Oman Observer reported that more than 140 countries have agreed on the first global treaty to cut mercury pollution through a blacklist of household items and controls on power plants and small scale mines
United Nations said that the legally binding agreement aims to phase out many products that use the toxic liquid metal such as batteries, thermometers and some fluorescent lamps, through banning global import and exports by 2020.
The treaty will require countries with coal fired power plants such as India and China to install filters and scrubbers on new plants and to commit to reducing emissions from existing operations to prevent mercury from coal reaching the atmosphere.
The deal also includes measures to reduce mercury use in small scale gold mining, although stopped short of an all out ban. Gold prices near USZD 1,700 a tonne have spurred the use of mercury as a catalyst to separate gold from its ore. Emissions of mercury from artisanal and small scale gold mines, which are usually unofficial and often illegal, more than doubled to 727 tonnes in 2010 from 2005 levels, overtaking coal-fired power plants as the main source of pollution from the metal.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, named after the Japanese city where people were poisoned in the mid 20th century from industrial discharges of mercury, needs ratification from 50 countries and is expected to be formalised later this year. The treaty requires governments to draw up national rules to comply and could take between three to five years to take effect.
As mercury, also known as quicksilver, is released to the air or washed into rivers and oceans, it spreads worldwide, and builds up in humans mostly through consumption of fish. The brains of foetuses and infants are particularly vulnerable to damage from mercury. Officials said the financing required to bring in cleaner technology for industry and help developing countries come up with local solutions was one of the major sticking points of the six-day negotiations.
Source – omanobserver.om