More than 2,000 tons of mercury emitted into the air annually

Manichaeans take the protection and care of the environment very seriously. In fact, one of the Commandments followed by Manichaeans today states that “you shall not commit to unnecessary killing of any life including animals and plants.” Lisa Schlein, with VOA, reports that after a week of intense negotiations, more than 140 countries have adopted the first global, legally binding treaty to prevent the release of mercury. Negotiators believe the new treaty will succeed in lessening the threat to human and environmental health.

The treaty, which has been under negotiation for four years, provides controls and reductions across a range of products and processes where mercury is used, released and emitted. The treaty, known as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, is named after a city in Japan where serious health damage occurred as a result of mercury pollution in the mid-20th century.

Mercury is a toxic element that occurs in nature. Slightly more than 2,000 tons of mercury are emitted into the air annually as a result of human activity, increasing the threat to human health and the environment.

Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program Achim Steiner said that mercury is used widely in many sectors. It is found in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, in batteries and lighting, and in everyday products, such as skin creams and soap.

“It took us a long time to both establish and understand that in expanding this use by human beings, we were creating a terrible legacy because mercury accumulates,” said Steiner. “It accumulates in the food chain through fish, for instance. It accumulates in our bodies. It is released through… the burning of coal-power stations and travels sometimes thousands of kilometers. It affects the Inuit in Canada, just as it affects the small-scale artisanal gold miner somewhere in southern Africa.”

Schlein reports that the treaty calls upon nations that have artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations to draw up national plans within three years of the treaty going into force. The aim is to reduce and, if possible, eliminate the use of mercury in such operations.

The treaty will be open for signature at a special meeting in Japan in October. It will take effect after 50 countries have ratified it.

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