U.N. agrees on mercury pollution measures

Jan. 21, 2013 at 5:19 PM

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- More than 140 countries have agreed on a set of legally binding measures to curb mercury pollution worldwide, the United Nations says.

Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, delegates approved a convention to regulate the use of the highly toxic metal in order to reduce its release into the environment.

The Minamata Convention, named for the Japanese town that experienced one of the world's worst cases of mercury poisoning in the 1950s, will be presented to be signed by nations at a diplomatic conference later this year, the BBC reported Monday.

Negotiations on the new measures often lasted through the night, officials said.

"After complex and often all-night sessions here in Geneva, nations have today laid the foundations for a global response to a pollutant whose notoriety has been recognized for well over a century," U.N. Environment Program executive director Achim Steiner said.

Mercury is highly toxic to humans and can have severe neurological effects.

The Minimata Convention will regulate the supply of and trade in mercury, the use of mercury in products and industrial processes, and will put in place measure to reduce emissions of mercury into the environment, U.N. officials said.

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