The fifth and final session of the International Negotiating Committee to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury (INC5) is taking place January 13-18 in Geneva, Switzerland. Established in 2009 by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and ministers of the environment from over 140 countries, the committee has the goal of developing an international treaty to curb mercury emissions and discharges in order to reduce this threat to human health and the environment. The committee plans to have all negotiations completed prior to the 27th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum taking place this February in Kenya, and to ratify the treaty later this year in Japan.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of nearly 100 non-governmental organizations that advocate for human health and the environment. With the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum, ZMWG strives to eliminate the supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources. In advance of the INC5 session in Geneva, ZMWG released a report last month urging that the acceptable limits of dietary exposure to mercury be lowered based on the findings of recent epidemiological research, while encouraging the consumption of seafood species that are known to be low in mercury.

Global Seafood Mercury Concentrations

Through collaborative research, the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) assesses emerging threats to wildlife and ecosystems, while using those finding to inform decision makers and advance environmental awareness. The BRI Center for Mercury studies, in cooperation with ZMWG and also in advance of the INC5 session, released a report last month based on the data compiled in their Global Biotic Mercury Synthesis Database – a project that collected data about the concentrations of mercury in marine species from around the world – to identify which species of seafood can safely contribute to nutritional needs and compared this to global marine fish harvest data: Mercury in the Global Environment: Patterns of Global Seafood Mercury Concentrations and their Relationship with Human Health.

Fate of Mercury in Animal Inoculations

Ethylmercury is a major component of thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, and it has neurotoxic effects that are similar to those of methylmercury, but its tissue deposition and clearance rates in organisms are not well-understood. In order to better understand the tissue deposition patterns of mercury originating from vaccines, a rapid, sensitive, simple analytical method for determining mercury species in biological tissues was developed at Brooks Rand Labs.