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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

Home Press Releases Evidence shows mercury threat underestimated ahead of UN treaty talks
Evidence shows mercury threat underestimated ahead of UN treaty talks PDF Print
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 11:11
EEB LOGO_FINAL_zeromercury logoBRI-AA

                                Evidence shows mercury threat underestimated ahead of UN treaty talks

[4 December 2012, Brussels]--New reports released today show widespread global mercury contamination of seafood and health effects from methylmercury in seafood occurring below the level that was considered “safe” just a few years ago. The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) [1], in cooperation with the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) [2], is facilitating the release of the three reports.[3] 

“The level of mercury in the Pacific Ocean is projected to increase by 50% by 2050 if current pollution trends continue unabated,” said Richard Gutierrez, executive director of Ban Toxics!, located in Quezon City, Philippines. “This is a wake-up call for all governments to stem the rising tide of mercury pollution and finalize a strong treaty.”

The new scientific findings are to be presented at the start of the fifth and final round of United Nations negotiations to put in place a legally binding global treaty to reduce mercury use and pollution [4]. The legal text negotiated by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee is expected to be completed on 18 January 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The latest science points to the need for strict reduction measures to address the global mercury crisis,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, co-coordinator of ZMWG at the European Environment Bureau in Brussels, Belgium.

Other key science findings include the following:

  •  Larger predatory      fish—such as swordfish, shark and certain species of tuna— are often      listed in national fish consumption advisories due to higher mercury      concentrations. Different seafood varieties can differ by at least      100-fold in their average mercury content.
  • Seafood regularly consumed      by people contains mercury concentrations that commonly exceed “safe” levels      (based upon US EPA standards [5]). However, there are also plenty of low      mercury seafood alternatives with high omega 3 benefits;
  • Several recent      epidemiological studies clearly show that the consumption of ordinary      amounts of fish can cause an unsafe risk to the developing foetus and      children, suggesting that the current health exposure tolerance levels      should be revised to reflect the latest scientific findings; and
  • BRI’s Global Biotic Mercury Synthesis (GBMS) project provides a standardized and      comprehensive database that can be used to      identify mercury data gaps, describe areas where further research is      needed, and evaluate the      effectiveness of the future global mercury treaty. 

“We believe it is crucial to understand global baseline mercury
concentrations in order to make appropriate decisions on how to evaluate the effectiveness of the treaty,”
David C. Evers, Ph.D., executive director of BRI and a member of the UNEP Fate and Transport Partnership Group.


[1] Zero Mercury Working Group is a coalition of more than 95 NGOs around the world working towards zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum. www.zeromercury.org

[2] Biodiversity Research Institute’s  mission is to assess emerging threats to wildlife and ecosystems through collaborative research, and use scientific findings to advance environmental awareness and inform decision makers.

[3] The report from BRI reveals patterns of global seafood mercury concentrations. A companion report written by Dr. Edward Groth III for the ZMWG provides an overview of epidemiological evidence for mercury effects on human health and a rationale for lower tolerance levels.  Finally, ZMWG presents a short summary of the report findings, and provides recommendations.  Links to all the reports are available at:  www.zeromercury.org.

[4] http://new.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Mercury/Negotiations/tabid/3320/Default.aspx

[5] The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s health-based reference dose for methylmercury is 1x10-4 milligrams/kilogram-day, a body weight of 132 pounds or 60 kilograms and a fish meal size of 6 ounces or 170 grams.

Patterns of Global Seafood Mercury Concentrations and their Relationship with Human Health [EMBARGOED]

Mercury Contamination, Exposures and Risk: Summary and Recommendations (Zero Mercury Summary and Recommendations)

An Overview of Epidemiological Evidence on the Effects of Methylmercury on Brain Development, and a Rationale for a Lower Definition of Tolerable Exposure


ZMWG /EEB – Alison Abrahams - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it +32 489 304 962

BRI - Deborah McKew - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it - +1 (207) 839-7600  x222