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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

Home Press Releases
Press releases 2009
# Article Title Date Hits
1 During UN meeting, Governments Urged to Ratify Mercury Treaty 24 September 2014 3390
2 Last Chance for Governments to Develop Strong Global Mercury Treaty 10 January 2013 1875
3 Breakthrough reached on 'Phasing Down' dental mercury use, at W.H.O. meeting 18 November 2009 1745
4 Time to pull mercury out of fillings, say Health and Green groups to W.H.O. 16 November 2009 1334
5 Les associations de sante-environnement rappellent a l’oms qu’il est temps d’eliminer le mercure des soins dentaires 16 November 2009 1503
7 Ya es hora de eliminar el mercurio de empastes dentales (amalgamas dentales), dicen organizaciones que se ocupan de la salud y del medio ambiente a la OMS 16 November 2009 1142
8 Time to end use of mercury-based blood pressure devices 27 October 2009 1568
9 World Governments Move Towards Global Treaty on Mercury 23 October 2009 1414
10 Turning up the pressure Phasing out mercury measuring devices in hospitals 18 June 2009 1597
11 World Governments Support Breakthrough Agreement on Mercury 20 February 2009 1304
12 Mercurio nel pesce: appello del Gruppo Zero Mercury alle Nazioni Unite Legambiente: “Riconvertire entro il 2010 gli impianti clorosoda” 10 February 2009 1304
13 Mercury in Fish is a Global Health Concern 10 February 2009 1531
14 DNR legt Studie zur Quecksilberbelastung in Fisch vor 10 February 2009 1767
15 Mercury in Fish a Global Health Concern: Warrants Immediate United Nations Action 10 February 2009 1542
16 PR from Arnika - Cz Rep 10 February 2009 1486
17 New Study Raises Concern over Mercury Pollution from Burning Products 04 February 2009 1458