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World Service broadcast on mercury

Fri 29 November, 2013

Mercury is the bad-boy of the periodic table, often called ‘quicksilver’, it is both mesmerising and toxic as Professor Andrea Sella of University College London vividly explains. In […]

Global treaty on mercury pollution gets boost from United States

Thu 14 November, 2013

The United States has strengthened the international effort to bring down emissions and releases of a notorious heavy metal after simultaneously signing and ratifying the Minamata Convention on […]

The Minamata Convention on Mercury

Thu 17 October, 2013

More than 90 countries signed a treaty to limit mercury use and pollution at a United Nations conference in Kumamoto, Japan, on 10 October. The Minamata Convention on Mercury […]

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What Is IKIMP?

A UK Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange Initiative led by the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, and the Environmental Knowledge Transfer Network.

Of all the potentially toxic trace elements, mercury is arguably associated with the most widespread and sustained public health concern. Scientific understanding of the behaviour of mercury in the environment needs to be integrated and applied in order to ensure public policy is cost effective and achieves the overarching aim of protecting human health. With an atmospheric lifetime of ~1 year, the geographical source of mercury pollution has little bearing on where the effects will be felt. Consequently, mercury pollution is of global concern.

The potential impact this trans-boundary pollutant has is of key scientific and political importance. The science – policy relationship for mercury in the environment has received renewed interest in recent years with the European Commission and the UNEP Ad hoc Open-Ended Working Group (AHOEWG) investigating voluntary measures and new legal instruments with which to remove this element from consumer products, and to reduce emissions from industrial processes. The UK Government is active in European and international discussions regarding the management of mercury, with the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) having recently held the Chair of the UNEP AHOEWG. As a consequence, the UK Government through Defra is looking to the UK scientific community, as well as industry, to:

  • provide the best available knowledge to inform international policy developments.
  • assess the implications of the implementation of international policy on the UK and the EU.
  • assess the effectiveness of policy interventions and the protection of the UK population.
  • assess the UK contribution to the global mercury cycle and effect on global mercury markets.

The Integrating Knowledge to Inform Mercury Policy (IKIMP) Initiative has been formed to provide a mechanism by which the UK scientific and technical knowledge base is used to inform and guide UK public policy relating to mercury.

IKIMP is addressing four key policy questions, bringing together key scientific experts, industrial players and policymakers to identify and contextualize scientific knowledge:

  • Mercury policy effectiveness – Significant inadequacies in UK databases, monitoring ability, and lack of data for some inventories will be addressed to provide an updated UK national inventory listing of mercury sources and waste streams.
  • UK mercury storage options – An independent assessment of the various storage options and their economics.
  • Key global mercury knowledge gaps – The contribution of anthropogenic and natural emissions to our understanding of the global mercury budget is not sufficiently comprehensive to make accurate and confident assessments. Three key knowledge gaps will be assessed:
  1. Crustal emissions – The impact of degassing on the global mercury budget.
  2. Climate change – UK policy and the consequences of climate change on mercury in the UK environment.
  3. Energy policy – Characterisation of global anthropogenic activities in the energy sector to provide insight into the potential impact of these activities on mercury in the UK environment.

To address these topics, the IKIMP initiative will be organising a series of cross-sectoral workshops, briefings and publications directed at those responsible for public policy development. The IKIMP knowledge exchange initiative intends to place the UK at the forefront of global mercury science and technology relating to mercury risk reduction, and policy development.

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