On behalf of CSPI and MPP, Earthjustice recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against FDA for failing to respond to our 2011 petition requesting the Agency to give consumers clear, accurate and accessible information about mercury in seafood (as recent press reports explain.) The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered deadline since under its own regulations, FDA had 180 days to respond and its failure to do so violates federal law. In 2004, FDA acknowledged MeHg exposure risks when it issued an online advisory based on now outdated research. Several recent studies suggest adverse effects at exposure levels 10-fold lower than those considered acceptable a decade ago.
As delegates from 117 countries concluded the second round of negotiations for a legally binding treaty on mercury, they welcomed Japan’s offer to host the 2013 diplomatic conference in Minamata where the convention will be signed, due to the unprecedented mercury epidemic in the 1950’s. However, NGOs from around the world urged them to truly honor Minimata by agreeing to adopt strong measures. “If the world’s governments really want to call this the “Minamata Treaty,” then they should back up their words with meaningful actions,” said Takeshi Yasuma, of Citizens Against Chemicals Pollution, a Japanese NGO, who worked closely with Minamata groups in raising awareness at the meeting and through the news media reports.
Although delegates generally agreed on a proposed basic framework for mercury reductions, they left most all substantive issues unresolved. According to a ZMWG statement, governments now need to exert strong leadership to: monitor and reduce emissions from coal-fired power stations and other industry and industry; phase out existing mercury mining and management of stored quantities; the classification and management of mercury waste; and critical also is resolving financial aspects of the future convention. After reviewing and summarizing comments on the draft UNEP framework document, interventions were made by ZMWG and other NGOs and recommended: expanding the list of mercury-based products and processes to be regulated under the treaty, providing explicit time lines for phase outs, reducing mercury content in lamps, and strengthening provisions on artisanal and small-scale gold mining, the largest mercury use in the world, among many others.
A year-long investigation by the Associated Press released recently has linked small scale gold mining by African children with the purchase by Swiss companies, with the gold ending up stored in Swiss banks. Despite a lawsuit filed against the AP by a company in Switzerland–(“Earlier this year, Decafin unsuccessfully sued The AP in Switzerland to prevent its name from being published in this story, claiming it would unfairly damage the company’s reputation“)–the story finally ran. The AP reports that approximately 20% of the gold mined each year is by small scale miners, including children, who are often treated as commodities and subjected to brutal working conditions and life risking activities in pursuit of providing luxury goods to the wealthy. It’s estimated that between 650 and 1,000 metric tons of mercury are used each year by 15 million miners in more than 40 developing countries to extract the gold, exposing miners and pollution the local and global environment. The AP has provided links to 4 video clips that were produced as part of their investigations. It has several scenes of children using mercury to treat the gold. The video clips are posted on the left hand side of this Yahoo page under the title “AP Interactive”, or you can try the direct link. Numerous news outlets covered the story, including ABC News, The Washington Post (includes short slideshow), and USA Today.