All over history, mercury has been known and used for gold and silver processing. In many parts of the world, mercury has been used in batteries, chlor-alkali production, dental amalgam, fluorescent lights, switches, and thermometers. Much of the mercury contained in these end-of-use products can be recycled; however, only a small amount of the mercury used is recycled.
Mercury is a liquid metal, occurs naturally in a number of geologic environments, may be obtained as a by-product from precious metals mining, and is found in trace amounts in coal. Much of this mercury may be used and recycled; however, mercury used for gold production and mercury released from coal-fired power-plants, broken fluorescent lamps, battery production, and other sources is not recovered to any high degree and becomes a global environmental and human health concern. Minamata disease is an excellence example of mercury impact to the environment and human health in Japan, which brought a global concern of its release to the environment and seeking cooperation among countries for sound management of its release.
In 2007, Cambodia got assistance from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to study the mercury releases from all identified sources. In 2007, UNEP-Chemicals provided the workshop training to the inventory team from the Ministry of Environment (MOE), Cambodia, by indicating a specific need data and information for gathering related to mercury releases.
After training, the inventory team initiated and identified hotspot areas of possibly mercury releases sources based on local knowledge and current activities (as compared with activities mentioned in the UNEP Toolkit for identification and quantification of mercury releases, November 2005). Based on this material, the inventory team decided to select 12 provinces (including municipalities) out of 24 provinces and municipalities through the country. The inventory stage was conducted from August to November 2007 and then by December 2007 was the period of data entry and analysis.
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