A stakeholders meeting on mercury in dental amalgam and batteries was organised in Brussels on 26 March 2012, see below for more information.
The Commission requested the Scientific Committee for Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), as well as the Scientific Committee for Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) to update their opinions on dental amalgam issued in 2008 on the basis of new information made available. Interested parties are invited to submit, by 10 October 2012, any relevant information that could assist the scientific committees with this assessment, see the related calls for information (SCENIHR/SCHER). In this respect, two associated calls for experts on dental amalgam (SCENIHR/SCHER) who may be invited to contribute to the work of the corresponding Scientific Committee have been issued too.
Mercury is familiar to most people as the silver-coloured liquid which expands and contracts in a thermometer to show the temperature. Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at ambient temperature. It is a chemical element and therefore indestructible. This means that there is a "global pool" of mercury circulating in society and the environment - between air, water, sediments, soil and living organisms.
Mercury and most of its compounds are highly toxic to humans, animals and ecosystems. High doses can be fatal to humans, but even relatively low doses can seriously affect the nervous system and have been linked with possible harmful effects on the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems. In the presence of bacteria, mercury can change into methylmercury, its most toxic form. Methylmercury readily passes through both the placenta and the blood-brain barrier, so exposure of women of child-bearing age and of children, is of greatest concern.
The European Union has made considerable progress in addressing the global challenges of mercury since it launched the EU mercury strategy in 2005. This has resulted in restrictions on the sale of measuring devices containing mercury, a ban on exports of mercury from the EU that will come into force in 2011 and new rules on safe storage. The EU’s mercury strategy is a comprehensive plan addressing mercury pollution both in the EU and globally. It contains 20 measures to reduce mercury emissions, cut supply and demand and protect against exposure, especially to methylmercury found in fish.
Mercury is a global pollutant which can cross international borders and is therefore a matter of international concern. Some of the highest human exposure is seen in native Arctic communities, due to the accumulation of mercury in fish, which makes up a significant part of traditional diets. Discussions are taking place under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on what to do about the global mercury problem. A specific mercury programme was established in 2003 to encourage all countries to adopt goals and take action, as appropriate, in order to identify vulnerable populations, minimise exposure through outreach efforts, and reduce human-generated mercury releases.
The UNEP Governing Council decided in February 2009 to launch negotiations on a global legally binding instrument on mercury with the goal to conclude them prior to the twenty-seventh regular session of the Governing Council in 2013.
EU mercury strategy
A new Communication on the review of the Community Strategy Concerning Mercury was adopted by the Commission on 7/12/2010. The text of the new Communication is available here.
On 14 March 2011, the Environment Council welcomed the review and the significant progress achieved in implementing the Strategy by adopting Council Conclusions.
EU mercury export ban
|Member State authorities and companies concerned should report to the Commission the information foreseen in Articles 5 and 6 of this Regulation preferably electronically by using the following email address ENV-MERCURY@ec.europa.eu, or by post to: European Commission, DG.ENV.C.3/Mercury Export Ban, B-1049 Bruxelles, BELGIUM.|
Quantities of metallic mercury reported according to Article 6 of the Regulation
Dec 2009 (xls ~ 37KB)
May 2010 (xls ~ 33KB) - Reporting as of 31/12/2009
May 2011 (xls ~ 35KB) - Reporting as of 31/12/2010
May 2012 (xls ~ 50 KB) - Reporting as of 31/12/2011
Restrictions on products containing mercury
Measuring devices containing mercury for use by the general public have been restricted from the market by:
Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), as amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No 552/2009.
A further amendment by Commission Regulation (EU) No 847/2012 on 19/9/2012 restricts the use of mercury in several measuring devices (e.g. thermometers, sphygmomanometers, barometers) for industrial and professional uses from 10 April 2014.
Commission Regulation (EU) No. 848/2012 published on the same date prohibits the manufacture, use and placement on the market of five phenylmercury compounds from 10 October 2017.
A study on the "Review of the Community Strategy Concerning Mercury" prepared for DG ENV by Bio Intelligence Service S.A.S (October 2010) (pdf~3,37Mb)
A study on "Requirements for facilities and acceptance criteria for the disposal of metallic mercury" prepared for DG ENV by BiPRO GmbH (April 2010).
September 2008 report: "Options for reducing mercury use in products and applications and the fate of mercury already circulating in society" addressing Action 10 of the Mercury Strategy (executive summary pdf~ 243KB or full report pdf~5MB)
Independent expert group paper on Ambient air pollution by mercury, produced in relation to EU air quality legislation
A study on the "Costs and environmental effectiveness of options for reducing mercury emissions to air from small-scale combustion installations" prepared for DG ENV by AEA Technology / NILU-Polska (December 2005).
A background report on Mercury flows in Europe and the world: The impact of decommissioned chlor-alkali plants (pdf~980K), prepared for DG Environment by Concorde East/West Sprl (February 2004).