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Mercury is a heavy metal that is highly toxic to living organisms. When it accumulates in their bodies, it can cause disorders of the nervous, immune and reproductive systems. Due to its extreme volatility, it travels in the atmosphere. As a result, 200 tonnes of mercury end up in the Arctic each year and contaminate the fish there which is caught for human consumption.
The aim of the new convention is to reduce the production and use of mercury in the manufacture of products and industrial processes, in particular. It also regulates the storage and processing of waste containing mercury. As a tribute to the inhabitants of Minimata, Japan, who were affected by very serious mercury poisoning for decades, the convention will be formally adopted there in October 2013.
A successful idea from Switzerland
"The adoption of the mercury convention demonstrates the vitality of the UN system and the willingness of states to work together to find solutions to global problems," said Franz Perrez, head of the Swiss negotiating delegation in Geneva. Switzerland, which hosts the environmental policy centre of competence for chemical products and toxic waste in Geneva, "is very pleased with this new development in the global management of the substances that most toxic to health and the environment," he added. This success is also an acknowledgement of the commitment of Switzerland which initiated the process ten years ago with Norway and supported it throughout the negotiations. Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard also announced in Geneva on Wednesday that Switzerland will support the early work of the new convention through an additional financial contribution of CHF 1 million.
The new convention will be opened for signature by the states in late 2013. The signing of the convention on behalf of Switzerland is the task of the Federal Council. Its ratification, which will mark the start of its implementation at national level, must be approved by parliament.