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UNEP Global Mercury Treaty May Include Ban on Mercury in Medicine


In February 2009, the Governing Council of UNEP agreed on the need to develop a global legally binding instrument on mercury.  The work to prepare this instrument is undertaken by an intergovernmental negotiating committee supported by the Chemicals Branch of the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics as secretariat.
It is planned that the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee will be carried out over five sessions:
  •     INC 1:  7 to 11 June 2010, Stockholm, Sweden
  •     INC 2:  24 to 28 January 2011, Chiba, Japan
  •     INC 3:  31 October to 4 November 2011, Nairobi
  •     INC 4:  June 2012 (to be confirmed)
  •     INC 5:  early 2013 (to be confirmed)
Mercury compounds, such as Thimerosal (49.6% mercury by weight), are still used as a vaccine preservative and in-process sterilizing agent, and are an unnecessary, and sometimes undisclosed, component in many vaccines. Its use is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, cancerbirth defects and miscarriage. Those most vulnerable to the toxic effects of Thimerosal in vaccines are the unborn and newborn.

As a reaction to the discussion during INC2 in Chiba, UNEP distributed a revised text for its comprehensive global treaty on mercury now also mentioning pharmaceuticals.

UNEP's revised text for its comprehensive global treaty on mercury:
The Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD) helped initiate this addition through its advocacy efforts at the United Nations (UN) negotiations held in Chiba, Japan, in January 2011. CoMeD President Rev. Lisa Sykes, the mother of a son diagnosed with vaccine-related mercury poisoning, described to representatives of over 150 participating nations how:  "... unnecessarily injecting mercury into pregnant women and children, as part of a vaccine or other drug, is an ongoing and often unrecognized crisis."

Addressing the diplomats attending the UN meeting in Chiba, Dr. Mark R. Geier of CoMeD observed : "For this treaty to be fully effective, it must make clear that the intentional exposure of humans, especially pregnant women and young children, to mercury, will not be tolerated."

Dr. Geier's comments were especially well-received by the diplomats from developing nations. CoMeD representatives met with regional working groups in closed-door sessions and explained the feasibility of using 2-phenoxyethanol, a much less toxic alternative to Thimerosal, in vaccines and other drugs.

Dr. Geier challenged the inequity of providing wealthy nations with vaccines having reduced levels of mercury while poor nations still receive vaccines containing dangerously high levels of mercury: "Children around the world, no matter their place of birth or their income level, deserve safe mercury-free vaccines. The practice of providing mercury-reduced and mercury-free vaccines to developed countries while insisting that developing nations take mercury-containing ones is wrong."

By the end of negotiations in Chiba, diplomats from developing countries requested the Secretariat to assess the safety of mercury in drugs.

A team of scientists and advocates from CoMeD will attend the next treaty negotiation in Nairobi, Kenya, from October 31 through November 4, 2011, to support keeping this global ban on mercury-containing drugs in the finalized UN treaty.

Source: Adapted from CoMeD

Related Information

UNEP: Reducing Risk from Mercury
UNEP: Mercury publications
UNEP: New draft text for a comprehensive and suitable approach to a global legally binding instrument on mercury
FDA: Thimerosal in vaccines
 CDC: Thimerosal in Vaccines: A Joint Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service
 Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD): Calls for Ban on Mercury in Vaccines
 Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD): Documents related to the use of thimerosal  in vccines
 Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD): The Viability of Using Non-mercury Preservatives in Vaccines
 Vaccination News, March 14, 2011: Thimerosal Containing Vaccines, Part I

U.S. House of Representatives' 2003 report: Mercury in Medicine - Taking Unnecessary Risks (the result of a 3-year investigation)

Related EVISA Resources

 EVISA Link database: Industrial use of mercury and its compounds
 EVISA Link database: Toxicity of inorganic mercury compounds
 EVISA Link database: Toxicity of organic mercury compounds
EVISA Link database: All about thimerosal (thiomersal)

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 EVISA News, May 3, 2006: Texas Study Relates Autism to Environmental Mercury

last time modified: August, 9, 2011


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