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Global NGOs welcome WHO support for new Mercury Convention

NGOs welcome the adoption of a new resolution by the WHO’s Executive Board, agreeing to both endorse and lend support for countries to address the health-related aspects of the new Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The objective of the Convention on Mercury is to protect human health and the environment from human made mercury emissions through a range of provisions – including, for the first time in a global multilateral environment agreement, a dedicated health article.

The Convention’s provision on health encourages Parties to develop programs to protect populations at risk from mercury exposure through the development and implementation of health-based guidelines.

Global NGOs applauded the World Health Organization (WHO) for encouraging governments to ‘promptly sign, ratify and implement’ the Convention. Michael Bender, international coordinator for the Zero Mercury Working Group, to which HEAL belongs, said ‘prompt ratification will result in less pollution and human exposure to mercury, a poison that can affect the brain and nervous system’.

HEAL Senior Policy Advisor Lisette van Vliet reflected “Although it wasn’t that long ago that an international legally binding agreement was considered too idealistic in some quarters, this agreement has been a long time coming when it comes to protecting our health. To reduce the harm that mercury inflicts, the fastest possible ratification and the best possible implementation are necessary.”

In 2006 HEAL initiated one of the first human bio-monitoring campaigns to show how mercury affects pregnant women and the effects such exposure can have on the unborn child. The campaign report entitled “Halting the child brain drain: Why we need to tackle global mercury contamination’’ is available here

Governments and all stakeholders involved need to build upon this momentum by undertaking mercury reduction activities in parallel, and ratifying the treaty as far as possible, according to Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, International Coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group.

The WHO Executive Board Resolution available here must be approved at the World Health Assembly at their annual meeting in May before it is finalised.


  • The WHO Resolution is available here
  • The press release from the Zero Mercury Working Group is available here
  • HEAL press release on Professor Philippe Grandjean’s cost estimate study on health damages of mercury available here

Originally posted on 6 February 2014

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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