This global agreement is an important step forward in protecting public health and the environment from mercury pollution, although some areas of the treaty leave much to be desired. The following is a review of some of the key provisions the directly address public health concerns.
Negotiated over several years and set to be signed at a diplomatic conference in Japan in October 2013, the Minamata treaty sets a phase-‐out date of 2020 for most mercury containing products—including thermometers and blood pressure devices, and calls for the phase-‐down of dental amalgam. Once the convention enters into force it will also prohibit new mercury mines and phase out existing ones. The convention text restricts the trade of mercury and provides for financing for the implementation of some of its provisions.
However, the treaty’s strictures on coal fired power plants and artisanal and small-‐ scale gold mining (ASGM) —the two largest sources of mercury emissions—are relatively weak, creating a situation where overall global mercury pollution may continue to climb despite the global agreement. While the treaty will assure that mercury pollution will not be nearly as great as it would have been without it, the weakness in control measures for mercury emissions from coal combustion andASGM are cause for concern that increases in mercury pollution will continue globally, adversely impacting public health.