December 12, 2012
By KATE GALBRAITH
New York Times
AUSTIN, TEXAS — The harm that can be caused by consuming or breathing mercury is well known and terrible. A pregnant woman, eating too much of the wrong kind of fish, risks bearing a child with neurological damage. Adults or children exposed to mercury can experience mood swings or tremors, or sometimes even respiratory failure or death.
In January, representatives of dozens of countries will gather in Geneva to discuss combating mercury emissions, which are rising in Asia even as Europe and the United States have tightened controls. The meeting is the last of five negotiating rounds — the first took place in 2010 in Stockholm — and a legally binding treaty on mercury contamination is expected to come together next year.
The signing of that treaty is set to take place in the Japanese city of Minamata, where widespread mercury poisoning occurred in the mid-20th century after discharges from a factory contaminated the seawater.
But the extent to which countries will commit to reducing mercury, and whether they will follow through on those commitments, are open questions.
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