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News article8 February 2022Directorate-General for Environment

Zero pollution: Commission seeks views on review of EU rules on use of mercury

Today, the Commission is launching an open public consultation on the review of the Mercury Regulation, which tackles the last remaining intentional uses of this very toxic chemical in products. The EU has policies to reduce the risk of mercury exposure for both people and the environment, with legislation covering all aspects of the mercury lifecycle.  But significant amounts of mercury are still used in the EU, mainly in dental amalgam and some products such as lamps or measuring devices. As mercury pollution is persistent, such continued use contributes to its accumulation in the environment, including food. The review of the current rules will contribute to the Zero Pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment announced in the European Green Deal.

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

Mercury is a major risk to the environment and human health, and in the EU we have come a long way in limiting it. But risks are still present today. We now need to look at the remaining uses of mercury in the EU, such as dental amalgam, as well as the export of mercury-added products. We are committed to zero pollution and are showing it on all fronts.

With this consultation, the Commission invites citizens and interested parties to express views that will help assess impacts related to the possible phase-out of dental amalgam and the availability and cost of mercury-free alternatives. The consultation will also look at the prohibition of production in the EU and export of certain mercury-added products that are already banned from being placed on the EU market. The public consultation will provide insight for the ongoing work on an impact assessment. The consultation will run until 3 May 2022 and is available here.  

Background

Mercury is a chemical with neurotoxic effects, used in industrial processes and in a variety of products like batteries or thermometers. Exposure to mercury can cause permanent brain and kidney damage in adults and negatively affect foetal and early childhood development. It is bio-accumulative and, via the food webs and transboundary transport of air pollution, travels around the globe. Mercury in the air deposits on land and water. Pollution by mercury is persistent. Hence, a build-up of mercury in the environment leads to mercury accumulating in fauna, flora and biotopes and to excessive amounts of mercury in fish and seafood consumed by humans.

The EU has one of the most ambitious policies for protection against mercury. Over the past twenty years the EU has developed a comprehensive body of legislation covering all aspects of the mercury lifecycle, from primary mining to waste disposal, including measures on trade, products containing mercury and mercury pollution.

Despite much progress since the adoption of the Community Strategy Concerning Mercury in 2005, its review in 2010 and the Mercury Regulation, significant amounts of mercury are still used in the EU, mainly in dental amalgam and mercury-added products such as lamps or measuring devices. Such continued use of mercury contributes to the accumulation of mercury in the environment in the EU and worldwide.

More information

Go to the questionnaire

Minamata Convention on mercury

Details

Publication date
8 February 2022
Author
Directorate-General for Environment

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