Global agreement to tackle mercury


Chemical element Hg

The European Commission welcomed the successful conclusion of the multilateral negotiations to address the global threat posed to human health and the environment by mercury. This follows the decision of the Governing Council of UNEP in February 2009 to develop a global legally binding instrument on mercury and the subsequent creation of an International Negotiating Committee to conclude on the text of a mercury Treaty that held its final meeting this week. The EU was a key driver for the launch of this negotiating process.

The Treaty covers all aspects of the mercury life cycle, from primary mining to waste disposal, including trade provisions, rules for artisanal and small scale gold mining, products containing mercury and mercury emissions to air. It also contains provisions allowing for the future development of the Mercury Treaty in order to provide for further targeted action to be taken.

The diplomatic ceremony for the official signature of the Mercury Treaty will take place in October 2013 in the Japanese town of Minamata, where one of the worst cases of mercury pollution occurred more than fifty years ago leading to severe health effects for the local population.

Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is commonly known as quicksilver and was formerly named hydrargyrum (from Greek “hydr-” water and “argyros” silver). A heavy, silvery d-block element, mercury is the only metal that is liquid at standard conditions for temperature and pressure; the only other element that is liquid under these conditions is bromine, though metals such as caesium, gallium, and rubidium melt just above room temperature. With a freezing point of −38.83 °C andboiling point of 356.73 °C, mercury has one of the narrowest ranges of its liquid state of any metal.

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