Media Release

CELA calls on Canadian government for quick ratification on Minamata Convention on Mercury

Oct 11 2013

Toronto - Upon release of Canada’s signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury yesterday in Kumamoto, Japan, the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) urges the Canadian government to ratify the Convention in an expedious and unimpeded manner to protect Canadians, global populations and the environment from harmful exposures to mercury.

This Convention is necessary in reducing mercury emissions at the global level. “Canada’s environment and its people from coast to coast to coast continue to experience the negative impact of mercury despite decades of efforts to reduce mercury ”, states Fe de Leon, researcher at CELA. “That`s why it is so important that Canada has now signed the Convention. Now to implement the Convention in Canada, it is necessary to address historical mercury deposition and existing mercury sources comprehensively so that the fish in our lakes can be consumed safely by every Canadian, and the most vulnerable populations – children, developing fetuses, women of child bearing age, fish eating communities, workers and indigenous communities - are protected from mercury exposure. The next step is for our parliamentarians to pursue national plans to eliminate mercury from existing polluting industrial processes and consumer products. Canada and the rest of the world will benefit from reduced mercury impacts.”

Mercury impacts have been well documented. Exposure to mercury has been associated with severe health effects that include effects to the nervous system, thyroid and liver functions, loss of memory and cardiovascular problems. Children, developing fetuses and women are most vulnerable to the impacts of mercury exposure.

In Canada, significant mercury levels have been measured in the Great Lakes basin as well as the northern arctic regions because of its ability to persist in the environment and build up in the food chain. Continuing sources of mercury in Canada have been attributed to releases from the pulp and paper sector, coal fire power plants, dam construction, and consumer products (e.g., dental amalgams, fluorescent lights, vaccines).

The global environmental health community continues to call for strengthening the scope of the Convention by setting targets for overall reduction of mercury emissions and by providing obligations for each Party to prepare national action plans for mercury reduction. The Convention presently includes a list of mercury containing products to be banned by 2020. CELA strongly encourages Canada to begin to take steps to ban those products even prior to the Convention deadline.

“The current level of mercury releases globally has significant human health and environmental implications that can only be addressed through a global commitment. Canada`s participation in the Convention with the global community is one important aspect, Canada also needs to pursue cleaner production and alternative strategies to reduce its own mercury emissions.” states Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel at CELA.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury must be ratified by 50 countries before it enters into force.  View current list of signatories.

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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Fe de Leon, Researcher
Tel.: 416-960-2284 ext 223