts gathered at the Dead Sea in Jordan last week to put the final touches to one of the most important legally-binding international agreements – the Minamata Convention on Mercury – which has the potential to end a serious threat to the health of millions of people.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury – named after the Japanese city where thousands of people were poisoned by mercury-tainted industrial water- provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries that involve mercury. These range from medical equipment such as thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal fired power sectors.
The Convention, agreed in 2013, signed by 128 countries and ratified by 23 nations (including Nigeria) thus far, is a treaty that protects human health and environment from mercury pollution. The treaty bans new mercury mines, places control measures on air emissions, imposes regulations on artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and enforces the phase out of existing mines and products.
Speaking in Jordan, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw issued a strong call for countries to accelerate the entry into force and implementation of the Convention.
“Today, the world desperately needs to get mercury under control and the week ahead provides that opportunity to delegates gathered at the Dead Sea shores,” he said. “By taking the final step to put the mercury convention into force, they can deliver meaningful impact on the ground and solve a lethal and often-invisible issue.”
Mercury and its various compounds have a range of serious impacts on human health, including brain and neurological damage, especially among the young. Others include damage to kidneys and the digestive system. Victims can suffer memory loss and language impairment, alongside many other well-documented problems.
The metal, when released from industry and other man-made sources, can circulate in the environment for centuries.
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