Toxic waste sites in 31 countries are damaging the brains of nearly 800,000 children and impairing the health of millions of people in the developing world, two new studies have found.
The international community has adopted a binding treaty for reducing emissions of mercury, a poisonous heavy metal that harms human health and the ecosystems on which life depends.
The Coatzacoalcos river basin in southern Mexico is so polluted that you can sense the mercury in the air, feel it and breathe it, and the population living in the area is only too aware of its undesirable neighbours: refineries and petrochemical complexes that emit this toxic element into the air and water.
Even as government negotiators from around the world prepare to gather next week for a final round of talks on a new international treaty limiting the use of mercury, scientists and activists are warning that the draft treaty is both too weak and too limited in scope to have a major impact.
As regional delegates meet to discuss a legally binding ban on the use of mercury this week, Guyanese officials are arguing that an exception should be made for the South American country's lucrative gold mining sector until an acceptable alternative is found.