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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

Home Press Releases Civil society calls on EU decision makers to phase out dental amalgam
Civil society calls on EU decision makers to phase out dental amalgam PDF Print
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 15:30

   


Brussels, 29 November 2016

Civil society calls on EU decision makers to phase out dental amalgam

Europe will imminently decide the fate of dentistry’s most controversial procedure: the use of mercury-based dental fillings, known as amalgam.  It is condemned as a risk for “secondary poisoning” by a European Commission scientific advisory body because it gets into fish that people eat [1]. Furthermore, the Commission’s health advisory committee has recommended a ban on its use in fillings in children and pregnant women [2].

Representatives from the three European institutions, namely the Commission, the Parliament and the Council, will meet on 6 December to discuss the text of the EU regulation on mercury, including its use in dentistry. Europe is the largest amalgam user in the world, and consumer, health and environmental NGOs, as well as many dentists, are calling for a ban.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo of the European Environment Bureau said:

 “An ambitious regulation is needed to reduce the use of mercury in the EU and phase it out of dentistry. Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of ending amalgam by 2022 (with special allowances for medical reasons) with a ban sooner for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children.  We agree - over 66% of dental fillings in the EU are now made without mercury and it is now time that this becomes the norm.”

The European Commission has also turned its back on the opinion of the European public.

Marie Grosman, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, said:

In the public consultation organized by the European Commission, 88% of participating Europeans recommended to phase out amalgam and 12% called for its use to be phased down. Since the Commission sought the vote of the people, why don’t they follow their advice?” 

Dentists once heavily used amalgam, but are abandoning it in droves with several Member States either disallowing its use (i.e. Sweden) or reducing it to less than 5% of all dental fillings (for example, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands). 

Dr Hans-Werner Bertelsen, a dentist from Bremen, Germany, said:

European dentists know the end is near for amalgam.  Alternatives are available, affordable, and effective. It is time for Europe to say good-bye to amalgam, a material clearly inferior to composite or ionomers.”

The environmental impact of dental amalgam is significant, impacting on air, water and land, and being taken up in the fish eaten by Europeans.

 

Philippe Vandendaele of Health Care Without Harm said:

Mercury is globally one of the 10 chemicals of major public health concern, yet the Commission proposes we maintain the status quo. Empirical evidence shows that due to technological changes and dentist training, the cost of mercury-free dentistry is declining, so the price differential continues to shrink.”

 

Indeed, the claim that amalgam is slightly cheaper than alternatives is illusory.

Johanna Hausmann of Women in Europe for a Common Future, added:

When amalgam’s disastrous impact on the environment is factored in, amalgam’s costs are as much as €82 more per filling than composite.  Continuing the use of amalgam does not even make economic sense.” [4]

A growing consensus is that Europe must, at the very least, ban amalgam use for children and pregnant women. 

Genon Jensen, Health & Environmental Alliance (HEAL) said:

We must first protect those most vulnerable to mercury’s neurotoxicity – the developing brains of children, babies, and foetuses.  Several nations, such as Germany, the UK and Poland, have already announced that they don’t use or that dentists should not use amalgam for children or pregnant women.”

Members of the European Parliament Michèle Rivasi (France), Stefan Eck (Germany) and Piernicola Piedicini (Italy) are circulating petitions in four languages to ban amalgam in Europe.  Signatories have already exceeded 17,000 names. 

Notes to the editor

[1] Opinion on Environmental risks and indirect health effects of mercury from dental amalgam (update 2014)pdf(361 KB)

[2] Final opinion on the safety of dental amalgam and alternative dental restoration materials for patients and users (29 April 2015) pdf(794 KB)

[3] European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted on the mercury regulation on 13 October 2016, A8-0313/2016

[4] http://www.mercury-free.org/pressRoom_recentNews/April-2012/New-Economics-Report--The-Real-Costs-of-Dental-Mer.aspx

[5] A Joint NGO letter was sent on the 15 November, to EU Environment ministers, to the EU Health Ministers, and to the European Commission.

[6]The Minamata Convention requires each party to “phase down the use of dental amalgam.” Clearly out of step with the spirit and intent of the Convention, the Commission’s proposal would merely require the use of amalgam separators and encapsulated amalgam and not lead to a reduction in amalgam use.

It’s estimated that Europeans are storing upwards of 1,000 tonnes of mercury in their mouth which will eventually be released to the environment. (EEB-2007 Mercury in dental use :Implications for the European Union, Concord East/West)

[7] Petitions on dental amalgam

https://www.change.org/p/beatrice-lorenzin-stop-al-mercurio-nei-nostri-denti

https://www.change.org/p/jean-claude-juncker-f%C3%BCr-ein-amalgamverbot-in-der-zahnmedizin

https://www.change.org/p/jean-claude-juncker-pour-en-finir-avec-le-mercure-dentaire

https://www.change.org/p/jean-claude-juncker-let-s-ban-mercury-dental-fillings

For more information contact:

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, 0032 (0)2 289 1301, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Philippa Nuttall Jones, EEB Communications Manager, 0032 (0)2 289 1309, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Philippe Vandendaele, Chemicals Policy Advisor, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe, 0032 (0) 2503 0481, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Aidan Long, Press & Communications Officer, HCWH Europe, 0032 (0) 2503 0481 / 0032 (0)465 100 940, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Diana G. Smith, Communications and Media Adviser, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), 0033 (0)1 55 25 25 84 / 0033 (0)6 33 04 2943, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Johanna Hausmann, WECF Chemicals and Health Project Coordination, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 0049 (0)89 232 3938 19

Chantal Van den Bossche, Coordinator Public Relations & Press WECF, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it