Mercury Policy Project

Promoting policies to eliminate mercury use and reduce mercury exposure

MPP and allies release new risk and impact study

February 4th, 2009

A new international study released today by MPP, Zero Mercury Working Group, GAIA and Ban Toxics! shows how the burning of mercury-containing products is increasing the risk of environmental and health impacts around the world. The new study states that incineration and burning send upwards of 200 tons of mercury into the atmosphere every year, comprising 10 percent of the mercury that enters the earth’s atmosphere through human activities.  “Based on this report’s findings, we must recognize that the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere through incineration and burning is much more significant than previously suspected, representing at least twice the emissions as previously thought,” said Michael Bender, MPP Director

The study, entitled “Mercury Rising: Reducing Global Emissions from Burning Mercury-Added Products,” underscores the harmful environmental and health impacts posed by incineration or burning of mercury-added products (such as discarded fluorescent light bulbs, thermostats, switches and thermometers) in incinerators, landfill fires and open burning of domestic waste is a significant contributor of mercury and other toxics to both local and global mercury pool.

The report recommends that, at the upcoming February meeting in Nairobi, of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the purpose of negotiating a free-standing legally binding instrument on mercury.In the interim period before such an instrument becomes effective, the report recommends to UNEP to take the following action:

  • Assume responsibility for the awareness-raising, analytical, technical and legal support activities necessary to encourage manufacturers of mercury-added products, and countries where such manufacturers are located, to identify and implement the actions.
  • Recognize that combustion of mercury-added products in incinerators, landfill fires and open burning of domestic waste is a significant contributor of mercury and other toxics in both local and global ecosystems, and urge countries to take steps to stop these practices and move towards safe, just, sustainable and more environmentally-sound alternatives

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