US reverses stance on mercury pollution

JOHANNESBURG, (IRIN) - The new US administration this week reversed the country's position on the control of mercury by calling for a legally binding treaty to limit global mercury pollution.

The US delegation announced that the country would endorse a new treaty at the opening meeting of the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Bush administration opposed legally binding measures to control mercury, despite broad support among a majority of countries in the UNEP Governing Council, according to the Environment News Service.

'Mercury is a persistent, bio-accumulative, transboundary pollutant that contaminates air, soil, water and fish,' said the bulletin. 'Of the 6,000 metric tonnes of mercury entering the environment annually, some 2,000 tonnes comes from coal-fired power stations and coal fires in homes,' it quoted UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner as saying.