Skip to content

Register Now to Meet this Year’s Heroes of the Environment

WATCH THE 2022 AWARD CEREMONY

International Treaty Seeks to Curb Global Mercury Emissions

February 6, 2013

Did you know that the term “mad as a hatter” refers to the mental illnesses suffered by 19th century milliners from their exposure to mercury, a highly toxic element that was used to shape felt hats?

Mercury’s damaging effect on human and environmental health has been documented for years. The US and most European governments already have strict regulations on mercury emissions; however, a recent report from the United Nations Environmental Program reveals that mercury emissions are increasing around the world.

The rise in emissions is widely attributed to precious metal mining projects, coal fired power plants and melting polar ice caps.

In response to the growing threat, over 140 countries signed on to a legally-binding treaty that was agreed upon during UN-sponsored talks in Geneva. While the agreement must still be ratified by individual nations, it is a significant step toward dealing with the global crisis of toxic mercury.

2009 Goldman Prize recipient Yuyun Ismawati has been working to raise awareness about the dangers of mercury emissions for years, especially in regard to emissions from gold mines, saying, “Gold mining in poor communities is sweet for gold traders but bitter for children. The true price of gold will never equal the cost of brain damage, contaminated communities, and the impacts of child labor.”

Ismawati was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2009 for her work to implement sustainable community-based waste and sanitation management programs in Indonesia that provide employment opportunities to low-income people and empower them to improve the environment. Today, Ismawati calls her work with mercury her “new passion.”

Related Posts

Picture of Maxima outside in Peru

Watch Máxima Acuña Documentary in Online Film Festival


June 5, 2020

This June, participate in a digital film festival screening and live Q&A of the film Maxima by Claudia Sparrow. The award-winning documentary follows the story of Goldman Environmental Prize winner Maxima Acuña (Peru, 2016). The online festival is hosted by international NGO Human Rights Watch. Film synopsis: Maxima tells the incredible story of 2016 environmental Goldman Environmental Prize…

Read more

Q&A with Francia Márquez


August 22, 2018

We sit down with Francia Márquez, 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner from Colombia, in our latest Q&A. A passionate community leader and activist, Marquez continues to work on a variety of social, political, and environmental issues since winning the Prize in April. Read her Q&A below to learn what motivated her to fight, organize, and…

Read more

In the Field: Visiting Community Leader Francia Márquez in Colombia


August 15, 2018

This is a post by Goldman Environmental Prize Program Officer Ryan Mack, who documents his visit to Cali, Colombia, to meet with 2018 Prize winner Francia Márquez. A formidable leader of the Afro-Colombian community, Márquez organized the women of La Toma and stopped illegal gold mining on their ancestral land. People are a whirl in…

Read more