The United States has dropped its opposition to an international treaty limiting mercury emissions, prompting agreement by over 140 nations to negotiate such a treaty.
Formal negotiations will begin late this year, and U.N. officials hope to conclude the talks by 2013. The White House issued a statement saying a future treaty would use "a combination of legally binding and voluntary commitments" to cut mercury emissions from industrial processes as well as coal-fired power plants and small-scale mining. . . .
A range of industrial activities, including the production of chlorine and the burning of coal, release mercury, which then falls to the earth and the sea in precipitation. The neurotoxin accumulates in fish and marine mammals in the form of methylmercury, which poses a threat to humans when consumed.
While the majority of mercury exposure in the United States stems from non-domestic emissions, all 50 states have issued mercury contamination advisories for fish in their waters. Marine mammals eaten by native Arctic peoples, such as pilot and beluga whales, have mercury concentrations that exceed recommended levels.