Issue Date: October 21, 2013
Countries Ink Mercury Pact
More than 90 countries signed a new treaty in mid-October to reduce global mercury pollution. Named the Minamata Convention on Mercury after a Japanese city that suffered one of the world’s worst cases of industrial mercury poisoning, the pact was completed in January (C&EN, Jan. 28, page 8). Signatories of the deal include Canada, Mexico, China, and the European Union. The U.S., which was embroiled in a government shutdown, did not sign then but is likely to do so. The treaty gives wide discretion to individual countries to come up with their own approaches to cutting releases of the toxic metal, says Baskut Tuncak, staff attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law. He warns that the pact lacks targets or deadlines for curbing the two largest sources of mercury pollution: gold-mining operations and coal-fired power plants. In conjunction with signing the convention, the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Health Care Without Harm launched an initiative to remove mercury from all medical measuring equipment, including thermometers and blood pressure devices, worldwide by 2020.
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