March 5. 2024. 7:45

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Mercury: Council and Parliament strike a deal to completely phase out mercury in the EU


The Council and European Parliament’s negotiators today reached a provisional political agreement on a proposal to phase out the use of dental amalgam and prohibit the manufacturing, import and export of a number of mercury-added products, including certain lamps. The proposal addresses the residual remaining uses of mercury in products in the EU, with a view to establishing a mercury-free Europe. The deal is provisional pending formal adoption by both institutions.

Alain Maron, minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for climate change, environment, energy and participatory democracy

When released into the environment, mercury can severely endanger our lungs, brain, and kidneys. EU policies so far have been instrumental in significantly reducing the use of and exposure to this highly toxic chemical. With today’s agreement with the Parliament, we are targeting the remaining use of mercury to make the EU mercury-free.Alain Maron, minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for climate change, environment, energy and participatory democracy

Main elements of the agreement

While current rules already forbid the use of dental amalgam for treating teeth in children under 15 years old and pregnant or breastfeeding women, the amendments extend the prohibition to include everybody in the EU. The co-legislators maintained the Commission’s proposed date for the total phase-out in the EU, 1 January 2025, except when the use of dental amalgam is deemed strictly necessary by the dental practitioner to address specific medical needs of the patient. However, they introduced an eighteen-month derogation for those member states where low-income individuals would otherwise be socio-economically disproportionally affected. No later than one month after the entry into force of the revised regulation, those member states will have to well justify their use of the derogation and notify the Commission of the measures they intend to implement to achieve the phase-out by 30 June 2026.

While the Council and Parliament maintained the prohibition to export dental amalgam from 1 January 2025 as proposed by the Commission, they agreed to introduce a ban on the manufacturing and import in the EU from 30 June 2026. The text of the amendment provides for a derogation to allow the import and manufacturing of dental amalgam that is used for patients with specific medical needs. A general review of the exemptions for the use of dental amalgam will be performed by the Commission by 31 December 2029, taking into account the availability of mercury-free alternatives.

Additionally, the amendments address the release of mercury into the atmosphere by crematoria. By 31 December 2029, the Commission will carry out a review of the implementation and impact of guidelines in member states on how to abate emissions from crematoria. The review should also include an assessment of the need to phase out remaining mercury uses and to expand the list of mercury waste sources.

Six additional mercury-containing lamps will also be made subject to a manufacturing, import and export ban as from 1 January 2026 and 1 July 2027, depending on the type of lamps.

Next steps

The provisional agreement will now be submitted to the member states’ representatives within the Council (Coreper) and to the Parliament’s environment committee for endorsement. If approved, the text will then be formally adopted by both institutions, following revision by lawyer-linguists, before it can be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force.

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Background

The EU mercury regulation is one of the key EU instruments transposing the Minamata Convention, an international treaty signed in 2013 to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The 2017 regulation covers the full-life cycle of mercury, from primary mining to waste disposal, contributing to the ultimate EU objective to limit and phase out the use, manufacturing and export of mercury and mercury-added products over time, as spelled out in the EU strategy on mercury.

In July 2023, the Commission proposed a targeted revision of the regulation to address the remaining use of mercury in the EU, in line with the EU’s zero pollution ambition. The proposed amendments call for the complete ban of the use, manufacture and export of dental amalgam for dental treatment and of certain types of mercury-added lamps.

The European Parliament and Council adopted their negotiating positions on 17 and 30 January 2024, respectively.

  • Council negotiating mandate
  • Commission proposal on the revision of the Mercury Regulation
  • Minamata convention on mercury (official website)

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