Environment and Health Seminar: The Minamata Convention on Mercury is Here! So Now What for the Environmental Health Sciences Community? with Professor Niladri Basu

When and Where

Wednesday, February 08, 2023 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm


Professor Niladri Basu


About the Seminar

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a multi-lateral environmental agreement that entered into force in 2017. The Convention signalled the global commitment by governments to reduce the use and environmental release of mercury in order to protect human health and the environment. With a global policy instrument now in place one may instinctively conclude that future research on mercury pollution is unwarranted. I challenge this notion and propose that now is the time to further escalate our research efforts so as to realize a wider range of benefits. By drawing on my own experiences, I will present on three topics as follows. First, the mercury knowledge base runs deep and wide, and from this base of knowledge the field has been able to break new frontiers not only in mercury sciences but across the environmental sciences. Second, despite a large knowledge base, there are several aspects concerning mercury pollution that remain relatively poorly understood. Notably there is a dearth of information from low- and middle-income countries even though these regions are amongst the most vulnerable to this chemical. Mercury continues to confound matters of public health (e.g., seafood consumption, amalgam) and economic prosperity (e.g., mining), and in doing so exemplifies our continual challenge with risk communication; few researchers are adequately trained on the matter and fewer social scientists are engaged. Finally, mercury cuts across all disciplines and sectors. Third, the onus now shifts from scientists to Parties to the Convention to develop and implement strategies and programs to identify and protect ecosystems and species that are particularly vulnerable, to set targets for mercury exposure reduction, and to develop means for assessing the effectiveness of control measures, for example by monitoring spatial and temporal trends using fish and wildlife indicators. However, to ensure that evidence-based decisions are being taken so as to help ensure that the primary goal of the Convention is met (i.e., Article 1), the environmental sciences community must remain engaged and vocal. This Abstract is based on the following publication: DOI: 10.1002/etc.4269

About the Speaker

Professor Niladri Basu holds a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Environmental Health Sciences at McGill University where he is jointly appointed in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences and the School of Human Nutrition. The goal of Professor Basu's research is to design, validate, and apply innovative and sustainable approaches to address the most pressing societal concerns over toxic chemicals in our environment. Professor Basu’s research is multidisciplinary (bridges environmental quality and human health), inter-sectoral (most projects driven by stakeholder needs, notably government and communities), and driven by environmental justice concerns. His team’s work has been supported by more than $40M in research funding, resulted in >200 peer-reviewed papers, and afforded training opportunities to over 100 students including 18 postdoctoral fellows and 12 PhD students.

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