Friday December 13, 2019

Minamata Convention on Mercury: A Landmark UN Treaty which Aims to Keep Millions Safe from Mercury Poisoning, comes into Effect

So far, 128 countries have signed the treaty and 74 have ratified it

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A woman holds a victim of "Minamata Disease," or mercury poisoning, in Minamata, Japan, in a 1973 photo. The Minamata Convention, a global treaty aimed at curtailing the mining and use of mercury, took effect Wednesday. VOA
  • A landmark global treaty aimed at keeping millions safe from the horrors of mercury poisoning took effect Wednesday
  • The treaty requires governments to stop mercury mining, continue to cut mercury use in industry and slash emissions
  • Governments that signed the treaty must also meet tough conditions for storing and safely disposing mercury waste

The 2013 Minamata Convention was named for the Japanese bay from which mercury-tainted fish left thousands of people with severe brain damage in 1956. Industrial wastewater had been dumped into the bay for more than 20 years.

So far, 128 countries have signed the treaty and 74 have ratified it.

“The Minamata Convention shows that our global work to protect our planet and its people can continue to bring nations together,” UN environmental chief Erik Solheim said Wednesday. “We did it for the ozone layer and now we’re doing it for mercury, just as we need to do it for climate change.”

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Mercury was commonly used in batteries, fluorescent lights, felt production, thermometers, and barometers. These uses have been phased out. The treaty requires governments to stop mercury mining, continue to cut mercury use in industry and slash emissions.

Mercury is an extremely poisonous metal that never breaks down. Contact with it attacks the nervous system and can cause brain damage, severe emotional problems, coma, and even death. Children are especially at risk.

Mercury forms naturally in the environment but is also man-made for industrial uses.

“There is no safe level of exposure to mercury nor are there cures for mercury poisoning,” the U.N. says.

Governments that signed the treaty must also meet tough conditions for storing and safely disposing mercury waste. (VOA)

Next Story

This NASA Scientist is so Excited about Mercury Transit. Here’s Why

The tiny planet traveled directly between Earth and the sun on Monday, creating a perfect alignment

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The planet Mercury is seen in silhouette, low center, from Washington, as it transits across the face of the Sun, Nov. 11, 2019. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls). VOA

Stargazers witnessed a rare celestial event on Monday, as Mercury passed directly across the face of the sun.NASA

Mercury, the solar system’s smallest planet and closest to the sun, won’t make the next such transit until 2032.

The tiny planet traveled directly between Earth and the sun on Monday, creating a perfect alignment.

The best views of the event took place in North and South America, while viewers in Europe and Africa were able to see part of Mercury’s passage.

NASA, Scientist, Mercury
Mercury, the solar system’s smallest planet and closest to the sun, won’t make the next such transit until 2032. Pixabay

Stargazers had to use solar-filtered binoculars and telescopes to spot Mercury, which appeared as a small black dot on the face of the sun.

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For those who could not see the event directly, the U.S. Space agency, NASA, live-streamed images of the celestial transit, which took about five and a half hours. (VOA)