Euro MPs back tougher stance on mercury

Euro MPs called for a tougher stance on mercury pollution in Europe, pushing for a ban on mercury use in all new thermometers, limits on emissions from coal-powered stations, crematoria, and the safe storage of waste mercury.

The European Parliament resolution, passed on Tuesday, is a response to the Mercury Strategy proposed by the Commission last month (see related story) in an attempt to curb the release of the highly toxic heavy metal into the environment.

MEPs called for legal limits on mercury emissions from coal-powered stations, the biggest source, and crematoria, where the chemical is released from dental fillings.

They also asked the Commission to implement a ban on mercury use in all thermometers and measuring devices, including healthcare and scientific uses, rather than only those intended for consumer use as previously proposed by the Commission.

The request met with praise from environmental and health NGOs. Lisette Van Vliet, Toxics Policy Advisor for Health Care Without Harm, said:

“For medical devices, there are plenty of good alternatives out there. There is an easy way to reduce the mercury from the healthcare sector that ends up contaminating the environment.”

Rare exemptions would include traditional measuring equipment and the few medical uses where alternatives do not exist.

MEPs also called for a ban on mercury exports from Europe by 2010 – a year earlier than the date proposed by the Commission. They said it is “an economic, political and moral imperative” for Europe, which remains the world’s biggest mercury exporter, to lead the way in dealing with mercury pollution not only in Europe but globally.

Elena Lymberidi, mercury campaigner at the European Environmental Bureau said: “The European Parliament has sent a clear message to Europe – and the world – about further steps needed to reduce the use of mercury.”

“The parliament is clearly pushing the Commission to strengthen the strategy, asking the EU to come forward with an export ban by 2010.”

By Goska Romanowicz

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