The New Mercury Treaty: Three Things That Need to Happen Now

Oct 10, 2013, 18:59 ET from IPEN

KUMAMOTO, Japan, Oct. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Countries signing the world's first international mercury treaty have a "moral and legal" obligation to fully implement all treaty provisions, said IPEN, an international NGO, which participated in the three-year treaty process. More than 100 countries signed the Minamata Convention, as the treaty is known, Thursday in a ceremony in Kumamoto, Japan.

"The mercury treaty is a victory because it represents a global consensus that mercury pollution presents a serious threat to human health and the environment," said Joe DiGangi, IPEN's Senior Science and Technical Adviser. "Some treaty provisions are legally-binding obligations and others require governments to "endeavor" to take action. This means that each government has a moral, if not a legal commitment to fully implement all treaty provisions."

DiGangi urged nations to take three key actions immediately:

  1. Sign and ratify the mercury treaty: Fifty countries must ratify the treaty for its provisions to begin. Rapid ratification means addressing mercury pollution sooner.
  2. Identify mercury sources and make a plan: Actions to reduce mercury pollution require knowledge of mercury sources and a plan to address them. Key large mercury sources include coal-fired power plants and artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).
  3. Act immediately to curb mercury poisoning and address contaminated sites. . Mercury, even in small doses, reduces children's ability to learn and its impacts are irreversible.

"The Minamata tragedy—in which tens of thousands were poisoned when the Chisso Corporation dumped methylmercury into the Minamata Bay for thirty years—also needs be resolved," said Manny Calonzo, IPEN Co-Chair. "All victims should be recognized and compensated and all contaminated areas, cleaned up. The principle of "polluter pays" should apply, and a comprehensive health study in impacted areas should be carried out."

"All around the world, in beautiful places like Minamata serious toxic pollution problems happen quietly, over time to one individual at a time. The Minamata name should become a positive model for how to carry out the Mercury Treaty by finally resolving the world's worst case of mass mercury poisoning," Calonzo concluded.

IPEN is an international NGO comprised of 700 organizations in 116 countries that work to minimize, and whenever possible, eliminate, hazardous, toxic substances internationally and within their own countries.

CONTACT: Bjorn Beeler
+1 510-710-0655
Twitter @toxicsfree