Last week, Japan became one of the first nations to sign a legally binding treaty designed to curb mercury pollution. Named for the Japanese city that saw severe cases of mercury poisoning in the 1950s, the Minamata Convention on Mercury is the first new global convention on environment and health in nearly a decade. The Convention regulates a variety of areas, including the use of mercury in products and industrial processes, and addresses the mining, safe storage, and import and export of the metal. These regulations come at a time when, according to a UN Environment Programme report, developing nations face growing health and environmental risks due to increased exposure to mercury. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Convention will “protect people and improve standards of living for millions around the world.” One hundred thirty-nine governments adopted the Convention. For the full story, see and