UN finds rising mercury emissions poses health threat, need for global accord

The Associated Press
Associated Press

GENEVA - The U.N. environment agency says mercury pollution in the top layer of the world's oceans has doubled in the past century, part of a serious man-made problem that will require international co-operation to fix.

The U.N. Environment Program's report Thursday also showed for the first time that hundreds of tons of mercury previously known to be held in soils have leaked into rivers and lakes around the world.

The report, an update on its previous global tallies of mercury in 2002 and 2007, comes in advance of talks in Geneva next week between nations negotiating a new legally binding treaty to reduce mercury emissions worldwide.

Mercury, a toxic metal that accumulates in fish and goes up the food chain, is widely used in chemical production and small-scale mining, particularly gold.