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Originally published August 23 2006

Red Card for Mercury! Time for total ban (press release)

by NaturalNews

At a conference today, environmental and health NGOsi demanded a total mercury export ban to take effect by 2008 at the latest, and that surplus mercury be securely stored in perpetuity. They pressed the Commission urgently to present a proposal to regulate mercury. NGOs also called for the Directive restricting the use of all measuring and control equipment containing mercury to be broadened. There is no safe level for mercury. Immediate measures are therefore needed to eliminate it.

“Anti-mercury NGOs insist that the export ban should apply to the widest possible range of mercury-based substances, including compounds and products containing mercury”, said Elena Lymberidi, ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’ Project Coordinator at the European Environmental Bureau. “The EU’s double standard must change”, said Michael Bender, of the Ban Mercury Working Group. “Allowing both the continued export of feedstock for major uses of mercury, and products containing mercury, increases the risk that people and the environment in non-EU countries are exposed to mercury and mercury pollution, while EU citizens are protected.”

It is estimated that converting liquid mercury into a compound, before converting it back to elemental mercury once it has left the EU, costs about US$200 per flask. At the current market price of about $600 or more per flask, unscrupulous traders could take advantage of the “mercury compound loophole”, convert the mercury to a compound for export, have it converted back to elemental mercury outside the EU, and still make a profit. Only recently, the price of mercury was just $200 a flask.

NGOs have demanded the establishment of a tracking system to monitor the import, export and intra-EU transport of metallic mercury and its compounds, plus a review of ways in which the scope of the ban and mercury storage can be extended, ahead of the effective export ban deadline.

In view of the 20 June Council Working Group meeting on the issue, environmental and health NGOs are urging the Council to strengthen the Commission’s proposed restriction on the use and marketing of measuring and control equipment containing mercury. “All consumer and professional uses should be included in the restriction, with special focus on blood pressure measuring devices in hospitals, with exemptions for only a limited period and only where alternatives don’t exist,” said Karolina Ruzickova, of Health Care Without Harm. "Hospitals in many EU countries are already becoming mercury-free. There are serious occupational hazards for healthcare workers who are in contact with leaking or broken devices. Mercury waste management is expensive and creates potential risks for mercury emissions in the environment.” The European Parliament’s March 2006 resolution called for a wider scope including the restriction of health-care equipment containing mercury.

We urge EU Institutions swiftly to adopt the proposals, to help reduce mercury supply and demand in the EU and worldwide, in line with UNEP Governing Council recommendations.

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