After four years of intense negotiations, a global treaty has been signed to cut mercury pollution. However the treaty has been criticized by SAR member the European Environmental Bureau for not going far enough.

The new treaty was signed by 150 nations, but is not likely to be ratified around the world for another three or four years. The treaty lays out plans to phase out mercury use in products such as medical thermometers and batteries, and also prohibits primary mining of mercury and reducing emissions from mercury polluters.

The treaty is a mix of mandatory and voluntary measures. For example, the biggest use of mercury world wide is in small scale and artisanal gold mining, but although the treaty lays out terms to reduce the use of mercury, there are no plans for the eventual end to its use. Voluntary measures include countries being encouraged to cut mercury emissions from existing coal fired power plants, but are allowed to choose themselves the extent to which they achieve this goal.

Mercury is a highly toxic substance that becomes methylemercury in the environment, a powerful neurotoxin that creates developmental problems and physical deformities in humans. The treaty is named the Minamata Convention on Mercury, after a Japanese town that faced prolonged mercury pollution that caused thousands to suffer severe malformations.

Seas At Risk reported in December on the high levels of mercury to be found in many species of fish regularly consumed by humans. Although the treaty aims to cut back on pollution of this sort, it is likely that many decades will pass before the effects are shown.

To read EEBs press release

Share This

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required