Zero pollution: Protecting health and environment from toxic impacts of mercury

Today, the Commission is proposing to further protect Europeans and our environment from mercury by restricting the use of mercury in the EU, notably building on decisions taken on the international level under the Minamata Convention. The proposed revision of the Mercury Regulation will fully prohibit the use of dental amalgam, which currently uses 40 tonnes of mercury in the EU annually, from 2025. It will also stop the manufacture import and export of certain products still containing mercury, such as lamps, between 2026 and 2028. Safe alternatives are now available for all these products.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “Some of us still remember merrily chasing silver bullets of mercury when a mercury-filled thermometer would break. Thanks to EU law, those dangerous games are a thing of the past, and today we are proposing the last intentional uses of mercury to join those broken thermometers in the recycling park of history. Mercury is a highly toxic chemical which represents threats to human health and to the environment. It is time to put a stop to it!”

Mercury has been used historically in numerous applications, such as gold extraction, batteries, fluorescent lights, thermometers, and barometers. Exposure to high levels of mercury, for example by inhaling mercury vapours, can cause harm to the brain, lungs, kidneys, and the immune system. When it is released into the environment, it enters the food chain where it accumulates – mainly, in fish.

news item and a web page with further details are available online.

(For more information: Adalbert Jahnz – Tel.: +32 2 295 31 56; Célia Dejond – Tel.: +32 2 298 81 99)