140 Nations Agree to Create Treaty Slashing Mercury Emissions


Photo via Force Change

And yes, the US is one of them. Obama's administration shocked many when it reversed Bush's previous policy and came out in favor a new international treaty to control mercury pollution. With the US on board, China and India followed suit, and they paved the way for over 140 countries to agree to negotiate what would be a historic, legal binding treaty that could reduce mercury pollution around the world.Negotiating a Mercury Emission Treaty
The agreement was announced at a high profile UN meeting in Nairobi, according to the Washington Post. And for the first time in recent memory, the US played a leadership role in dealing with a global environmental issue—the agreement marked an end to a 7 year effort to formally address the mercury issue. Negotiations had largely been stalled because the Bush Administration had blocked them. Achim Steiner, the Director of the UN's Environmental Program, said the US's move helped turn the tide:

"Only a few weeks ago, nations remained divided on how to deal with this major public health threat which touches everyone in every country of the world," Steiner said. "Today, the world's environment ministers, armed with the full facts and full choices, decided the time for talking was over -- the time for action on this pollution is now."

A Good Time to Act on Mercury Emissions
With mercury pollution still on the rise, this agreement came at a crucial time. Mercury is a dangerous toxin that can cause neurological damage when exposed to children, as well as other adverse health effects. It's released as a pollutant and falls back to earth in rainfall, where it accumulates in fish and marine mammals—which we of course eat and ingest the toxin.

The announcement is more bad news for coal--coal fired power plants are a big contributor to mercury emissions.

According to the White House, a successful treaty on mercury would feature a combination of legally binding and voluntary commitments. From the Post:

"The United States will play a leading role in working with other nations to craft a global, legally binding agreement that will prevent the spread of mercury into the environment and improve the health of workers, pregnant women and children throughout the world," said Nancy Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in the statement.

Formal negotiations will continue later this year, and officials hope to have talks concluded, and a treaty in place by 2013.

More on Mercury
Coal Released Mercury Ruins Fishing and Duck Hunting
Mercury Poisoning: It's Not Just Fish
What About Mercury From Compact Fluorescents?

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