Fact Box: Mercury Treaty
Mercury treaty to be adopted by 140 countries
Around 140 nations will adopt the world’s first legally binding treaty on mercury.
Objective: The Treaty aims at reducing global emission levels of the toxic heavy metal also known as quicksilver, which poses risks to human health and the environment.
Nations will be asked to ink the treaty next October in Minamata, Japan, in honour of the town’s inhabitants who for decades have suffered the consequences of serious mercury contamination.
Where is Mercury found?
Mercury is found in products ranging from electrical switches to thermometers to light-bulbs, to amalgam dental fillings and even facial creams, and large amounts of the heavy metal are released from small-scale gold mining, coal-burning power plants, metal smelters and cement production.
What are the hazards of mercury?
Mercury poisoning affects the body’s immune system and can lead to problems including psychological disorders, loss of teeth and problems with the digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory tracts. It also affects development of the brain and nervous system and poses the greatest risk to fetuses and infants.
As per United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report:
- In the past 100 years, man-made emissions have raised the mercury concentrations in the top 100 metres of the world’s oceans to double.
- Concentrations in deeper waters have increased by up to 25%.
- Much human exposure to mercury is through the consumption of contaminated fish.
- Around 200 tonnes of the substance are deposited in the Arctic every year.
- Developing countries were especially vulnerable to direct mercury contamination mainly due to the extensive use of the element in small-scale gold mining and to the burning of coal for electricity generation.