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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 Mercury treaty rises but weak emissions regime undercuts progress
Mercury treaty rises but weak emissions regime undercuts progress PDF Print
Saturday, 19 January 2013 07:28
logo EEB_colouredzeromercury logo

Mercury treaty rises but weak emissions regime undercuts progress

[19 January 2013, Geneva]—After four years of deliberation, a new global regime rises today that will govern toxic mercury worldwide.  The new treaty is a mixture of mandatory and voluntary elements intended to control the burgeoning global mercury crisis.  While heading in the right direction, the Zero Mercury Working Group[i], expressed concerns about the treaty not reaching far enough nor fast enough to address the spiraling human health risks from mercury exposure.


“Adoption of a global legal agreement on mercury is a major accomplishment,” said Michael T. Bender, co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group.   “Yet the instrument is hampered by weak controls on mercury emissions from major sources like coal-fired power plants.”


For instance,  new facilities will not be required to have mercury pollution controls for 5 years after the treaty enters into force, with existing facilities given 10 years before they begin their control efforts. 


Yet ZMWG says there are bright spots in the treaty. These include provisions to reduce trade, prohibit the primary mining of mercury, and phase out the toxic element in most products containing mercury, like thermometers, measuring devices and batteries. 


“Some of these steps were unthinkable just a couple of years ago.  Now, alternatives exist for most all products containing mercury,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, of European  Environmental Bureau and co-coordinator of ZMWG. “The treaty sends the right market signal and will eventually lead to less exposures worldwide."


The treaty also addresses artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM),  which is both the largest intentional use of mercury globally, and is the largest emission source.


“While national action plans will foster reduced use of mercury in ASGM, the treaty fails to include a provision to require an eventual end to this polluting practice,” said Richard Gutierrez, Ban Toxics! Director from the Philippines.  “With the current text, it seems that mercury use in ASGM may go on indefinitely.”


The Zero Mercury Working Group looks forward to treaty implementation, as the real challenge begins for the governments especially in developing and least developing states.  The new mercury treaty, in spite its flaws, presents a real opportunity to work towards significant reduction of mercury globally.


Michael Bender, tel.: +802  917 4579; email:  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


Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, tel.:+32 2 2891301, +32 496 532818, 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




[i] The Zero Mercury Working Group is an international coalition of over 100 public interest NGOs from more than 50 countries founded by the European Environmental Bureau and Mercury Policy Project, in 2005 to achieve ‘Zero’ emissions, demand and supply of mercury; www.zeromercury.org