Japan joins Minamata convention against mercury pollution


Japan on Tuesday became the 23rd country to join the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international pollution treaty on the toxic metal that requires approval by 50 countries for it to take effect.

The convention describes mercury as “a chemical of global concern.” It aims to cut emissions and releases of mercury into the environment and to establish protocols for mercury storage and disposal.

It would also regulate exports of the chemical and seek to ban by 2020 the manufacture of mercury-added products such as thermometers and batteries as well as their import and export.

Japanese Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa presented the instrument of acceptance at the United Nations headquarters in New York, making Japan’s participation official after the Diet endorsed it last year.

“We would like to step up calls on other countries” to follow suit so that there will be enough parties for the treaty to come into force, Yoshikawa told reporters afterward.

The convention was adopted at a 2013 U.N.-led conference in Kumamoto Prefecture. It takes its name from the prefectural city of Minamata, where industrial mercury emissions poisoned thousands of people. 2016 marks 60 years since so-called Minamata Disease came to light in 1956.

“Japan has a dark past. We don’t want other countries to go through what Japan has experienced,” Yoshikawa said of the disease.