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Diplomacy in Action

Minimata Convention on Mercury


The United States joins Minamata Convention on Mercury, Hails Agreement as a Tremendous Step Forward in Protecting People in the United States from Transboundary Mercury Pollution

The United States signed and joined the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a new global agreement to reduce mercury pollution, on November 6 in New York.

The Convention calls for parties to control and reduce mercury emissions to the air from a number of industrial sources, reduce or eliminate the use of mercury in certain products and industrial processes, and reduce the supply of mercury by, among other things, ending primary mercury mining. The agreement also calls on governments to address the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, which uses and releases large amounts of mercury. And it includes provisions to ensure the environmentally sound storage of mercury and environmentally sound disposal of mercury waste.

Mercury exposure is a major public health threat. Children and women of child-bearing age are particularly vulnerable as mercury affects development. Populations that rely heavily on fish and marine mammals, such as Arctic indigenous populations, are particularly vulnerable. Mercury can damage or impair the functioning of nerve tissue and even permanently damage the brain and kidneys.

The United States has already taken significant steps to reduce the amount of mercury generated and released into the environment, and can implement Convention obligations under existing law. The Minamata Convention will complement U.S. domestic measures and address the transnational nature of the problem.

“This agreement is a tremendous step forward that will allow us to work together with other countries to address mercury pollution and protect the health of our citizens,” said Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones. “Transboundary emissions of mercury are a significant global challenge that no single country can solve on its own. We are very pleased with the outcome of these negotiations.”

Negotiations on the text of the convention were completed in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 19, following four years of intense efforts. The name of the Convention pays respect to Minamata, the Japanese city whose citizens suffered from severe mercury pollution in the mid-20th century.


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