Over 100 countries across the globe have vowed to cut toxic mercury pollution in the atmosphere, it has been revealed.

To date, 140 countries have signed a treaty to address the levels of pollution caused by the metal as well as its mining, exportation, importation and safe storage.

The Minamata Convention 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 is a known neurotoxin and has been linked to a number of serious illnesses including multiple sclerosis, kidney problems, skin diseases, brain damage, cancer and blood poisoning.
The treaty is named after a city in Japan where serious health damage occurred as a result of mercury pollution.

The treaty is also significant in that it represents a public admission from government leaders about the dangers of mercury in everyday products.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said that the notoriety of the pollutant has been recognised for well over a century.

He said: “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, babies and the generations to come.”
In order for the treaty to come into effect, fifty countries must ratify the Minamata Convention at a signing ceremony in Japan in October 2013.

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