A new study by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), has said that exposure to mercury posed health hazards in developing countries.
The Global Mercury Assessment 2013 studies, said that emissions of the toxic metal from artisanal gold mining had doubled since 2005 as a result of new and better information and rising gold prices.
The report said that parts of Africa, Asia and South America could see increasing emissions of mercury into the environment due mainly to its use in small-scale gold mining and the burning to generate electricity.
The UNEP studies, however, warned that greater exposure to mercury posed a threat to the health of about 10 to 15 million people directly involved in small-scale gold mining in these regions.
It also estimated that three million women and children work in the industry.
The agency said that due to its rapid industrialisation, Asia was the largest regional emitter of mercury accounting for half of all global releases.
It stated that accelerated action such as finalising a global legally binding treaty that promotes the availability of low-mercury technologies would help to reduce demand for mercury.
It also said that mercury released from man-made sources could circulate for such a long time, which reinforced the need for swift action by governments, industry and civil society to strengthen efforts to reduce mercury emissions and releases.
Delays in action, according to the report, will lead to slower recovery of ecosystems and a greater legacy of pollution.
Amongst other findings in the studies, UNEP highlighted the ``rising levels of mercury present in the Arctic, where an estimated 200 tonnes of mercury are deposited each year from where it originated.''
Share this news with friends!!!