Published On: Wed, Oct 20th, 2010

The Combat with Mercury

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Asif Hussain.

Fully armed Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) including twelve ‘Dirty Chemicals’ and mercury are of great concern today. The continued existence of hundreds and thousands of species of POP, worldwide is a great threat for human existence in this modern age. Moreover, the harvest of more than 5.2 billion chemicals is a great terrorization to the world ecosystem. Among these chemicals; mercury is one of the noxious elements that are a threat to the life in many ways. The innocent use of mercury in our daily life is a huge challenge which must be addressed properly to avoid immense loss to the human environment. The Global Mercury Assessment (GMA) by a UNEP working group shows that environmental mercury level has increased considerably since the on-set of industrial age.

Unfortunately the mismanagement practices have lead to the significant risk to the human and natural environment. This very element, mercury, has penetrated into the life, and developed profound roots. At this stage it is pretty hard to eliminate the use of it. This monotonous element is now said to be at hand in an assortment of food items, especially fish due to human-generated sources. Modern studies have shown that the toxicity of this substance is affecting human, wildlife, and the ecosystem. It has been noticed that it is the mercury which is responsible for the extinction of a number of different species worldwide. If we do not take proper measures now, we won’t be able to undo the loss to different species. The problem is threatening because we, human the so called superior creature are not even aware fully of such a massive loss.

The studies have found that the mercury is swearing threat to our young developing generation. It destroys the nervous system of foetus and young children. Hence, mercury is a serious threat to human existence and perfection. In this way it is a threat to nations; both developed and developing. The problem is that, knowing so much about mercury; it is still part of our domestic purposes. It is being used in small-sale gold mining, manometers and thermometers, electrical switches, florescent lamps, dental amalgams, batteries and VCM (vinyl-chloride-monomer) production and some pharmaceutical.

Significantly mercury releases to the environment and emissions to air, but mercury is also released from sources directly to water and land. Important emission sources include; coal-fired power generation, waste incineration, cement, steel and chlor-alkali production, gold and other metals mining, cremation, landfills and other sources such as secondary smelting operations and industrial inorganic chemical production.

One of the uniqueness of mercury is; once released; mercury persists in the environment where it circulates between air, water, soils and biota in various forms. Once deposited, the form can change to methyl-mercury, a particularly hazardous form that concentrates up food chains, especially mercury due to dental amalgam and occupation. Other source of exposure includes skin-lightening creams. Mercury is also being used in ritualistic proposes and in traditional medicines, and mercury spills in the home.

Mercury is not just dangerous for human. As the mercury level has been increased in seas and oceans from a number of non point sources. Human, especially the western world, that consumes more of it at risk. Along with the wildlife that rely on fish like; Otters, Eagles, Seals, and some Whales, are also at risk.

The UNEP Governing Council concluded, at its session in February 2003, after considering the key findings of the Global Mercury Assessment report, that there is sufficient evidence of significant global adverse impacts from mercury to warrant further international action to reduce risks to humans and wildlife from the release of mercury to the environment. The Council decided that national, regional and global actions must be initiated as soon as possible and urge all countries to adopt global and take actions, as appropriate, to identify populations at risk and to reduce human generated releases.

In response to the Governing Council request, UNEP has established a mercury program within UNEP chemicals, with the immediate objective to encourage all countries to adopt goals and take actions, as appropriate, to identify exposed populations, minimize exposures through outreach efforts, and reduce anthropogenic mercury releases.

UNEP Governing Council decisions 29/9 and 24/3 calls for work to be facilitated on the promotion and development of inventories of mercury uses and releases. A key training and guidance document that supports countries efforts to take on mercury is the ‘toolkit for identification and qualification of mercury releases.’ The toolkit was finalized in November 2005. Project will provide a start in identifying and qualifying mercury use and release in the pilot countries while pilot testing the methodology outlined within the toolkit through the Asian Mercury Inventory Pilot Project (AMIPP). Countries will apply inventory results to develop associated action plans on mercury to assist in communicating results nationally and setting priorities on next step with regard to mercury pollution. Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Yemen are participating in the pilot project.

Appropriate measure should be taken to combat with these in order to avoid a great loss in the distant future. I warn every educated citizen of the present time to take certain measures against mercury to save their future. It is the behest of the every single personage that the authority must take necessary actions to cope with the use of mercury. They should make sound institutional and programmatic national framework, effective project, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, legislation and enforcement, and ensure participation of private and public sector and civil society in chemical management.

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