UNEP: Asia accounts for half of global toxic mercury emission

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Asia-pacific, Philippines

According to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme, Asia is the largest regional emitter of mercury in the world, and cosmetics are noted amongst other products as contributing.


Magnifying Glass

The Global Mercury Assessment 2013 ​highlights parts of Asia, Africa, and South America as having increasing emissions of mercury into the environment, due mainly to the use of the toxic element in small-scale gold mining, and through the burning of coal for electricity generation.

Sources noted as driving this exposure including cosmetics such as skin-lightening creams and mascara, as UNEP warns that mercury contained in such products can also enter the waste stream.

"Emissions of the toxic metal from artisanal gold mining have doubled since 2005, in part due to new and better information and Asia is the largest regional emitter of mercury, accounting for just under half of all global releases, due to rapid industrialization​."

Study breakdown

The study breaks down mercury emissions by region and economic sector, while also highlighting that significant releases into the environment is linked to contaminated sites and deforestation. It further estimates that 260 tonnes of mercury, previously held in soils, are being released into rivers and lakes.

Alongside its' publication on the matter, Mercury: Time to Act​, UNEP's new assessment is currently being presented at the International Negotiating Committee on Mercury (INC5), in Geneva this week.

Governments attending the major conference are said to be aiming to conclude discussions on a global legally binding treaty to minimize risks to people and the environment from exposure to mercury.

The longterm goal of the report and conference UNEP says, is to reduce cases of neurological and behavioral disorders, and other health problems linked to mercury, as well as the contamination of soils and rivers caused by man-made emissions of the metal.

Mercury issues in Asia

Cosmetic products containing mercury have of late, been popping up in the Asia-Pacific region far too often for environmental watchdog, The Ecowaste Coalition's liking.

Just last month, it was putting pressure on the Philippines Food and Drug Administration after discovering first hand that cosmetics containing mercury were still available over the counter, despite being banned in the region.

Unlike other contraband goods which are usually sold under-the-counter, mercury-laden cosmetics are openly offered for sale, making a mockery of FDA’s recall orders aimed at safeguarding consumer health and safety​,” says the Coalition’s Aileen Lucero.

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Stabilized Pure Retinol

Stabilized Pure Retinol

Tagra Biotechnologies | 14-Sep-2020 | Product Presentation

Retinol is highly recognized as a very effective vitamin for anti- aging treatment due to its capacity to stimulate collagen production, accelerate cell...

The DSM Imp’Act Card™

The DSM Imp’Act Card™

DSM Nutritional Products | 22-Jul-2020 | Product Presentation

At DSM, we are committed to make all our products as sustainable as possible throughout the value chain. One way we are working towards this goal is with...

Multifunctionals for modern product protection

Multifunctionals for modern product protection

Symrise | 15-Jul-2020 | Technical / White Paper

The ‘clean’ movement is more and more of interest to consumers looking for enjoyable but responsible experience. Multifunctionals have a key role to play...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more


Indie Pioneers Podcast

Indie Pioneers Podcast