The Minamata Convention on Mercury is named after Minamata, a city in Japan where serious health damage occurred as a result of mercury pollution in the mid-20th Century. Minamata is known worldwide due to Minamata disease, a neurological disorder caused by mercury poisoning. The disease was discovered in 1956.
It was caused by the release of methyl mercury in the industrial wastewater from a local chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968. This highly toxic chemical bio-accumulated in shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea, which when eaten by the local populace resulted in mercury poisoning.
The disease caused deaths of humans along with cat, dog, and pig. The animal effects were severe enough in cats that they came to be called "dancing cat fever. The Minamata disease is included in the four Big pollution diseases of Japan.
The Minamata Convention
The Minamata convention provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted. These range from medical equipment such as thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal-fired power sectors.
The convention was has been four years in negotiation and will be open for signature at a special meeting in Japan in October. It will take effect once it has been ratified by 50 countries.
SCOPE OF THE TREATY: The scope of the new treaty which puts in controls and also reduction measures in respect to mercury is as follows.
It has been agreed that production, export and import of a range of (Not all) mercury containing products will be banned by 2020.
These products to be banned include:
Batteries, except for ‘button cell' batteries used in implantable medical devices
Switches and relays
Certain types of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) Mercury in cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps
Certain kinds of non-electronic medical devices such as thermometers and blood pressure devices are also included for phase-out by 2020.
The devices which have been given exemptions are some large measuring devices where currently there are no mercury-free alternatives.
Vaccines where mercury is used as a preservative have been excluded from the treaty as have products used in religious or traditional activities
The dental fillings using mercury amalgam are exempted from the 2020 ban. Countries agree to a phase down of mercury in fillings by promoting alternatives, creating dental programs to minimize the need for fillings or taking other steps
Soaps and cosmetics  containing more than 1 part per million of mercury will be banned by 2020. Mascara and other eye-area cosmetics are exempt because of concerns that there are no safe substitutes.
Religious, traditional activities : Mercury used in religious or traditional ceremonies are exempted from the treaty.
Gold mining Mercury is be allowed in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, where it is used to separate gold from rocks and sediment. The treaty encouraged nations to reduce or phase out its use, but no targets or dates are included. Though the recent studies have documented that peopl e in communities near artisanal mining areas in Peru and Brazil are highly exposed to mercury.

What are sources of mercury?
The most common ore of mercury is Cinnabar or vermilion (HgS). To produce liquid mercury (quicksilver), crushed cinnabar ore is roasted in rotary furnaces. Pure mercury separates from sulfur in this process and easily evaporates.
The top sources of anthropogenic emission of mercury include:
Coal-fired power plants (largest aggregate source of mercury emissions). This includes power plants fueled with gas where the mercury has not been removed.
Gold Production: This is the second largest source of mercury emission.
Non-ferrous metal production, typically smelters.
Cement production.
Waste disposal, including municipal and hazardous waste, crematoria, and sewage sludge incineration.
Caustic soda production.
Pig iron and steel production.
Production of batteries.

The toxic effects of mercury depend on its chemical form and the route of exposure. Methylmercury [CH3Hg] is the most toxic form. It affects the immune system, alters genetic and enzyme systems, and damages the nervous system, including coordination and the senses of touch, taste, and sight.
Methyl mercury is particularly damaging to developing embryos, which are five to ten times more sensitive than adults. Exposure to methyl mercury is usually by ingestion, and