Health & Chemicals

Global Mercury Cycling

Mercury use and emissions

Mercury is used for various purposes globally, e.g. artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), vinyl chloride monomer and chlor-alkali production. Also various products such as dental amalgam, batteries and lamps contain mercury as an essential ingredient. Further, mercury is emitted into the environment from various sources including mercury-containing fuel combustion, which circulates on a global scale, making mercury management complicated and difficult.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) pointed out the rapid increase of the mercury concentrations in marine species after mid-19th century, which is likely to be caused by anthropogenic emissions. Concerns on adverse health effects from mercury exposures are raised by some Arctic communities who live on fish.

Growing international momentum toward mercury management

The first Global Mercury Assessment developed by UNEP in 2002 alerted the world to the state of global mercury pollution. This report triggered the international momentum of measures to reduce mercury release to environmental media, and eventually led to the commencement of the negotiation process toward the development of an international convention on mercury.