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Mercury is one of the earth's most toxic elements, and one that seeps into the environment through a number of industrial processes.
The single biggest source of mercury emissions, coal-fired power stations, account for 26 per cent of the metal leaked into the environment. But village miners also use tonnes of it when extracting gold.
World bodies are now attempting to work out a plan to reduce mercury poisoning.
The United Nations environment programme held a conference in Nairobi, attended by representatives from 120 countries, in the hopes of drafting a global treaty to limit the use of the toxic metal.
Al Jazeera's Peter Greste reports from the Kenyan capital.