World's nations signing treaty to halt mercury pollution

Oct. 10, 2013 at 6:02 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Nations have begun signing a treaty intended to curb mercury pollution and the use of the toxic metal in products around the world, the United Nations says.

The Minamata Convention -- named after a Japanese city where mercury poisoning caused severe health problems in the mid-20th century -- is being signed in Japan after four years of complex negotiations among more than 140 member states, the United Nations Environmental Program reported.

Data show mercury emissions have been rising in a number of developing nations, UNEP said, with SouthEast Asia the largest regional emitter, accounting for almost half of the element's annual global emissions.

"With this convention, nations have laid the foundations for a global response to a pollutant whose notoriety has been recognized since Greek and Roman times," UNEP's Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

Exposure to mercury and its various compounds can cause brain and neurological damage, especially in young people, as well as harm to kidneys and the digestive system, UNEP said.

"Everyone in the world stands to benefit from [the treaty], in particular the workers and families of small-scale gold miners, the peoples of the Arctic and this generation of mothers and babies and the generations to come," Steiner said.

Related UPI Stories
Latest Headlines
Trending News
Seattle sea otter learns how to use an inhaler
Catholic conservatives wary of Pope's climate change message
Apple signals delivery of electric car by 2019, report says
Self-impregnated snake in Missouri has another 'virgin birth'
Ancient Roman village found in Germany