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International Cooperation

International Actions for Reducing Mercury Emissions and Use

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that negatively impacts human health and the environment around the world. Mercury pollution is transported globally in the atmosphere and in water, so mercury emitted far away affects people and ecosystems in the United States.
 
The U.S. engages its international partners, multilaterally and bilaterally, to address key mercury issues such as:
  • Data collection and inventory development,
  • Source characterization, and
  • Best practices for emissions and use reduction.

In 2013, the United States joined the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a multilateral environmental agreement that addresses specific human activities which are contributing to widespread mercury pollution. The Minamata Convention entered into force in 2017. Implementation of this agreement will help reduce global mercury pollution over the coming decades.

Learn about EPA's International Work on Mercury: 

Mercury poured from cap into soda bottle.Mercury is used extensively in artisanal and small scale gold mining, often with unsafe techniques. Photo credit: Malgorzata Stylo.                

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UNEP Global Mercury Partnership

As called for by United Nations Environment Program Governing Council Decision 23/9 IV of February 2005, a Global Mercury Partnership Exit was established to achieve reductions in use and emissions of mercury globally. The United States was a catalyst in the formation of the Partnership, and continues to participate actively. The Partnership is divided into seven areas with the following leads or co-leads:
 

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Regional Activities on Mercury

Arctic

The U.S. has strengthened capacity building and technical cooperation programs on mercury issues in the context of the Arctic Contaminants Action Plan (ACAP) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP). 

ACAP and AMAP are bodies of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum whose members include Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the United States, Sweden and Finland.

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Asia

Bilateral Cooperation

The U.S. has developed bilateral mercury cooperation programs to foster assessment and sector-specific improvements in a number of countries including Japan, China and Indonesia.
 

Asia Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network

The Asia Pacific Mercury Monitoring Network (APMMN) is the platform responsible for implementing the International Environmental Partnership’s (IEP) mercury monitoring program. The APMMN was created to establish a harmonized network of air and rainwater mercury monitors in the Asia-Pacific region.  
 
Currently, 18 Asia-Pacific countries participate in APMMN. It is supported by a central mercury testing laboratory, standard operating procedures for field operations, laboratory analysis, and quality assurance, and data sharing agreements.  In 2017, APMMN received international recognition as a model regional network at the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant. 
 
 

Latin America

Mercury Management, Storage and Disposal Action Planning in Peru

Participants at mercury management, storage and disposal action planning workshop (December 2017).

The United States and Peru are both Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which includes Articles specific to mercury storage (Article 10), disposal (Article 11) and capacity building/technical assistance (Article 14). The United States and Peru signed an Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA), which entered into force in 2009. The 2015-2018 update to the Environmental Cooperation Work Program identifies "Institutional and Policy Strengthening for Effective Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Laws" as a priority area. 

In 2017, EPA provided technical support to Peru’s Ministry of Environment (MINAM) on managing, storing and disposing of identified stocks and supplies of mercury in Peru. EPA supported MINAM in organizing and hosting a multisector, public-private stakeholder workshop in Lima to develop action plans which were integrated into Peru’s article-by-article Minamata Implementation Plan. 

Localized Mercury Management and Interim Storage in Colombia

Colombia is signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, currently working toward full ratification. Under the United States—Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA), which entered into force on May 15, 2012, both Parties committed to effectively enforce their own domestic environmental laws and adopt, maintain, and implement laws, regulations, and all other measures to fulfill their obligations under covered multilateral environmental agreements, like the Minamata Convention.

As a part of the United States’ bilateral cooperation with Colombia under the TPA, in support of Minamata Convention obligations to reduce the use, emission and release of toxic mercury into the global environment, EPA continues to engage in a number of capacity building activities with Colombian Ministries, through the US Embassy in Bogota. Technical support has been focused on the subject of local management and interim storage of mercury from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) operations. EPA experts have shared their experiences, training local authorities in the use of technologies for testing air, soil and water in order to detect the presence of mercury at mine sites.

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Past Activities

Arctic

EPA provided support for the development of Russia's first comprehensive mercury emission inventory (now updated and captured in UNEP’s 2013 Global Atmospheric Mercury Assessment)Exit EPA has also supported:

  • the first regional (eight-country) Arctic emission inventory (also captured in UNEP’s 2008 Global Atmospheric Mercury Assessment) and
  • emissions reduction demonstration projects in close cooperation with the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership and other organizations.

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Europe

In June 1998, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Executive Body of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Protocol on Heavy Metals Exit adopted the Protocol on Heavy Metals. This legally-binding agreement went into effect in December 2003. The United States is a party to this agreement. The Protocol targets three heavy metals – cadmium, lead and mercury. The Protocol:
 
  • Aims to cut emissions from industrial sources (iron and steel industry, non-ferrous metal industry), combustion processes (power generation, road transport), and waste incineration.
  • Includes strict limit values and deadlines for emissions reductions for new and existing stationary sources and suggests Best Available Techniques (BAT) for these sources.
  • Contains measures to reduce emissions of heavy metals emissions from products, such as leaded gasoline and mercury in batteries, through the mandatory phase-out of leaded gasoline and mandatory mercury concentration limits for certain types of batteries.
In addition, the Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution (HTAP) was established under the Convention in 2004 to develop a fuller understanding of intercontinental transport of air pollution in the Northern Hemisphere, including mercury. The Task Force, co-chaired by the U.S. and the European Union, developed a 2010 assessment report (HTAP 2010), which includes a technical assessment of the state-of-science on intercontinental transport of mercury (Part B)Exit
 

North America

Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy

The 1997 Canada-United States Strategy for the Virtual Elimination of Persistent Toxic Substances in the Great Lakes Basin, known as the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy, created a framework for addressing mercury pollution in the Great Lakes Basin by establishing a goal of "virtual elimination" of anthropogenic mercury inputs to the Great Lakes, as well as by establishing goals of reducing U.S. mercury emissions and use by 50% and reducing Canadian mercury releases by 90%.

The Strategy established a workgroup of U.S. and Canadian federal, state and local government officials, industry, and environmental groups, who shared information about cost-effective mercury reduction approaches. The Strategy was successful in gaining commitments for voluntary mercury reduction from the chlor-alkali industry, which committed to reduce its mercury use by 50% (actually achieving more than 95%); from the American Hospital Association for the virtual elimination of mercury from hospital waste, and from northwest Indiana steel mills; who inventoried their mercury-containing equipment and reduced it by more than 80%. The workgroup has ceased its activity, having achieved its interim reduction goals.

North American Regional Action Plan on Mercury

Under the auspices of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Exit, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico developed a North American Regional Action Plan (NARAP) on Mercury Exit (finalized in 2000). The goal of this ten-year Plan was to reduce anthropogenic mercury releases within North America through tri-national and national initiatives in the three countries.
 
The Mercury NARAP contained provisions on risk management approaches to address mercury in air emissions, industrial processes and operations, products and waste. It also described activities related to research, monitoring, modeling, inventories and communication. 
 

New England Regional Mercury Action Plan

In 1998, the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers adopted a Regional Mercury Action Plan for the Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canada. This plan established a long term regional goal of virtually eliminating the discharge of mercury from human sources into the environment. It also established goals of 50% reduction of mercury emissions by 2003 (which has been met) and 75% reduction by 2010. A preliminary assessment completed in 2010 indicated that the binational region has probably achieved this 75 percent reduction goal for mercury air emissions.

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Russia

EPA has taken a role in projects to reduce the use and release of mercury in several industrial sectors:

  • EPA has assisted Russian chlorine producers in upgrading plant processes and equipment to reduce releases by almost 1 metric ton per year.
  • EPA helped the Chlor-Alkali Partnership create a global inventory of mercury-cell chlor-alkali facilitiesExit
  • In collaboration with various Russian institutes, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the Swedish Environmental Institute, EPA concluded a multi-year program to demonstrate controlling mercury emissions using activated carbon injection technologies (both standard and brominated) at a Russian coal-fired power plant. 
  • Mercury is also emitted in the process of zinc smelting.  To address this, EPA helped develop a more robust mercury emission inventory in China, in order to understand how much mercury is coming from the zinc sector.  EPA also supported studies on mercury emissions from other nonferrous metals production.

Contacts

For additional information on EPA's work with mercury, contact:
Rodges Ankrah
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-0280