**** LATEST NEWS! ****

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

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

Paints and varnishes PDF Print

Phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA) and similar mercury compounds have been widely used as water-based paint additives, and may still be used in some countries. These compounds were used as “in-can” preservatives to extend the shelf life by controlling bacterial fermentation in the can (biocides), as well as to retard fungus attacks on painted surfaces under damp conditions (fungicides).

Inorganic mercury compounds of very low solubility have also been used as additives in marine coatings and paints to impede bacteria formation and to hinder the development of marine organisms. This use is believed to have been largely discontinued by the mid-1970s (US DOC, as cited in NJ MTF, 2002).

Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

The European Union directive 76/769/EEU restricts the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations, and includes a prohibition of the use of mercury substances in marine anti-fouling paints, wood preservatives, among others.

Globally

In theUSAthe use of mercury biocides in paint officially ended in 1991. Prior to that, mercury compounds were used in 25 to 30% of all interior latex paints (it was not used in oil-based paints), and in 20 to 35% of outdoor latex paints (Heier, 1990). An estimated 227 metric tons per year of PMA and other mercury compounds were used in paints in the USA between the mid 1960s and 1991 (NJ MTF, 2002). It would be interesting to carry out an inventory of the obsolete stocks of these paints that could still be stored in households.

Information is provided at http://www.epa.gov/hg/consumer.htm#bat bat and at http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/modelleg.cfm

In a reported incident of mercury poisoning in 1989 in theUS, the walls were painted with latex paint containing 930-955 ppm mercury (MMWR, 1990).

The use of mercury in paints has now been substantially reduced or eliminated in a large number of countries. Among others,Mauritius,Cameroon,Costa Rica,Japan,Norway, theUSAandSwitzerlandhave all discontinued this use (UNEP, 2002). Some paint industries inThailandhave no mercury in their processes or paints since 1991, and are certified as “green label.”

During the Global Mercury Assessment (UNEP, 2002) Thailand reported that less than 25% of the paint factories in Thailand still use mercury compounds as additives, and in quantities of not more than 0.5% of total weight. In Costa Rica, the regulation on the content of lead and mercury in paints sets a maximum limit of 50 ppm (0.005 %) mercury. Australia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Ireland, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago (mostly discontinued now) have also indicated recent or continued use of mercury in paints (UNEP, 2002),