Since 2004, Arnika - Toxics and Waste Programme participated in the international negotiations about new treaty on mercury which is called Minamata Convention since October 2013 when it was signed in Kumamoto, Japan. We were originally active especially in the Czech Republic with the aim to make Czech chlor-alkali plants stop using mercury in chlorine production, which was partially achieved (se the web for hot spots of Spolana Neratovice and Spolchemie Ústí nad Labem).
Since 2005, we have been active in negotiations of the European strategy for mercury reduction and later on we also participated actively in international talks on the grounds of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which resulted in launch of talks on a new international agreement on mercury in February 2009. Between November 2008 and April 2009, we coordinated an international project focused on research of mercury presence in items of everyday life and medical devices in eight countries. We host the secretariat of the IPEN Toxic Metals Working Group. Jindřich Petrlík, an executive director of the Arnika - Toxics and Waste Programme is one of two co-chairs of the IPEN Toxic Metals Working Group.
Chemical Plants as a Significant Source of Mercury Contamination in the CEE Region
Implementing period: 2014 – 2015
Locations: Albania, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Romania, Slovakia
We evaluated level of contamination in surrounding of different chemical plants using mercury in their technologies, both past and current ones. This was one of IMEAP projects in CEE region. Its final outcome was a regional report.
Global monitoring of mercury in fish and hair
Implementing period: 2012 – 2013
Locations: Many countries in 4 continents
We helped to coordinate this project as IPEN's Toxic Metals Working Group Secretariat. Major leadin organizations of the project were IPEN and BRI (Biodiversity Research Institute). We have prepared also final national reports for each of participating countries, in coopeation with local NGOs in these countries. All reports are available under Reports on fish and hair mercury monitoring.
Toxic pollution in Kazakhstan: EU-funded project suggests solutions for seriously contaminated sites in order to reduce hazards for human health
Toxic pollution in Central Kazakhstan: EU-funded project reveals serious problems and hazards for human health
Mercury Releases May Be Reduced by Advanced Technologies. A List of Them Will Be Made by Experts from All Over the World
A new study shows that high mercury concentrations are present in fish and human hair from all over the world
Will the international convention help in preventing Elbe and Ohre rivers from mercury contamination?
Czech bream wins – at least in the concentration of mercury in blood. And it lives in the Elbe under Spolana
New Mercury Treaty negotiations heading towards losing the right to be called the “Minamata Convention”
Chlor-alkali plants: Neratovice, Ústí nad Labem and Some Other Chemical Hot Spots in the Czech Republic
Mercury in fish
Microorganisms (bacteria, phytoplankton in the ocean, and fungi) convert inorganic mercury to methylmercury. Methylmercury released from microorganisms can enter the water or soil and remain there for a long time, particularly if the methylmercury becomes attached to small particles in the soil or water. Mercury usually stays on the surface of sediments or soil and does not move through the soil to underground water. If mercury enters the water in any form, it is likely to settle to the bottom where it can remain for a long time.
Mercury can enter and accumulate in the food chain. The form of mercury that accumulates in the food chain is methylmercury. Inorganic mercury does not accumulate up the food chain to any extent. When small fish eat the methylmercury in food, it goes into their tissues. When larger fish eat smaller fish or other organisms that contain methylmercury, most of the methylmercury originally present in the small fish will then be stored in the bodies of the larger fish. As a result, the larger and older fish living in contaminated waters build up the highest amounts of methylmercury in their bodies. Saltwater fish (especially sharks and swordfish) that live a long time and can grow to a very large size tend to have the highest levels of mercury in their bodies.
There were 120 reports about exceeded mercury levels in Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed within EU mainly fish coming from all parts of the globe for 2009 – April 2010, what means that every 4th day was found a contaminated food on the market during this period.
Mercury levels in fish from the Czech Republic can be found in the press release from February 2009.