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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


[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

Tuesday, 14 March 2017 23:54


Brussels, 14 March 2017

The EEB today welcomed the European Parliament’s vote to restrict the use of mercury within the EU.  The new regulation, already informally approved between the EU institutions in December, fills in the legislative gaps at EU level in view of implementing the requirements of the United Nations Minamata Convention on Mercury.

In particular the new regulation, replacing the existing one on a mercury export ban and safe storage, will:

  • ban the export of additional mercury compounds;
  • ban the export of certain mercury added products already banned from the EU market;
  • ban the use of dental amalgam for children under 15 years, and pregnant or breastfeeding women, unless medically necessary;
  • Prohibit the use of mercury in certain manufacturing processes, as well as in artisanal and small scale gold mining, in new processes and manufacturing of new products, and
  • Require the conversion and if applicable, solidification of metallic mercury waste prior to its final disposal in underground salt mines or specially-engineered landfills, respectively.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Manager at the EEB, commented:

Today’s vote brings the EU and its Member States closer to the ratification of the Minamata Convention.  It signals that the EU is ready to live up to its international commitments and even go beyond the requirements of the Convention by effectively reducing the use, supply  and release of mercury.“

The Minamata Convention is a legally-binding agreement at the international level aiming to protect the human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo added:

Since mercury is a chemical of global concern owing to its long-range atmospheric transport, persistence in the environment, ability to accumulate in ecosystems, and significant impact on human health and the environment, it is important that EU Member States and world countries take immediate action to ratify and swiftly implement the Convention.

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