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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

Crematoria PDF Print
Friday, 23 September 2011 15:35

Crematoria

Cremation is increasingly gaining popularity even in societies where religious influence on cremation is not high, due to space limitations for cemeteries. Most of the mercury released during cremation is due to the vaporisation of dental amalgam fillings that contain mercury.

The typical cremation process includes the charging of the coffin and corpse, incineration in the main combustion chamber and, where applicable, final treatment in the afterburning chamber. Most cremation furnaces are fired using oil or natural gas, although some operate on electricity.

Most crematoria around the world still have no controls on emissions, although legislation is increasing because for instance in theNetherlands, the average number of fillings is expected to increase from 3.2 to 5.1 during the period 1995-2020 (OSPAR, 2002). This means that the emissions from cremations in theNetherlandswill double between 2002 and 2020, unless abatement measures are introduced.

In theUK it has been calculated that by 2020 crematoria will be by far the largest single contributor to mercury emissions (just over 25% of theUKmercury emissions to air) unless action is taken (AEA, 2004).

 Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

No specific legislation applies at EU level. Individual Member States have adopted national legislation as relevant. More information can be found in the EC Impact assessment report prepared for the EU Mercury Strategy in 2005.

Relevant information can also be found in EEB,EEN, HCWH, Ban Hg WG/MPP publication: "ZERO MERCURY - Key issues and policy recommendations for the EU Strategy on Mercury" [December 2005]

In the UK, industry itself created the Crematoria Abatement Mercury Emissions Organisation (CAMEO) scheme, a crematoria abatement system scheme. This is a burden-sharing scheme where all members pay per cremation, then receive payment per abatement. This scheme also enabled a phased approach which was not in government recommendations with targets: by 2008, 10% of cremations abated, by 2010, 20% and by 2012, 50%.

EEB-HEAL-ZMWG organised a Conference on "Dental Sector as a source of mercury contamination"  May 25, 2007,Brussels, Belgium, which included a presentation fromUK authorities on the voluntary agreement on crematoria which is implemented in the UK.

The Report from the conference 'Dental Sector as a Source of Mercury Contamination', Brussels, 25 May 2007, [October 2007] is also available.

 Globally

 Many NGOs are working on the issue from around the world. Mercury Watchdog in the US is one of them: "We understand that cremation is growing choice for responsible citizens across the United States. As with anything that begins to grow in popularity, so does its impact on the surrounding environment. It has recently been reported by the Environmental Protection Agency that mercury pollution from crematoria reached 6613 lbs in 2005. This site began in response to a request from a local funeral home. They requested a zoning change allowing the addition of cremation equipment. Concerned neighbors began to ask questions that no one could answer. Questions like: Is this safe for my children? How close is too close? Why don’t funeral homes remove dental amalgam and dispose of it separately? Once it enters our environment in the form of vapor, mercury is virtually impossible to recover. We do know that modern filtration equipment can drastically reduce what reaches our environment.  We feel that funeral home operators should do everything within their ability to prevent the introduction of mercury into the environment at the source. At this time, the removal of dental amalgam and stack filtration are viable solutions. "

For more information, see:  http://www.mercurywatchdog.com