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EU consults on new mercury controls

The EU Commission is asking whether the EU should go further than the Minimata convention on mercury in a consultation on the treaty’s implementation.

Although the EU already has extensive rules on mercury including a regulation to ban its export, requirements for the safe storage of mercury waste and measures to restrict its use in several products, there are areas where EU legislation falls short of the convention.

These include requirements to ban imports of metallic mercury from countries not party to the convention; banning exports of nine types of products containing mercury; and to limit mercury use in new products and processes. The EU could go beyond the convention’s requirements in these cases by stopping mercury imports from outside the EU and the export of any of the longer list of mercury-containing products banned from the domestic EU market.

The EU Commissions says it could ban any new products or processes that use mercury rather than just discouraging their use or to require an EU assessment and approval of new products or processes. The consultation asks whether EU rules should be brought in line with the convention or if all these processes should be banned.

One area where the consultation focuses on is the use of mercury in dental amalgam which has to be phased down under the convention using measures such as national minimisation goals, research into alternatives and the promotion of alternatives in insurance policies. The EU Commission is waiting for advice from one of its expert groups before deciding how to tackle the issue but asks whether to consider a phase-down.

A range of additional measures could be taken by the EU could to bring further health and environmental benefits and signal the EU’s strong support for the convention. In line with HEAL’s work, one of these measures includes further reductions in mercury emissions from medium-sized coal-fired power plants.

More information is available here

Originally posted on 25 September 2014

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