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UN demands deal to phase-out use of mercury

by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) Nov 12, 2007
The United Nations Monday urged governments to reach a deal on phasing-out the use of mercury, a toxic pollutant harmful to human health and the environment.

Although many countries have taken steps to cut the use of the poisonous heavy metal and its release into the environment, more needs to be done according to the Nairobi office of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

"However the fact remains that a comprehensive and decisive response to the global challenge of mercury is not in place and this needs to be urgently addressed," UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said in a statement.

The UNEP call came as governments and experts met on Monday in the Thai capital Bangkok to discuss ways of reducing the use of mercury with a range of options, including voluntary measures and legally binding treaties, on the agenda.

Although rich nations have dramatically slashed their use of mercury, the element is still used in poor nations in the small-scale extraction of gold, UNEP said.

Exposure to mercury can damage the nervous system, the kidney, the brain and foetuses.

"There is no real reason to wait...viable alternatives exist for virtually all products containing mercury and industrial processes using mercury," Steiner explained.

In February, the UNEP governing council agreed on the eradication of mercury but stopped short of enacting a legally-binding treaty.

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Britain the 'dustbin of Europe': official
London (AFP) Nov 12, 2007
Britain has become the "dustbin of Europe" as Britons throw more rubbish into landfill sites than any other country in the European Union, new figures showed Monday.

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