Green groups from around the world have sent a message to the new administration that it should support international efforts to regulate mercury emissions.
During a meeting at the State Department last week, representatives of a coalition of 75 environmental groups promoting mercury reduction called on President Obama to back a binding treaty on mercury at the United Nations meeting this week in Nairobi, Kenya.
"We strongly recommend an approach that embraces cooperation and leadership, rather than the obstruction and inaction we have seen from the previous administration," says Michael Bender co-coordinator for the Zero Mercury Working Group.
He adds that "we urge President Obama to seize this opportunity for leadership and support an international agreement to control this dangerous pollutant."
In a letter signed by 90 U.S. and foreign-based groups activists stress that most countries are in favor of a legally binding international agreement that would control mercury emissions.
Such emissions come mainly from coal-fired power plants as well as practices such as the use of mercury in small scale gold mining.
The signatories include Physicians for Social Responsibility, American Nurses Association, Clean Water Action, Greenpeace and Health Care Without Harm as well as World Wildlife Fund – Guianas, the Basel Action Network, Friends of the Earth Malaysia, Indonesia Toxics-Free Network, and many others.
Exposure to mercury has been linked to brain damage in fetuses and small children and neurological disorders in adults.