Treaty to control Mercury
At the 25th session of the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, over 120 countries agreed to have legally binding measures to control the pollution by mercury, a neurotoxin. Formal negotiations for the treaty will begin in 2010.
In this conference a consensus was reached after the US supported the call to ban mercury use worldwide. The shift in the US stand came with the new Obama administration which wanted a legally binding international treaty to reduce the toxic pollutant’s content in the environment. Till now, the US has supported only voluntary and partnership measures.
This treaty would be binding upon the signatory countries to follow measures to phase out the toxic pollutant.
India as the leader of the developing nations, called for a committed financial assistance to introduce mercury free technologies. The EU rejected the proposal initially, but after lot of deliberations agreed that developing countries and transition economies should be provided with technical and adequate financial assistance to help them implement the legally binding obligations effectively.
Why is mercury so harmful?
Mercury is extensively used in chemical production and small-scale mining. It also affects the cardio-vascular system. Once released, it remains in environment and can travel long distances. Over and above, its toxic forms such as methylmercury can cross the placental and blood-brain barrier affecting foetuses and children.