SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
13 August 2015
Volume 16 Issue 8

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Update on the SETAC Global Mercury Partnership Working Group

Michael S. Bank, University of Massachusetts, Davide Vignati, CNRS, and Bruce W. Vigon, SETAC Scientific Affairs Manager

In January 2011, SETAC decided to join the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Mercury Partnership. More recently, the society sought 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 and Upcoming SETAC Mercury Symposiums and Sessions
As part of its activities in parallel with the global mercury partnership and in conjunction with SETAC Europe, the working group organized a well-attended Mercury Biogeochemistry and Remediation session in May 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  Furthermore, in addition to hosting a session on the UNEP Minamata Convention on Mercury, the working group held and conducted a strategic planning meeting with participants from the US State Department, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNEP at the SETAC Vancouver meeting. A mercury biogeochemistry and policy session is being planned for SETAC Europe 2016 in Nantes, France, with details to follow shortly.

What's Next?
On the schedule are symposiums, updates on a new collaboration with GEF and the Global Mercury Observation System, and presentations including the following activities listed below. The next main event is the 11th SETAC Europe Special Science Symposium, which will be held from 20–21 October at Hotel Marivaux in Brussels, Belgium. The meeting is titled “Global Environmental Change and Mercury Pollution: Environmental Governance, Research and Management of Converging Issues.”

This symposium will address how science, biomonitoring and policy can be integrated for the successful implementation of the UNEP Minamata Convention on Mercury. This SESSS is designed as a capacity building event with the goal to bring together different stakeholders to develop methods and application of these methods to the UNEP Minamata Convention and to discuss current and future research needs. Given the breadth of the Minamata Convention, we plan to focus the symposium on selected aspects that will require the most immediate and broad attention from signatory countries upon the ratification and entry into action of the convention. Special attention will be dedicated to the current provision of EU legislation with regard to mercury management and risk assessment.

The symposium will address the following themes:

  • Identification of research and practical needs to develop global, regional and local networks for monitoring mercury emissions and releases
  • Harmonization of different local, regional and global policies for mercury management for contaminated sites (i.e., definition of adequate reference toxicity values)
  • Accelerated transfer of cutting-edge global-scale research and monitoring into implementation of the Convention
  • Environmental and public health
  • Assessment and evaluation of progress on global data management, storage, and access and retrieval (UNEP LIVE and Global Mercury Observation System (GMOS) Platforms)

This symposium will be important for the effective management of mercury releases to the environment and the development of regulatory initiatives for successful implementation of the Minamata Convention.

The SETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting, held from 22–26 May 2016 in Nantes, France, will feature a mercury biogeochemistry and policy session. More details will be announced at a later date.

SETAC Partners with the Global Environmental Partnership
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 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.

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 Brussels!

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