Mercury is a metal known for its toxicity to humans, animals and the ecosystem. It is currently used in a wide range of activities, including chlor-alkali chemical plants and the plastics industry, and can be found in a range of products such as thermometers, dental amalgam and light bulbs.
Human activities result in over half of the environmental releases of mercury. Mercury is an element and does not degrade. When deposited in water, it converts to methylmercury, an organometallic compound that bioaccumulates in fish and enters the food chain. The toxicity of mercury found in fish was made evident in the village of Minamata in Japan, where the villagers were exposed to high levels of mercury emitted from a nearby plant, through the fish they consumed.
Mercury is heavily regulated in the EU.
Use of mercury and mercury containing compounds is restricted in consumer products, including batteries and accumulators, electrical and electronic equipment and measuring devices (e.g. thermometers).
Furthermore, the Mercury Export Ban Regulation (1102/2008) bans export of mercury or mercury compounds and puts down provisions for handling of mercury containing waste. Mercury emissions from industrial activities are also regulated by the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EC).
Currently, the EU is on course of ratifying the Minamata Convention. This global treaty is an initiative of the UN and aims at protecting human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. It focuses on phasing out of mercury mining and its use in a number of products and processes, and on controlling emissions to air and releases to land and water. Regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining is also an important goal. The EU is working on a Regulation that will replace Regulation 1102/2008 and amending current EU legislation regarding future uses of mercury and use in dental amalgams.
Fairly recently the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (Envi) voted in favour of amendments to the Regulation proposal that would further restrict mercury use in the EU.
If you need more information on how legislation on mercury affects your company, you may contact H2 Compliance .