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Press Release

For immediate release, February 8th ,2016


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.


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


Notes to editors:

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


[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


[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

Other International Fora PDF Print
Friday, 03 September 2010 17:17

With the objective to push towards a global instrument on mercury, other international fora (apart from UNEP) are also being followed.

The first meeting of the Convention of the Parties (COP1) for the POPs took place on 2-6 May 2005. Some of the NGO representatives (Toxics Link, ACPO, Arnika) active also on mercury are attending the meeting.

On 16-17 June 2005 the EEB, through its member VAK ( Latvia), attended the 2 nd meeting of the Task Force on Heavy Metals under the Convention for a Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution.

In view of the unbalanced agenda of the International Seafood and Health Conference 2005 : A close up look at the benefits of eating seafood, a letter was sent, to the sponsors of the event, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs and the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries. The letter was sent by the EEB and EEN on the 29 November 2005.

On the 9 January 2006, Pollution Probe (Canada), supported by the EEB, EPHA EN, HCWH and the International Ban Hg Working Group, sent a letter (and Annexes I, II, III) to the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment , calling for the development and implementation of a mercury elimination and reduction strategy in Canada.

In February 2006, during the SAICM negotiations in Dubai, the Swiss government started discussing the possibility to organise a side event during the Intergovernmental Forum for Chemical Safety (IFCS) , Forum V, on heavy metals. After several email exchange and two teleconferences where the NGOs participated actively in the development of the final agenda. Finally in April, the agenda was finalised and the event was announced. The Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety, Forum V Side Event on Heavy Metals, Health and Environmental concerns associated with Heavy Metals; global needs for further action?, will take place on 23 September 2006, in Budapest, Hungary

On 11-12 May, our colleague from the Canadian NGO, attended the meeting of the Task Force on Heavy Metals under the Long Range Trounsboundary Air Pollution (UNECE), in Ottawa, Canada.

On the 8th June, Pollution Probe, Canada, sent a press release in the local press calling for a national (Canadian) strategy on mercury reduction.

An NGO lead conference “Finding Solutions to the Global Mercury Crisis”, August 7th-10th, 2006, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.was coorganised by more than 20 NGOs from the EU and the US.Please find here an initial note and the final agenda respectively.


The above mentioned meeting took place as an informal side event to the 8th International Conference Mercury as a Global Pollutant, Madison, WI, USA 6-11 August. The NGO meeting focused more on policy rather than scientific discussions on several issues such as mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants, coal fired power stations, mercury in small scale god-mining, etc.

A press release was published on the 4 August,2006 with the NGO expectations from the meeting.

Quite a few people participated actively to the meeting, including representatives from governments such as the US Environment Protection Agency, Environment Canada, Sweden, Philippines, as well as the European Commission. Many interesting discussions took place on the different issues and possibilities for future collaboration between governments as well as NGOs were given.

It has come to our attention that the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO) , have drafted an Action Plan Proposal on Mercury earlier this year. After NRDC's initiative and together with the Zero Mercury Working Group, comments have now been sent to this plan, on the 5 September 2006. Complementary comments were sent from our Brazilian partner NGO - ACPO on 14 September 2006.

On September 24-28,2006 EEB and other international NGOs of the Zero Mercury Working Group including our Indian, Brazilian, Chinese and S.African partners, participated actively at the Intergovernmental Forum for Chemical Safety (IFCS) Forum V.
On the 23 September, the Swiss government organised a side event on Health and Environmental Concerns associated with Heavy Metals; Global needs for further action? The NGOs participated actively at the side event mainly with respect to the global mercury policies. Oral interventions were made during the meeting and a written statement was also submitted to the organisers, which can be found here. This event was also covered by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin(ENB). The final report prepared by the Swiss organisers included among others the request for a globally binding instrument on mercury.

On the 25 September and as part of the Forum V discussions, Heavy Metals was on the agenda. The Swiss government presented the discussions and respective report from the side event. After that however, debate followed where the regions, individual countries and the NGOs provided their views. The African region called for globally binding instrument on mercury as well as the need for financial assistance to the developing countries to take action to reduce mercury demand and releases. Their statement can be found here. Norway, Switzerland and the EU also called for a binding instrument on mercury. The Asia Pacific region supported concrete actions on trade such as mercury export bans from the developed world and a financial mechanism to support global mercury use and releases reductions. The EEB on behalf of the Zero Mercury Working Group intervened as well addressing the issues above, with this statement. The US, Canada and Japan did not support a global binding instrument and expressed concerns on whether further action is needed. Considering the differences of opinions, the Chairman created a Contact Group which had as a mandate to agree on a document - outcome of this Forum V on Heavy Metals. Governments and stakeholders participated and expressed their views on the drafted text. The debate was tough and continued through the night during the 3 following days. At the end, the "Budapest Statement" was adopted calling among other for UNEP Governing council to continue the work on mercury, lead and cadmium considering a globally binding instrument among other actions. ENB covered the whole event including the contact group meetings with daily reports and pictures.

The FINAL REPORT of the -Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (Forum V)
25-29 September 2006, Budapest , is now available.

On March 8, 2007 and following the 8th International Conference Mercury as a Global Pollutant, Madison, WI, USA 6-11 August  the following NEWS ADVISORY was issued.


MADISON, Wis. (8 March 2007)-Mercury use and emissions pose a serious threat to the health of people, fish and wildlife around the world, according to a declaration by the world's leading mercury scientists published today in a special issue of the international science journal Ambio.  

"The Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution" stems from four expert panels assembled at the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant held last August in Madison, Wisconsin.  It presents 33 principal findings from five papers by panel members in the same issue of Ambio that summarize what is now scientifically known about the sources and movement of mercury in the atmosphere, the socioeconomic and health effects of mercury pollution on human populations, and its effects on the world's fisheries and wildlife.

The full text of the News Advisory can be found here.

The Madison declaration can be found here.