Wednesday 17 April 2013

Reducing global mercury emissions!

A legally binding agreement to reduce global mercury emissions was signed by 140 countries in January this year (2013), amid delight that an important milestone had been reached in the control of toxic mercury emissions. However, the effectiveness of the treaty will be assessed by a panel of experts during ‘Mercury 2013’ - the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP) which will take place in Edinburgh, Scotland, from 28th July – 2nd August 2013.
The negotiations which led to the development of the treaty were convened by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the signatories will implement controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted. These range from thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to emissions from the mining, cement and coal-fired power sectors. The treaty also addresses the direct mining of mercury, export and import of the metal and safe storage of waste mercury.

Mercury and its various compounds have a range of serious health impacts including brain and neurological damage especially among the young.

Susan Egan Keane of the Natural Resources Defense Council in the United States, and Dr. David Evers a leading wildlife toxicologist will co-chair a session at Mercury 2013 entitled ‘Evaluating the effectiveness of the Global Mercury Treaty’.

A panel comprised of scientists and policy makers will explore the gaps, needs, hurdles, government participation and scientific capacity (especially in the developing world) for creating a global mercury monitoring system that can evaluate the effectiveness of the new mercury treaty.

The panel will discuss issues such as: How to create standardised and replicable methods for monitoring the effectiveness of efforts to reduce mercury among different countries of the world; How to best communicate information about progress; What basic components are needed for cost-effective and customised national plans for monitoring; and Where standardised monitoring stations should be located.

Panel topics will include (a) monitoring changes in the largest source of mercury pollution - artisanal small-scale gold mining; (b) monitoring changes in environmental mercury resulting from treaty actions, using the Global Mercury Observation System; and (c) evaluating changes in human exposure through bio-monitoring.

As the importance of mercury as a pollutant becomes better understood, Mercury 2013 is likely to generate a great deal of interest throughout the world as between 800 and 1200 delegates will travel to Scotland from all over the world.

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