Will Vietnam stop using mercury products?

11:21 | 04/04/2015 Science - Technology

(VEN) - Together with 96 countries in the world, Vietnam signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2013 in Japan’s Kumamoto. To implement a convention, the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Vietnam Chemicals Agency cooperated with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to implement the Minamata Convention Initial Assessment in Vietnam project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in a form of technical support using Official Development Assistance (ODA) capital. This is an initial activity of Vietnam towards the approval of the Minamata Convention. According to a roadmap, Vietnam will stop producing and using mercury products by 2020.

Will Vietnam stop using mercury products?

More than 60 representatives participate in the Minamata Convention Initial Assessment in Vietnam conference

Negative effects

A conference brought together more than 60 representatives from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice as well as local departments of industry and trade, non-governmental organizations and companies using mercury products. UNIDO Vietnam Representative Patrick J. Gilabert said, “Mercury is a sparkling metal and easily evaporated at room temperature. This metal is commonly used in temperature and pressure measure equipment, dentistry, bulbs and thermometers as well as in industries such as metallurgy, cement production and gold mining. Mercury has had negative impacts on the environment and human health.”

Mercury will damage the nervous system and kidneys, and cause insomnia, depression, muscle atrophy, impaired vision and mental disorders. The Minamata syndrome caused by the Chiso Chemical Plant that discharged mercury into the Minamata Bay in Japan during the 1932-1968 period brought disease to more than 10,000 local people. According to 2004’s statistics, 1,784 people died and 10,000 people were given compensation with total costs of up to US$86 million.

Tran Anh Dung from the Health Environment Management Agency under the Ministry of Health said, “Through surveys and statistics at medical facilities, 1,629 mercury thermometers are broken in a month and around 447,588 in a year. So, mercury released from thermometers reaches an estimated 550kg per year.

Directions

According to Decision 1811/QD-TTg dated October 4, 2013, the Ministry of Industry and Trade was assigned by the government to chair and coordinate with relevant ministries for consideration and approval of the Minamata Convention at the appropriate time. The Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Vietnam Chemicals Agency Deputy Director Luu Hoang Ngoc said that the project has had a funding of US$500,000 and will determine policies, strategic decisions and priorities in the future. By the end of 2016, the agency will try to promulgate coordination mechanisms of the project and identify gaps in mercury management as well as review current legal documents about mercury and determine the need for amendments and supplements. All contents are expected to be submitted to the government by the end of 2016. If the government approves a convention, Vietnam will build the national implementation plan towards stopping the production and using of mercury products.

Industries and companies that are using mercury need to be changed or implement technological improvements. For example, the Rang Dong Light Source & Vacuum Flask Company, the Dien Quang Lamp Joint Stock Company and the Philips Vietnam are using mercury to produce bulbs. To implement the Minamata Convention, the three companies need to improve their technology.

However the most difficult work is to control gold mining. The sector is accounting for 37 percent of mercury emissions to the environment. Gold mining in Vietnam is mainly implemented by small and medium-sized enterprises or is illegal exploitation. Therefore, raising community awareness about negative impacts of mercury is needed.    

 By Thu Huong

Theo ven.vn