Delegation from some 140 countries have agreed to adopt a ground-breaking treaty limiting the use of mercury, said by the Swiss Foreign Ministry.
The world’s first legally binding treaty on mercury, reached after a week of deliberations on January 19. Switzerland along with Norway initiated the process a decade ago. The new treaty aims to reduce global emission levels of the toxic heavy metal also known as Quicksilver, which poses risks to human health and the environment, especially in household products and in industrial processes.
Countries has signed the treaty in Minamata, Japan in October 2014. The Minamata Convention on Mercury which is named after deformities owing to mercury pollution in the mid-20th century, commits countries to banning by 2020 the production, import and export of a large number of products containing mercury.
Mercury is found in:
- Devices Measuring Blood Pressure
- CFL Light-Bulbs
- Amalgamation with Dental Filings, Facial Creams, Soaps and Cosmetics.
Large amounts of the heavy metal are released from small scale gold mining, coal-burning power plants, metal smelters and cement production.
Serious 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 foetuses and infants.
Ahead of the Geneva conference, the UNEP provided the first global assessment of releases of mercury into rivers and lakes. UNEP also highlighted rising levels of mercury in the Arctic, where 200T of the substances are deposited every year.
World Health Organization has declared that there are no safe limits for the consumption of mercury and its compounds, which can damage the nerves and internal organs. High levels of mercury in seawater can enter the food chain through some varieties of fish.