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When toxic chemicals refuse to die - An examination of the prolonged mercury pesticide use in Australia

Schneider, Larissa

Description

Mercury, even in low concentrations, is known to cause severe adverse human health effects. In the early 1900s, mercury became a popular fungicide ingredient, leading to multiple poisoning incidents that forced much of the world to act upon phasing out mercury use in agriculture. These incidents spurred the advancement of mercury science and the implementation of international policies and regulations to control mercury pollution worldwide. Despite these developments internationally, Australia...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorSchneider, Larissa
dc.date.accessioned2023-11-07T21:31:41Z
dc.date.available2023-11-07T21:31:41Z
dc.identifier.issn2325-1026
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/305624
dc.description.abstractMercury, even in low concentrations, is known to cause severe adverse human health effects. In the early 1900s, mercury became a popular fungicide ingredient, leading to multiple poisoning incidents that forced much of the world to act upon phasing out mercury use in agriculture. These incidents spurred the advancement of mercury science and the implementation of international policies and regulations to control mercury pollution worldwide. Despite these developments internationally, Australia continued using methoxyethyl mercury chloride as a fungicide to treat sugarcane against the fungi Ceratocystis paradoxa (pineapple disease). At the request of the manufacturer and following pressure from Australian researchers and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, Australian authorities announced a ban on mercury-containing pesticide in May 2020. Australia’s unique reluctance to act on controlling this hazardous pollutant makes it an interesting case study for policy inaction that runs counter to global policy trends and evidence-based decision making. As such, it can provide insights into the challenges of achieving multilateral agreement on difficult environmental issues such as global warming. In this review, I discuss the scientific development and policy decisions related to mercury fates and exposure of wildlife and humans in Australia to mercury used in pesticide. The historical uses of mercury pesticide and poisoning incidents worldwide are described to contextualize Australia’s delayed action on banning and controlling this chemical product compared to other nations. Regulations on mercury use in Australia, which has not ratified the Minamata Convention on mercury, are compared to those of major sugarcane and pesticide producer nations (Brazil, China, Japan, India, Thailand, and United States) which have ratified the Convention and replaced mercury pesticides with alternative products. I discuss how mercury regulations have the potential to protect the environment, decrease human exposure to mercury, and safeguard the ban on mercury products. Ratifying the Minamata Convention would give Australia equal footing with its international counterparts in global efforts to control global mercury pollution.
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/pdf
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.publisherUniversity of California Press
dc.rights© 2021 The authors
dc.rights.urihttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
dc.sourceElementa: science of the anthropocene
dc.subjectGreat Barrier Reef
dc.subjectShirtan
dc.subjectMEMC
dc.subjectSugarcane
dc.subjectFungicide
dc.subjectMercury phasing-down
dc.subjectMercury ban
dc.titleWhen toxic chemicals refuse to die - An examination of the prolonged mercury pesticide use in Australia
dc.typeJournal article
local.description.notesImported from ARIES
local.identifier.citationvolume9
dc.date.issued2021
local.identifier.absfor410501 - Environmental biogeochemistry
local.identifier.absfor410401 - Conservation and biodiversity
local.identifier.ariespublicationa383154xPUB21490
local.publisher.urlhttps://online.ucpress.edu/
local.type.statusPublished Version
local.contributor.affiliationSchneider, Larissa, College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU
dc.relationhttp://purl.org/au-research/grants/arc/DE180100573
local.bibliographicCitation.issue1
local.identifier.doi10.1525/elementa.2021.053
dc.date.updated2022-09-18T08:16:54Z
local.identifier.scopusID2-s2.0-85104868563
local.identifier.thomsonIDWOS:000625458600011
dcterms.accessRightsOpen Access
dc.provenanceThis is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
dc.rights.licenseCreative Commons Attribution licence
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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