SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  3 November 2011
Volume 12 Issue 11

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Update on SETAC’s Global Mercury Partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme

Michael Bank (Harvard Medical School) and Davide Vignati (Italian Water Research Institute)

SETAC’s decision last December to join the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Mercury Partnership and more recently to seek observer status in the negotiations on a global mercury convention have opened exciting new opportunities for our members. Here we provide an update of recent activities.

In May 2011, SETAC members attended an organizational meeting at the SETAC Europe 21st Annual Meeting (15–19 May 2011) in Milan, Italy. In addition to this meeting we presented an informational poster that was very well attended. Additionally, in late July 2011, the SETAC global mercury partnership presented a poster and an oral presentation, and held a private meeting with the UNEP global mercury staff at the 11th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant in Halifax, Canada.

Next up is the first formal global mercury session, which will be held at SETAC North America’s 32nd Annual Meeting in Boston, MA, USA This session is scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, 15 November in Room 311. Also, look for the SETAC global mercury informational meeting in Boston, scheduled for 6:30 PM on the same day in Room 300.

Since its inception in January 2011, the partnership has identified eight priority areas in which SETAC is particularly looking to promote scientific advances:

  • Mercury isotope chemistry and source apportionment models
  • Human and animal toxicology and exposure
  • Climate change, global modeling and mercury bioavailability
  • Mercury emissions from cement factories
  • Risk communication
  • Mercury emissions from coal-fired plants
  • Environmental risk assessment protocols for mercury
  • Identification and summary of mercury-contaminated sites

We have also scheduled global mercury sessions, meetings, and upcoming publications including:

  • SETAC Europe 22nd Annual Meeting, 20–24 May 2012, Berlin, Germany – Abstract Submission is now open and the deadline is 30 November 2011 (see details below). Session F11: Global Mercury: Bridging Science and Policy.
  • SETAC Asia/Pacific 2012– To Be Announced, Spring 2012
  • Synthesis papers (6) and an editorial for a special section of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry in Autumn, 2012.

SETAC 6th World Congress / SETAC Europe 22nd Annual Meeting, Berlin – Mercury Session
F11 - Global Mercury: Bridging science and policy

Proposed chairs: Michael Bank1, Davide Vignati2
1Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, 2Italian Water Research Institute, Brugherio, Italy

Description: Widespread mercury deposition and contamination is well documented and remains an environmental public-health concern in both developed and developing countries. In early 2013, the UNEP’s internationally binding treaty on the control of mercury will be signed. Documentation of the pervasiveness of this contaminant is a first step toward understanding the potential environmental health and ecological implications of mercury pollution and will be critical to the success of the UNEP program. Conveying to regulators that certain ecosystems may be degraded and that, despite globally low Hg levels in abiotic matrices, policies is another critical step for developing the required regulation to reduce mercury emissions and, ultimately, improve air and water quality. In practice, a more synthesized, holistic perspective on the mechanisms related to aquatic and terrestrial biogeochemistry linkages of fate, transport, and bioavailability of mercury in aquatic ecosystems will have to result from long term, multi-ecosystem monitoring programs coupled with process-oriented research questions. At the same time, the existing (or newly developed) regulatory tools will have to combine ease of implementation and cost effectiveness with scientific soundness and the ability to detect ecosystem and human health improvements (or lack thereof) over time. A substantial harmonization effort of such tools, either globally or at least regionally, will also be needed. SETAC is particularly looking to promote advances in mercury isotope chemistry, new mercury source apportionment models, Environmental Risk Assessment protocols for mercury, and development of appropriate environmental quality standards. Contributions on all aspects of Hg research are welcome including case studies, global (or large-scale) assessments and inventories of Hg emissions, fundamental studies dealing with the biogeochemistry (including analytical aspects) and ecotoxicology of Hg, and regulatory issues and risk assessment procedures for environmental and public health.

We look forward to your participation and hope you can provide us with guidance on how to make this partnership truly flourish. Please send us information on what we can do to assist you and feel free to contact us with any ideas, comments, questions and suggestions or simply to learn more about how to get involved with this exciting new SETAC-UNEP initiative. Please send an email to one of us to be included on the SETAC-UNEP Global Mercury Partnership email distribution list to receive detailed updates.

Thank you, very much, and we look forward to seeing you in Boston and Berlin!

Author contact information:,

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