Chiba, Japan -- NGOs have called on international delegates to recognise that processes such as polyurethane elastomer production should be included when deciding a global mercury treaty.
Delegates from more than 120 countries met in Japan to continue constructing a legally-binding global mercury treaty, expected to be signed in Minamata, Japan in 2013.
But the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) - a coalition of more than 93 environmental and health NGOs (non-governmental organisations) from 45 countries - said that several manufacturing processes using mercury completely escaped notice in the working draft, such as production of polyurethanes and sodium methylate.
"Since there are well-developed, high-volume non-mercury alternatives available to produce these materials, the mercury-based processes should be phased out," said Rachel Kamande of the European Environmental Bureau and ZMWG, in a 28 Jan statement from the organisation.
The group also urged delegates to be more ambitious when setting the mercury treaty's scope and goals. "Governments need to step up and take more leadership in this debate," said Linda Greer, Natural Resources Defense Council and ZMWG. "Mercury is a problem within our grasp to solve, but it will take political will and focus to resolve it."
The Mimamata tragedy provided the centerpiece for discussion, the group said. The city was the location of extensive mercury poisoning, first discovered in 1956. It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from Chisso Corp's chemical factory, which led to widespread illness and neurological disease - the effects of which are still present in the city today. LMH