Minamata Convention on Mercury

The 2013 Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty to protect human health and the environment from mercury and mercury compounds. As a naturally occurring element, mercury can be released into the air and water through the weathering of rock containing mercury ore or through human activities such as industrial processes, mining, deforestation, waste incineration, and burning fossil fuels. Mercury can also be released from mercury-containing products, including dental amalgam, electrical applications, laboratory and medical instruments, batteries, antiseptic and antibacterial creams, and skin lightening creams.

Exposure to mercury can affect fetal neurological development and has been linked to lowered fertility, brain and nerve damage, and heart disease. The Minamata Convention bans new mercury mines and calls for the phase-out of existing ones. It also contains control measures on emissions and products containing mercury, and the regulation of mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The Convention also addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury, and health issues.