SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
12 December 2013
Volume 14 Issue 12

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SETAC Co-Sponsors Mercury Science and Policy Symposium in Kumamoto, Japan Ahead of UNEP Convention

Michael S. Bank, University of Massachusetts, Davide A.L. Vignati, CNRS - University of Lorraine, Koji Arizono, Prefectural University of Kumamoto and Bruce W. Vigon, SETAC

Minamata Disease Victim's Memorial, Minamata City, Japan

Widespread mercury deposition and contamination is well documented and remains an environmental and public health concern in both developed and developing countries. Recently, in October 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) internationally binding convention on the control of mercury was opened for signature in Kumamoto, Japan and to date is signed by 94 countries and ratified by the United States. The text of the convention contains several passages showing areas where scientists can guide governments and stakeholders in choosing the best approaches, procedures and methodologies to effectively bring mercury pollution under control.

SETAC’s decisions in January 2011 to join the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership and to seek observer status in the negotiations on a global mercury convention have opened exciting new collaborative opportunities for our mem­bers to share their expertise with the scientific and envi­ronmental policy communities at large. Since its official inception into the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, SETAC has identified many research areas which intersect with the UNEP partnership areas.  SETAC’s efforts in the partnership are centered on promoting scientific advances, outreach and exchange of information with regard to the emerging and changing landscape of global mercury policy, especially with regard to ecotoxicology and environmental chemistry.

As part of its activities in the global mercury partnership and in conjunction with the National Institute for Minamata Disease  (NIMD), SETAC organized a Mercury Science and Policy Symposium in Kumamoto, Japan on 6 October 2013. The symposium focused on how scientific knowledge on mercury pollution is embedded in the convention text and covered a wide array of topics including mercury fate, sources and transport in heterogeneous environments, global emissions modeling, biogeochemistry, soils and remediation, ecotoxicology, atmospheric chemistry, policy and human health.  Participants in the symposium learned about the latest developments of mercury environmental toxicology, chemistry and policy and were able to make valuable connections with other professionals in their area of interest. Speakers and panelists included both experienced and recognized experts from academia, business and government as well as scientists showing the potential for being leaders in the near future. Approximately 175 participants from several countries throughout the globe and a 14-member expert panel from various mercury-related research fields convened to synthesize and discuss the current state of scientific information on mercury's environmental behavior and potential associated risks from sources to receptors.

The organizing committee thanks all speakers, experts, participants and the sponsors for their contributions. We also thank Meiko Shioya (PRIME International) for her assistance with logistics. Upcoming deliverables from the symposium will include a series of white papers and a synthesis of the science supporting the final text of the UNEP convention. The symposium and SETAC’s work with NIMD are great examples of successful international collaborations and the Society’s commitment to bridging environmental science, toxicology and policy and supporting information exchange and synthesis on mercury pollution and other global en­vironmental issues.  

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