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International treaty on mercury (January 22, 2013)

On January 19, 2013, after 4 years of negotiations under the auspices of the UN Environment Program, more than 140 countries reached an agreement on the text of a legally-binding international treaty on mercury.

This unprecedented agreement will make it possible to control and reduce mercury emissions in order to protect human health and the environment. As a reminder, exposure to mercury, even in small amounts, can cause serious damage to the nervous, digestive and immune systems, as well as to the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.

This agreement represents considerable progress: all aspects of the mercury lifecycle (from mining to storage) are taken into account, it includes a progressive ban on the mining of mercury and a ban on products and processes using mercury by 2020.

This international treaty shall be open for signature by the states at a diplomatic conference that will take place from October 7 to 11, 2013, in Minamata, in order to honor the victims of the worst mercury contamination incident which took place in 1950 in Japan.

France and the EU advanced especially ambitious positions during this negotiation. France has supported this process since 2010 by making a French expert available to the UN Environment Program and by supporting the participation of developing countries in the negotiation sessions.


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