Feeds

Global mercury ban to hit electronics, plastics, power prices

Minamata Convention will mean mercury runs away by 2020

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has signed off on the Minamata Convention, a new global agreement that will ban mercury from most uses by 2020.

UNEP's Mercury: Time to Act book says the substance “damages the central nervous system, thyroid, kidneys, lungs, immune system, eyes, gums and skin” and can result in “Neurological and behavioural disorders … with symptoms including tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches, and cognitive and motor dysfunction.”

Mercury mostly enters the human body through food, as it is passed up the food chain to organisms like large fish people enjoy eating.

The Convention's name was chosen for the Japanese city of Minamata, where industrial pollutants led to mercury concentrating in local shellfish. Thousands experienced Mercury poisoning as a result, with over 1,000 deaths.

The Convention will impact Reg readers in many ways. Some fluorescent lamps rely on the element, as do light switches. Button cells are another common application. If PCs and servers still need CMOS batteries by 2020, the button cells you buy will need to be manufactured without mercury (some jurisdictions already have this ban in place, given button cells' prevalence in toys and the likelihood kids can swallow them).

Mercury-rich devices like thermometers and blood pressure meters will have to be replaced. And you can forget about mercury switches in your after-hours electronics projects (and yes, we do know there are better alternatives these days).

PVC is also in trouble, as the zero mercury working group says much Chinese PVC relies on a mercury-intensive manufacturing process. Furniture, iPod covers, and even a mouse use PVC, as do a great many laptop bags and other tech accessories.

Large industrial facilities like coal-fuelled power plants, cement production and metal production factories are among the world's larger sources of mercury and will be regulated to reduce their output. The UNPE book says these industrial sources are worrisome as the mercury they emit is airborne. Much of these mercury emissions reach the arctic, where they find their way into the food chain. As many species conduct seasonal arctic migration, airborne mercury can therefore find its way back around the world to threaten populations dependent on migratory creatures.

Debate about controlling carbon dioxide emissions has nearly always seen such industries point out that compliance costs of a lower-carbon regime will mean higher costs for consumers. The same can surely be expected of mercury abatement measures, which could mean more pressure on data centre power bills. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.