Mercury treaty adopted in Geneva

2013-01-19 17:24

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Environment
    This volume of "The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture" surveys the dynamic environmental forces... Now R886.00
    buy now

Geneva - Delegations from about 140 countries agreed on Saturday to adopt a ground-breaking treaty limiting the use and emission of health-hazardous mercury, the UN said, although environmental activists lamented it did not go far enough.

The world's first legally binding treaty on mercury, reached after a week of thorny talks, will aim to reduce global emission levels of the toxic heavy metal also known as quicksilver, which poses risks to human health and the environment.

"This was a herculean task ... but we have succeeded," Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and head of the UN environment programme (Unep), told reporters in Geneva.

The treaty has been named the Minamata Convention on Mercury, in honour of the Japanese town where inhabitants for decades have suffered the consequences of serious mercury contamination.

The text will be signed in Minamata in October and will take effect once it has been ratified by 50 countries - something organisers expect will take three to four years.

Mercury is found in products ranging from electrical switches, thermometers and light-bulbs, to amalgam dental fillings and even facial creams. Large amounts of the heavy metal are released from small-scale gold mining, coal-burning power plants, metal smelters and cement production.

"It is quite remarkable how much mercury in a sense has entered into use in our lives.... We've been creating a terrible legacy," Steiner said.

"Mercury accumulates in the food chain through fish... It is released through coal fired power stations and it travels sometimes thousands of kilometres. It affects the Inuit in Canada just as it affects the small-scale artisanal gold miner somewhere in southern Africa," he said.

Serious mercury poisoning affects the body's immune system and development of the brain and nervous system, posing the greatest risk to foetuses and infants.

The treaty sets a phase out date of 2020 for a long line of products, including mercury thermometers, blood pressure measuring devices, most batteries, switches, some kinds of fluorescent lamps and soaps and cosmetics.

It however provides exceptions for some large medical measuring devices where no mercury-free alternatives exist yet.

In a controversial move, it also excluded vaccines that use mercury as a preservative, since the risk from these vaccines is considered low and for many developing nations removing them would entail losing access to vaccines altogether, Tim Kasten, head of Unep's chemicals division explained.

Amid pressure from dentist groups, the treaty also did not provide a cut-off date for the use of dental fillings using mercury, but did agree that the product should be phased down.

Non-governmental groups at the talks meanwhile lamented that the treaty fell short in addressing the greatest sources of mercury in the environment: small-scale gold mining, which directly threatens the health of the about 10-15 million people working in this field and contaminates water and air, and emissions from coal-buring power plants.


Read more on:    unep  |  environment
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
10 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Get fit on a budget

It’s time to throw the “I can’t afford to exercise” excuse out the window.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Tips for paddling your first Dusi
Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may prefer to be in charge because then you can call the shots. You are not as flexible as you like to make out to be and you...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.