Stockholm Hosts Meeting to Ban Mercury

Stockholm will host the world’s first large-scale negotiations about halting the use of mercury, news agency TT reports. The conference’s goal is to produce a global, legally-binding agreement to stop production and use of the heavy metal by 2013 at the latest.

Sweden adopted a ban on mercury on June 1 last year, and has been very active alongside other Nordic countries in pushing for its prohibition in the EU and the rest of the world. Last year, the United States abandoned its requirement that the ban be purely voluntary, paving the way for other superpowers like China and India to consider a prohibition.

Hundreds of politicians, officials, and experts from the world will gather at the Stockholm conference, which will begin on Monday. While the time frame for the negotiations has already been decided, the conference aims to set out guidelines for exactly how a ban can be achieved.

Mercury is a global environmental problem, as winds can spread the toxic metal thousands of kilometers across international borders. Every year, 2,000 tons of mercury are extracted from the earth, even though the metal cannot degrade. Instead, mercury remains in nature, threatening the health of people and animals. Even small amounts of the metal can damage the body, especially the central nervous system.

Most countries have halted production of mercury, but China still produces significant amounts.