Delegates from more than 120 governments around the world gathered in a small seaside town in Uruguay this past week. A Fairfield University Associate Professor was there to observe the continuing negotiations toward a global treaty reducing mercury emissions to the environment.
Speaking from Uruguay, Dr. David Downie, Director of Fairfield University’s Program on the Environment says there are so many ways mercury enters the environment and food chain that it can be challenging to negotiate a single treaty. "Coal fired power plants, cement production, gold mining, vaccines, dental fillings in many parts of the world, light bulbs containing mercury…and because you have so many different sources of mercury, you almost are negotiating several different treaties simultaneously."
When people are exposed to large amounts of mercury, it is toxic - and especially harmful to developing fetuses and young children.
Downie says despite regulations in the US and Europe, the problem is increasing around the world, and the only effective solution is a global treaty. "Its necessary then to balance the interests of a number of different governments and a number of different economic and human health and environmental interests across a wide range of sources."
Mercury treaty negotiations will continue next January in Switzerland. The agreement is to be signed later in 2013 in Japan.