Mercury and compounds which contain it are toxic to humans and wildlife. The Community Strategy Concerning Mercury, adopted in January 2005, aims to cut mercury levels in the environment and reduce human exposure.
Under this strategy, sale of all mercury containing measuring devices to the public was banned in April 2009. However, blood-pressure measuring devices – sphygmomanometers – were exempted as many EU member states regard them as essential for use in healthcare, particularly for diagnosis of heart arrhythmia s and accelerated hypertension , as well as in gynaecology and obstetrics. These are all areas where alternative devices may not perform so satisfactorily.
That decision is under review, and the subsequent verdict will rest on the compatibility of two desired ends: protection of human health from adverse effects of mercury, and protection of health of patients who need accurate blood pressure measurement.