Canadian government opposes efforts at UN conference to strengthen language on mercury pollution
Ottawa - The Canadian government was among a group of developed countries at a UN conference last week opposing language intended to protect human health and the environment from mercury pollution. At the United Nations treaty negotiation session (INC4) held in Punta Del Este, Uruguay last week, Canada and its partners refused to include stronger language, even though it was supported by two-thirds of delegates engaged in the international negotiations.
"Developed countries should not stand in the way of the rest of the world on the issue of including health in international environmental agreements," said Eric Uram of the Sierra Club. "Everything in nature is connected, and people and the environment cannot operate on separate planes. Protecting the health of the planet is an international responsibility that needs to be supported by all countries."
Mercury pollution is not a developing country issue. Mercury bioaccumulates in the environment and has human health implications in the Canadian Arctic, where significant levels of mercury pollution have been detected coming from as far away as Chinese coal-fired power plants.
In a report entitled, Methyl mercury in the Canadian Arctic: Implications to Human Health, the authors write, “Unlike the mature brain, the fetal and neonate brain undergoes tremendous growth and restructuring requiring the regulations of a complexity of molecular pathways. Historical cases of MeHg poisoning, such as Minamata Japan, have demonstrated that children exposed in utero to MeHg suffer from life-long symptoms including; mental retardation, memory disability, attention deficits, hearing and vision loss, and deformities,” Methyl mercury in the Canadian Arctic: Implications to Human Health, P. Blacka, G. Pelletierb, D. Leana, Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology, University of Ottawa, www.arcticnet.ulaval.ca/pdf/posters_2005/black_et_al.pdf
The meeting this week, known as INC4, marks the fourth of five intergovernmental negotiating meetings, which should culminate in a diplomatic conference in 2013 to sign a global, legally binding agreement on mercury. The negotiations are being coordinated by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
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Thursday, July 5, 2012
For immediate release