SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
8 May 2014
Volume 15 Issue 5

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Update on SETAC's Global Mercury Partnership Working Group

Michael S. Bank, University of Massachusetts, Davide Vignati, CNRS, Université de Lorraine and Bruce W. Vigon, SETAC

In January 2011, SETAC decided 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. This has opened exciting new collaborative opportunities for our members. Since its official inception, the partnership has identified nine 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
  • Mercury biogeochemistry
  • Risk communication
  • Mercury emissions from coal-fired plants
  • Environmental risk assessment protocols for mercury
  • Identification and summary of mercury-contaminated sites

Recent activities include:

New Partnership Publications

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Global Mercury Partnership Special Feature

Guest Editors
Michael S. Bank, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA
Davide A.L. Vignati, CNRS, University of Lorraine, Metz, France
Bruce Vigon, SETAC, Pensacola, FL, USA

Bank, M.S., D.A.L. Vignati, and B. Vigon. 2014. The United Nations Environment Programme’s global mercury partnership: Science for successful implementation of the Minamata Convention.

Special Feature Articles
Selin, N. 2014. Global change and mercury cycling: Challenges for implementing a global mercury treaty.

Le Faucheur, S., P.G.C. Campbell, C. Fortin, and V.I. Slaveykova. 2014. Interactions between mercury and phytoplankton: Speciation, bioavailability and internal handling.

Cosio, C., R. Flück, N. Regier and V.I. Slaveykova. 2014. Effects of macrophytes on the fate of mercury in aquatic systems.

Vijayaraghavan K, L. Levin, L. Parker, G. Yarwood, and D. Streets. 2014. Response of fish tissue mercury in a freshwater lake to local, regional and global changes in mercury emissions.

Basu, N., J.M. Goodrich, and J. Head. 2014. Ecogenetics of mercury: From genetic polymorphisms and epigenetics to risk assessment and decision-making.

Višnjevec, A.M., D. Kocman, and M. Horvat. 2014. Human mercury exposure and effects in Europe.

SETAC Meetings

As part of its activities in parallel with the global mercury partnership and in conjunction with the National Institute for Minamata Disease  (NIMD), SETAC organized a Mercury Science and Policy Symposium on 6 October 2013 in Kumamoto, Japan.  Additionally, the working group presented their findings to date to the SETAC Metals Advisory Group at the 2013 SETAC North America annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

What's Next?

On the schedule are global mercury sessions, updates on a new collaboration with the Global Mercury Observation System, presentations and upcoming peer-reviewed publications including the following activities:

SETAC Partners with the Global Mercury Observation System

In order for the effectiveness of large-scale mercury management efforts to be assessed, accurate global and regional scale models are necessary. Given the complexity of mercury biogeochemistry, such models require many different sets of mercury data. Access to high-quality mercury data, in turn, requires stringent protocols for sample collection, sample handling and analysis so that modelers and other data users are able to understand the characteristics and uncertainties inherent in the data. One such database, the Global Mercury Observation System (GMOS), provides both an interoperable platform whose operators require comprehensive data documentation and a geospatial capability to display data in a visual format.

SETAC joined the GMOS as a partner several months ago in order to facilitate the acquisition of high-quality data to, among other uses, provide a basis for assessing the timing and extent of human and environmental exposure reductions as the provisions of the Minamata Convention are implemented. Historically, GMOS has focused on real-time atmospheric mercury measurements using automated analyzers as well as aircraft-captured samples and a limited amount of marine water samples. SETAC member expertise, particularly in biotic sample matrices, will be helpful in expanding the data types within GMOS (and other high quality mercury databases) by increasing the coverage of validated protocols for data submittal and management.

Global Mercury Session at SETAC North America 35th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada

UNEP Minamata Convention on Mercury Pollution: Science for Successful Implementation
Session chairs: Michael S. Bank, Karen A. Kidd, Nil Basu, Davide A.L. Vignati and Bruce W. Vigon

Widespread mercury deposition and contamination is well documented and remains an environmental and public health concern in both developed and developing countries. The Minamata Convention on mercury, signed in Kumamoto, Japan, in October 2013, represents a major effort to develop a global strategy for controlling mercury pollution and mercury-related issues. Documentation of the pervasiveness of this contaminant is a first step toward understanding the potential environmental and human health implications of mercury pollution and will be critical to the successful implementation of the UNEP Minamata Convention. The text of the convention contains several passages showing areas where scientists can guide governments and stakeholders in choosing the best approaches, procedures and methods to effectively bring mercury pollution under control. It is important to convey to regulators that, despite globally low mercury concentrations in some abiotic matrices (excluding contaminated sediments), certain ecosystems and species are susceptible and impacted by mercury and that there is a need to develop sound, science-based policies to reduce mercury emissions and ultimately the related health risks. 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 ecosystems will have to result from long-term and statistically defensible monitoring programs. Furthermore, successful implementation of the convention will likely be dependent on a holistic and solid understanding of mercury bioavailability and effective communication with policymakers. A globally accepted conceptual framework is needed to plan appropriate long-term, multi-ecosystem monitoring programs and to develop or improve regulatory tools that combine ease of implementation, cost effectiveness, scientific soundness and the ability to detect improvements (or lack thereof) of ecosystem and human health over time. The overall objective of this session is to relate the state of mercury scientific understanding to the provisions of the Minamata Convention. Abstracts that consider the role of mercury ecotoxicology, environmental chemical processes, and policy or human dimensions with specific and direct linkages to the convention are strongly encouraged. This is the 7th session since SETAC joined the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership in January 2011.

Stay in Touch!

We look forward to your participation and hope you can provide us with guidance on how to make this partnership 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 the Global Mercury Partnership. Please email us to be included on the Global Mercury Partnership Working Group email distribution list to receive detailed updates.

We look forward to seeing you in Basel, Vancouver and Adelaide in 2014!

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