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The Fifth Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention concluded its work in Geneva on 3 November. An international treaty created to protect human health and the environment from exposure to mercury and its releases.
Minamata City is a city in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. Here in 1956 a disease was discovered – known as “Minamata disease” – Which affected the central nervous system and caused numbness in the hands and feet, damage to hearing and sight, and difficulty in pronouncing words, leading to psychological disorders, coma, and death. In the city there was a chemical industry, Chisso, which in 1932 began producing acetaldehyde using a mercury catalyst. From the start of production until 1968, the plant continued to release large amounts of wastewater into the sea contaminated with methylmercury, a highly toxic compound, which accumulated in molluscs, crustaceans and fish in the Shiranui Bay and Sea, and entered the food chain. And causing poisoning of local residents. More than two thousand people were infected with mercury, and most of them died from poisoning. A humanitarian and environmental disaster that has remained “dormant” for decades.
Discussions about the need for a legal instrument to address the threats posed by the use and extraction of mercury only began at the dawn of the new millennium, in 2007 in particular. These discussions led to the drafting of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in October 2013, which officially entered into force in August 2017. The aim of the Convention is to regulate the use of mercury in industrial products and processes and to identify measures to reduce it. Eliminate releases and emissions.
theMercury is a heavy metalThey are found naturally in some rocks and in the Earth’s crust, but as we have seen, once released into the environment they can be fatal to animals and humans. Releases to air and water occur through weathering of rocks containing mercury minerals and through human activities. Among these reasons, the first cause of release is gold extraction from mines, followed by coal burning by industries. Tracking cement production and waste disposal processes. Through these processes, mercury, in addition to posing a direct danger to workers, is distributed in the atmosphere, deposited on the sun, where water washes it off, and enters aquifers, waterways and the sea. Here they accumulate in the organisms that inhabit them, especially in fish and mollusks, and thus enter the food chain and contaminate not only the species that eat those fish, but also the human being himself who catches them.
In 2013, in fact, The Minamata Convention on Mercury and governments have committed to eliminating its use globally. However, ten years later, mercury is still a problem around the world. For example, in the report published by the European Environment Agency in 2018 – Mercury in Europe’s environment: a priority for European and global action – we read that current levels of mercury in the atmosphere are up to 500% higher than natural levels, while mercury concentrations in the oceans are 100% higher. Approx 200%. So it is necessary to do something and do it quickly.
During this fifth conference, the negotiators agreed To update the phase-out dates for certain types of batteries, switches, relays, fluorescent lamps and cosmetics and to enforce the phase-out of mercury as a catalyst in polyurethane production by 2025. However, efforts to agree on the phase-out of dental amalgam, especially in African countries where it is widely used Spacious for fillings. Thresholds for mercury waste export were then decided: countries now have an established standard to measure whether mercury-contaminated imports and exports contain more than the total permissible concentration value of 15 mg/kg. This provides an international standard for determining whether a shipment should be prevented and prevents some developing countries from becoming a global dumping ground for mercury-contaminated waste.
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