Council signs off on measures to make the EU mercury-free

Today, the Council adopted a regulation to completely ban the use of dental amalgams and to prohibit manufacturing, import and export of other mercury-added products. The updated rules aim to address the remaining use of mercury in the European Union in line with the EU´s zero pollution ambition.

Current rules already ban the use of dental amalgam for treating teeth in children under 15 years old, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. The new rules will extend the prohibition to include everybody in the EU as of 1 January 2025. Exceptions will apply when the use of dental amalgam is deemed strictly necessary by the dental practitioner to address specific medical needs of the patient.

Exporting dental amalgam will be prohibited from 1 January 2025; the ban on manufacturing and import in the EU will apply from 1 July 2026.

Six additional mercury-containing lamps will also be made subject to a manufacturing, import and export ban as from 31 December 2025 and 31 December 2026.

Next steps
The regulation will now be signed and published in the Official Journal of the EU. It will enter into force on the twentieth day following publication and become directly applicable in all member states.

According to the updated rules, the Commission will review the exemptions on the use of dental amalgam by 31 December 2029, taking into account the availability of mercury-free alternatives.

By the same date, the Commission will also review measures taken by member states on mercury emissions from crematoria and the impact of the Commission’s guidance on relevant abatement technologies.

The EU mercury regulation adopted in 2017 is one of the key EU instruments transposing the Minamata Convention, an international treaty signed in 2013 to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

The 2017 regulation covers the full-life cycle of mercury, from primary mining to waste disposal, contributing to the ultimate EU objective of limiting and phasing out the use, manufacturing and export of mercury and mercury-added products over time, as spelled out in the EU strategy on mercury.

The European Parliament and Council adopted their negotiating positions on 17 and 30 January 2024, respectively. The two co-legislators reached a provisional agreement on 21 February 2024, after only one round of negotiations.