Under the provisions of the Minamata Convention, Governments have agreed on a range of mercury-containing products whose production, import and export will be banned by 2020. These items have non-mercury alternatives that will be further phased in as these are phased out. They include:
- Batteries, except for ‘button cell’ batteries used in implantable medical devices
- Switches and relays
- Some compact fluorescent lamps
- Mercury in cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps
- Soaps and cosmetics (mercury is used in skin-whitening products)
- Some mercury-containing medical items such as thermometers and blood pressure devices.
Mercury from small-scale gold-mining and from coal-fired power stations represent the biggest source of mercury pollution worldwide. Miners inhale mercury during smelting, and mercury run-off into rivers and streams contaminates fish, the food chain and people downstream.
Under the Minamata Convention, Governments have agreed that countries will draw up strategies to reduce the amount of mercury used by small-scale miners and that national plans will be drawn up within three years of the treaty entering into force to reduce – and if possible eliminate – mercury.
The Convention will also control mercury emissions and releases from large-scale industrial plants such as coal-fired power stations, industrial boilers, waste incinerators and cement clinkers facilities.
Click here to read the full text of the treaty.
For a list of countries that have signed the Convention so far, visit www.mercuryconvention.org.