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UNEP mercury treaty exempts vaccines for children


The fifth and final session of negotiations on the Minamata Concention on Mercury, named for the Japanese city that suffered severe mercury poisoning in the 1950s, finished in Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday January 19.

The treaty provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted. These range from batteries, switches, thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal-fired power sectors. The treaty says that these mercury-added products,  may not be manufactured, imported or exported any later than 2020.

“Everyone in the world stands to benefit from the decisions taken this week in Geneva — in particular, the workers and families of small-scale gold miners, the peoples of the Arctic, and this generation of mothers and babies and the generations to come,” said Achim Steiner, United Nations undersecretary-general and executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which facilitated the meeting of delegates from 140 member states.

While mercury containing cosmetics, pesticides and dental amalgams are also to be phased out, certain mercury-added products are to be exempted from the ban, including those used for military and civil protection, products with no mercury-free alternative, products used in religious or traditional practices, and vaccines containing thimerosal, an ethylmercury preservative.

The omission of thimerosal-containing vaccines from the ban disappointed advocates who believe the preservative plays a role in sickening some children.
“Children’s health took a backseat to special interests. The only major purposeful exposure to mercury that didn’t get addressed was thimerosal,” said Eric Uram, executive director at SafeMinds, which seeks to eradicate autism and other health disorders they say are caused by mercury and man-made toxicants.

However, as we have reported before, the use of thimerosal vaccines was supported by specialists who advise the World Health Organization, and groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“This treaty will not bring immediate reductions of mercury emissions. It will need to be improved and strengthened, to make all fish safe to eat,” said David Lennett from the Natural Resources Defense Council representing the Zero Mercury Working Group a global coalition of environmental NGOs “Still, the treaty will phase out mercury in many products and we welcome it as a starting point.”

The signing of the global mercury ban will occur in October in Minamata, Japan  and it will take effect once ratified by 50 countries -- something organisers expect will take three to four years

Related information

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

Related EVISA Resources

Link database: Mercury exposure through the diet
Link database: Environmental cycling of mercury
Link database: Toxicity of Organo-mercury compounds
Link database: Research projects related to organo-mercury compounds

Related EVISA News

January 14, 2013: United Nations Global Mercury Treaty: Fifth and final session
December 18, 2012: Pediatricians Argue to Keep Thimerosal in Some Vaccines
December 9, 2012: Mercury in fish more dangerous than previously believed; Scientists urge for effective treaty ahead of UN talks
October 12, 2012: Prenatal mercury intake linked to ADHD
July 15, 2012: World Health Organization Fails In Its Effort To Defend Mercury In Vaccines Before United Nations
October 28, 2011: WHO worries mercury treaty could affect costs and availability of vaccines
August 8, 2011: UNEP Global Mercury Treaty May Include Ban on Mercury in Medicine
June 19, 2011: Committee for Socio-economic Analysis agrees on two draft opinions on restriction proposals for mercury compounds under REACH

last time modified: March 2, 2014


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