GENEVA — A new and legally binding international treaty to reduce harmful emissions of mercury was adopted Saturday by more than 140 nations, capping four years of difficult negotiations but stopping short of some of the tougher measures that proponents had envisioned.
The new accord aims to cut mercury pollution from mining, utility plants and a host of products and industrial processes, by setting enforceable limits and encouraging shifts to alternatives in which mercury is not used, released or emitted.
Mercury, known to be a poison for centuries, is natural element that cannot be created or destroyed. It is released into the air, water and land from small-scale artisanal gold mining, coal-powered plants, and from discarded electronic or consumer products such as electrical switches, thermostats and dental amalgam fillings. Mercury compound goes into batteries, paints and skin-lightening creams.