Over one hundred countries agree to cut mercury pollution

Health threats from mercury are set to be reduced thanks to the Minamata Convention, a treaty regulating the toxic metal

More than 140 countries across the world have signed a treaty agreeing to cut mercury pollution.

The Minamata Convention, agreed upon in Geneva after four years of negotiations, addresses the levels of pollution caused by the metal as well as its mining, exportation, importation and safe storage.

The treaty, named after a city in Japan where serious health damage occurred as a result of mercury pollution, will also ban a range of products that contain mercury. Included in the ban are soaps and cosmetics, certain types of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and some batteries, not including ‘button cell’ batteries used in medical devices.

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

Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the foundations have been laid for a “global response to a pollutant whose notoriety has been recognised for well over a century.”

“Everyone in the world stands to benefit from the decisions taken in Geneva, in particular the workers and families of small-scale gold miners, the peoples of the Arctic and this generation of mothers and babies and the generations to come,” he said.

Fifty countries must ratify the Minamata Convention at a signing ceremony in Japan in October 2013.