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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

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Publications 2009

Introduction and background
Mercury is an extremely toxic metal that is now ubiquitous in the environment due to centuries of unchecked releases. When airborne, mercury is a transcontinental pollutant that, once deposited, bioaccumulates and bioconcentrates as it makes its way up the food chain. Exposure to mercury, even at low levels, has been linked to central nervous system damage, kidney and liver impairment, reproductive and development disorders, defects in fetuses and learning deficits.
Introduction
It is widely known that mercury is highly toxic, causing damage in particular to the nervous system, with the highest risk to humans occurring during the early development phases.

In response to European Union and global concerns about mercury pollution, the aim of the Community Mercury Strategy is to reduce mercury levels in the environment, and thereby reduce human exposure, by restricting mercury use, supply, and releases. These critical objectives were also key factors behind the recent 25th UNEP Governing Council Decision to begin negotiating a legally binding instrument on mercury, with the aim to have a treaty in place by 2013.
Introduction
Il est de notoriété publique que le mercure est hautement toxique, et atteint notamment le système nerveux en particulier, avec un risque maximum pour les humains dans les premières phases de leur développement.
Mercury in Fish: A Global Health Hazard

Executive Summary

Methylmercury contamination of fish and fish-eating mammals is a global public health concern. The risk is greatest for populations whose per capita fish consumption is high, and in areas where environmental pollution has elevated the average mercury content of fish. But methylmercury hazards also exist where per capita fish consumption and average mercury levels in fish are comparatively low. In cultures where fish-eating marine mammals such as whales and seals are part of the traditional diet, methylmercury in these animals adds to total dietary exposure.

10 February 2009
Mercury in fish executive summary (EN) (1.17 MB)
 hot
Methylmercury contamination of fish and fish-eating mammals is a global public health concern. The risk is greatest for populations whose per capita fish consumption is high, and in areas where environmental pollution has elevated the average mercury content of fish. But methylmercury hazards also exist where per capita fish consumption and average mercury levels in fish are comparatively low. In cultures where fish- eating marine mammals such as whales and seals are part of the traditional diet, methylmercury in these animals adds to total dietary exposure.
10 February 2009
Mercury in fish executive summary (FR) (1.24 MB)
La contamination par le methylmercure des poissons et des mammiferes piscivores constitue une preoccupation de sante publique a l' echelle mondiale. Les populations dont la consommation de poisson par habitant est elevee sont les plus exposees, mais ce risque concerne egalement les regions oil la pollution environnementale a augmente la teneur moyenne en mercure du poisson.
10 February 2009
Mercury in fish executive summary (ES) (1.18 MB)
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La contaminaciOn por metilmercurio de pescados y mamiferos que se alimentan de pescado es un problema de salud pilblica. El riesgo es mayor para las poblaciones cuyo consumo de pescado es alto, en zonas donde la contaminaciOn ha elevado el contenido medio de mercurio en el pescado. Pero el peligro del metilmercurio tambien existe donde el consumo de pescado y su contaminaciOn por mercurio son, comparativamente, bajos. En las culturas donde ademas los mamiferos marinos que se alimentan de pescado, como ballenas y focas, forman parte de la dieta tradicional, la exposiciOn al mercurio aumenta de forma considerable
10 February 2009
Mercury in fish executive summary (PT) (1.20 MB)
A contaminacào por metilmerciirio em peixes e mamiferos que se alimentam de peixes é uma preocupacao mundial de sande pfiblica. 0 risco é maior para populaciies cujo consumo per capita é alto, e em areas onde a poluicào ambiental tem aumentado o contendo medio de merciirio empeixes. Mas os riscos do metilmerciirio tambem existem onde o consumo per capita e os niveis medios de merciirio em peixe sào comparativamente baixos. Em culturas em que fazem parte da dieta tradicional os mamiferos marinhos que se alimentam de peixes tais como baleias e focas, o metilmerciirio nesses animais aumenta a exposicào total na dieta.
10 February 2009
Mercury in fish executive summary (CHI) (1.16 MB)
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Executive summary
This assessment has been prepared for the Mercury Policy Project/Tides Center and is being co-released by the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), Ban Toxics! and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
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