UN conference on mercury use begins in Japan
AFPTOKYO -- A U.N. conference to sign a historic treaty aimed at reining in the use and emission of mercury began Monday in Kumamoto, near Minamata, the site of Japan's worst-ever industrial poisoning.
October 8, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Delegates from some 140 countries and regions are scheduled to attend the five-day conference in the country's southwest, organizers said.
The conference comes after a January agreement on details of the world's first legally binding treaty on mercury, a highly toxic metal.
Preparatory meetings kicked off Monday at the venue, the organizers said, while local media said the treaty is likely to be adopted unanimously on Thursday.
The treaty has been named the Minamata Convention on Mercury, in honor of the Japanese city where around 2,000 people died and many more were made sick by mercury dumped by a local factory.
Delegates are to visit Minamata on Wednesday to mourn the victims.
The treaty will take effect once ratified by 50 countries — something organizers expect will take three to four years.
Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is found in products ranging from electrical switches, thermometers and light bulbs, to amalgam dental fillings and even facial creams.
Serious mercury poisoning affects the body's immune system and development of the brain and nervous system, posing the greatest risk to fetuses and infants.