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Press Release

For immediate release, February 8th ,2016

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New Commission proposal puts EU on path from hero to zero to address global mercury crisis

Brussels, 8 February 2016 – The European Commission has quietly launched its new mercury package on 2nd February 2016 [1], moving the EU a step closer towards ratifying the Minamata Convention, a UN treaty to stamp out mercury [2]. While the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomes the new package, its content fails to meet even the lowest of expectations.

We are deeply disappointed with this bare-bones proposal from the Commission,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Manager.  “Under the guise of Better Regulation, it is putting the EU on an embarrassing path from hero to zero in addressing the global mercury crisis.  The proposal effectively ignores a public consultation, progressive industry voices, and even the scientific findings of its own impact assessment.”

The package sets out plans to update existing EU law in line with the internationally-agreed goals to limit mercury supply, use and emissions under the treaty. Despite the EU having played a leading role in the formation of the Convention, the new plan to put it into practice appears to have fallen victim to the EU’s Better Regulation agenda. The package was already delayed by over a year – pushing back the UN treaty ratification process [3] – and ambition is thin on the ground.

The new proposals follow the lowest-cost approach across the board rather than promoting higher environmental protection, according to the EEB. Elsewhere, other ‘new’ proposals are simply repackaged existing EU legislation, and some of the treaty requirements seem not to be covered by the proposal at all.

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, especially to the developing nervous system. Mercury transforms to neurotoxic methylmercury, which has the capacity to collect in organisms (bioaccumulate) and to concentrate up food chains (biomagnify), especially in the aquatic food chain – fish, the basic food source for millions of people.

Recent studies indicate that mercury levels are increasing in tuna by 4% per year, correlating with the continuing rise in mercury in the global environment. If steps are not taken to reduce global mercury pollution, levels of mercury are expected to double by 2050 [4]. 

The EEB will now be calling on the European Parliament and Member States to recognise the gravity of the situation and adopt measures that will reduce and eliminate all unnecessary uses and releases of mercury.

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For more information, please contact:

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Manager, +32 (2) 289 13 01, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Paul Hallows, Communications Officer, +32 (2) 790 88 17, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Notes to editors:

[1] Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury by the EU

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/mercury/ratification_en.htm

[2] The Minimata Convention on Mercury http://www.mercuryconvention.org

To meet the Convention requirements, six areas are identified which need additional legislation at the EU level:

  • The import of mercury

  • The export of certain mercury added products

  • The use of mercury in certain manufacturing processes

  • New mercury uses in product and manufacturing processes

  • Mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM)

  • Mercury use in dental amalgams

[3] NGOs Letter to the European Commission - The EU and its Member States should rapidly ratify the Minamata Convention on mercury, 14 December 2015

http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&;view=file&id=199:the-european-union-eu-and-its-member-states-ms-should-rapidly-ratify-the&Itemid=15

[4] Over the past year, it has become more apparent than ever that the global mercury crisis is affecting the food we eat.  Mercury concentrations in tuna are increasing at a rate of 3.8 percent or more per year, according to a new study that suggests rising atmospheric levels of the toxin are to blame. This correlates with recent studies showing that mercury levels in the global environment are set to double by 2050, if current pollution and deposition rates continue. More information: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150202151217.htm

Home

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EEB calls for a robust EU mercury regulation- see recent letters to decision makers

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 INC 7 on Mercury, 10-15 March 2016, Dead Sea, Jordan - ZMWG INC 7 Positions and materials

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News from members:  NRDC has created a website intended as a resource for developing countries, NGOs and other stakeholders to assist in Convention ratification and implementation activities.  This website can be found at http://www.nrdc.org/international/ftoxic.asp.

 

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 ZMWG Towards Early Ratification and Implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

 - Minamata Convention on Mercury - Ratification and Implementation Manual, 2014 (updated January 2015, June 2016)

-Convenio de Minamata sobre el Mercurio-Manual de ratificacion y aplicacion, January 2015

- Convention de Minamata sur le Mercure - Manuel de ratification et mise en oeuvre, January 2015

- ZMWG Action Challenge Interim Report, 27 October 2014

- Press Release 29 October 2014: ‘Zero Mercury’ Group: Governments Must Do More to Curb Supply and Trade; Gives governments ‘C-’ grade since mercury treaty approved

ZMWG attended INC 6 ,3-7 November 2014, Bangkok - for developments check here.

ZMWG Blog - Summary of the Mercury INC 6

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The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of over 95 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project.  ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.  Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.(FR)

The Zero Mercury Working Group was born out of the Zero Mercury Campaign project having as its ultimate objective ‘Zero’ emissions, demand and supply of mercury, from all sources we can control, in view of reducing to a minimum, mercury in the environment at EU level and globally. The project/campaign started in November 2004, by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) in collaboration with the Mercury Policy Project . Details on the history of the project can be found here.

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, especially to the developing nervous system. They are also harmful to ecosystems and wildlife populations. Microbial metabolism of deposited mercury can create methylmercury, which has the capacity to collect in organisms (bioaccumulate) and to concentrate up food chains (biomagnify), especially in the aquatic food chain. Methylmercury is a well documented neurotoxicant, which may in particular cause adverse effects on the developing brain. It readily passes both the placental barrier and the blood-brain barrier, therefore, exposures during pregnancy are of highest concern. It may also cause adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, thereby leading to increased mortality. Methylmercury compounds are considered possible carcinogenic to humans according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Furthermore, inhalation of elemental mercury vapour includes symptoms such as tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular changes, and headaches. Kidney and thyroid may be affected.

 

 

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