The new EU Regulation (EU) No. 2017/852 (“The Regulation“) on mercury and mercury compounds, complements the export ban on mercury laid down by repealing Regulation (EC) No. 1102/2008, by implementing restriction in import, phasing out its use in various industrial products or process and proper management of mercury waste1.
Since the objective of this Regulation is to ensure high level of protection of human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds, the Regulation2:
specifies forms of mercury and mercury compounds (Annex I) and mercury-added products (Annex II) for import and export prohibition;
restricts mercury use in manufacturing processes, products, artisanal and small-scale gold mining and processing and in dental amalgam;
sets out technical requirements for storage of mercury, mercury compounds and mixtures of mercury;
prohibits or authorises also new mercury-added products and new manufacturing processes involving the use of mercury or mercury compounds and specifies reporting obligations for the same.
Mercury-added products listed in Annex II of the Regulation includes:
batteries or accumulators;
switches and relays;
high pressure mercury vapour lamps (HPMVs);
mercury-added cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps;
cosmetics with mercury and mercury compounds;
pesticides, biocides and topical antiseptics;
non-electronic measuring devices.
This Regulation should apply without prejudice to the provisions of the applicable Union legislation that set stricter requirements for mercury-added products, including the maximum mercury content2,3.
Timeline This Regulation entered into force in early June 2017 and will repeal Regulation (EC) No 1102/2008 with effect from 1 January 2018.
Background Mercury and most of its compounds are highly toxic to humans and the environment4. Mercury is widely distributed in the environment and various mercury compounds have tendency to bioaccumulate and biomagnify in food chain. It is considered the most toxic heavy metal, however consequences resulting from human exposure to mercury only called the attention of the scientific society after the accidents in Japan (Minamata disease, 1950 – 60) and Iraq (1971)5.
Inhalation of elemental mercury vapours during industrial processes and mining, consumption of contaminated fish or shellfish and use of mercury in dental amalgam are primary source of human exposure. Interventions to prevent environmental releases and human exposure include 6:
eliminating mercury production and use in mining and industry;
promoting use of clean energy sources that do not rely on burning of coal;
switching to non-mercury alternatives in health care; and
implementing safe handling, use and disposal of mercury-containing products and waste.
The United Nation’s Minimata Convention7 aimed at curbing the worldwide extraction, usage and emissions of mercury, entered in to force on 16 August 2017 and has the backing of 128 countries including the EU and its 26 Member States. Other 2 countries (Estonia and Portugal) which are yet to sign the convention have expressed commitment to conclusion of the convention2.