Only relatively recently has serious global attention been paid to the many dangerous effects exposure to mercury can have on human and environmental health. Human activity, especially mining and the burning of coal, has increased the amounts of mercury in the atmosphere, soils, fresh waters, and oceans. In the human body, mercury acts as a neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system.
In 2007, CIEL collaborated with a number of organizations in the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, leading the coalition in the drafting of UNEP’s “Study on Options for Global Control of Mercury.” CIEL was a leading force in breaking the deadlock at the UN over how to solve the global challenge of mercury pollution and deeply involved in the ensuing negotiations, although political dynamics resulted in a weaker-than-expected outcome in the final outcome.
In October 2013, in Minamata, Japan, a city whose residents still suffer the devastating effects of mercury pollution from the 1960s, 92 countries signed a new global treaty to address mercury pollution. The Minamata Convention on Mercury reflects a global consensus on the threat posed to human health and environment by mercury contamination and the recognition that this threat must be confronted. CIEL celebrated this critical milestone, continues to urge the signatory countries to move quickly to ratification and early implementation of the Convention to use this treaty as a foundation for meaningful and immediate action to eliminate mercury risks, and not as an excuse for continued inertia and limited ambition.