Tue, Oct 15, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Global mercury phaseout begins

COMMON GOAL:A UNEP initiated treaty agreed by more than 140 countries to protect humans and the environment from mercury will now be actioned by 2020

By Lee I-chia.  /  Staff reporter

As the global Diplomatic Conference for the Minamata Convention on Mercury ended on Friday last week, with a consensus on phasing out the use of products containing mercury by 2020, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said it will also confirm to the convention’s provisions.

The Minamata Convention for Mercury — a global treaty aimed to protect human health and the environment from the negative effects of mercury — initiated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), drafted by its Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, and the draft agreed by more 140 countries on Jan. 19 this year.

The five-day convention in Japan’s Kumamoto City last week gathered delegates from 140 countries and formally opened the legal binding treaty for signature — agreeing to ban new mercury mines, reduce anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury into air, land and water — especially from small-scale gold-mining and large-scale industrial plants — as well as to phase out products with mercury additives.

The convention will be entered into force after 90 days, given that the requisite 50 countries have ratified the treaty.

Under the provisions of the convention, the production, import and export of mercury-added products, such as batteries (excluding button cell batteries used in implantable medical devices); switches and relays; some compact fluorescent lamps; soaps and cosmetics; thermometers and blood pressure devices and others, will be banned by 2020

According to a report by the UNEP, mercury can damage the central nervous system, thyroid, kidneys, lungs, immune system, eyes, gums and skin in the human body. Neurological damage to the brain caused by mercury cannot be reversed, the report says.

The EPA said at present, the usage of mercury is regulated by the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性化學物質管理法) from its source. It has announced mercury policies and conducted surveys to understand the distribution and emissions of mercury in Taiwan.

To protect the global environment, the EPA will make efforts to fulfill the convention’s provisions according to its planned schedule and will also share related experiences and results with other nations, it added.

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