UN Sees Mercury Use Phase-Out Within 3 Decades

GENEVA (AP) — The head of the U.N. environment agency says a new global treaty could eliminate harmful emissions of mercury from the planet within three decades.

Achim Steiner, the executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, says the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which was formally adopted as international law last week, sends "a very clear signal" that the use of mercury in industrial processes, cosmetics and medical equipment is essentially over.

The treaty, which was agreed to in January in Geneva and still requires ratification by 50 nations, includes rules affecting so-called artisanal or small-scale gold mining.

Mercury is a natural element that accumulates in fish and goes up the food chain, causing nerve damage to pregnant women, women of child-bearing age and young children.

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