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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 Events

Show: ArrowAllArrowEvents organized by EEB/ZMWG on mercuryArrowAll events

DateName of eventPlaceCategory
November 2014
03.11 - 07.11.2014Sixth session of the Intergovernmental negotiating committee on mercury (INC 6)Bangkok, Thailand All events
September 2014
22.09 - 26.09.201417th International Conference on Heavy metals in the Environment (ICHME)Guiyang, ChinaAll events
October 2013
07.10 - 11.10.2013UNEP Diplomatic Conference on MercuryKumamoto, Minamata, JapanAll events
July 2013
28.07 - 02.08.2013International Conference on Mercury as a Global PollutantEdinburgh, ScotlandAll events
January 2013
13.01 - 18.02.2013UNEP INC 5 on MercuryGeneva All events
September 2012
23.09 - 27.09.201216th International Conference on Heavy Metals in the EnvironmentRome, ItalyAll events
June 2012
27.06 - 02.07.2012UNEP Hg 4th Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC4) Punta de l'Este, UruguayAll events
April 2012
11.04 - 13.04.2012UNEP Hg Intersessional work on financial resources and technical and implementation assistanceBudapest, HungaryAll events
February 2012
20.02 - 22.02.201212th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment ForumNairobi, KenyaAll events
18.02 - 19.02.201213th Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF-13) Nairobi, KenyaAll events
09.02 - 11.02.2012Workshop on Sustainable ASGM Practices Mataram, IndonesiaAll events
07.02 - 08.02.2012 International Conference on Environmental, Socio-Economic and Health Impacts of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Malang, IndonesiaAll events
November 2011
05.11 - 06.11.2011UNEP 3rd Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) meetingNairobi, KenyaAll events
October 2011
31.10 - 04.11.2011UNEP Hg Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC3)Nairobi, KenyaAll events
17.10 - 21.10.201110th COP Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their DisposalCartagena de Indias, ColombiaAll events
05.10 - 06.10.2011CEE regional meeting in preparation for the Hg INC 3Brno, Czech Republic All events
September 2011
26.09 - 28.09.2011Asia Pacific regional meeting in preparation for Hg INC 3Kobe, JapanAll events
19.09 - 23.09.2011GRULAC regional meeting in preparation for Hg INC 3Panama City, PanamaAll events
12.09 - 16.09.2011African Regional meeting in preparation for Hg INC 3Ouagadougou, Burkina FasoAll events
February 2011
21.02 - 25.02.201126th Session of the UNEP Governing Council Global Ministerial Environment ForumNairobi, KenyaAll events
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