Japan and UN Environment announce new efforts to prevent mercury tragedy

Bangkok, THAILAND: July 10, 2019 – 9.25AM (UNEP): Japan’s Ministry of the Environment and the United Nations Environment Programme today announced a new project to protect the environment and human health from adverse impacts of mercury.

Up to $3 million will be allotted to the project, which will help establish a regional mercury monitoring laboratory network in Asia and the Pacific and provide for capacity building and training for countries around the region.

With its first-hand experience of Minamata disease, a serious illness caused by mercury poisoning and named after the Japanese city where it was first discovered, Japan has played a leading role in global mercury reduction. UN Environment Programme hosts the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty designed to safeguard the planet from the dangers of mercury.

Dechen Tsering, UN Environment’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, said, “The dangerous effects of mercury on the environment and human health are now well documented, and the global community is acting to protect people and planet. Japan has long been an important leader on this issue, and this new contribution only serves to underline their commitment.”

Tamami Umeda, Director General for Environmental Health Department of the Ministry of the Environment Japan, said, “In the implementation of the Minamata Convention, we need effective and timely actions. We also need to bring wider stakeholders on board. With that in mind, Japan has launched the new project to enhance mercury monitoring as a basis for enhanced science-based policy-making in towards global mercury pollution.”

Mercury is used in a wide variety of applications and finds its way into the environment through industrial emissions and channels like artisanal gold mining. From the environment, it can be accumulated by some species that are then eaten by humans – with health concerns for high risk populations. Approximately half of the global mercury consumption and emissions occur in Asia and the Pacific.

In addition to the monitoring network and capacity building, the funding will also support the creation of a scientific database with information that governments and institutions can apply toward effective mercury management.

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