Environment ministers from the EU’s 27 countries who met in Luxembourg also discussed storage of the noxious substance, and discussed banning the use of mercury in widely-used instruments including thermometers.

The Parliament endorsed holding excess mercury securely in constantly monitored storage sites, until technical advances allow the safe and permanent disposal of the toxic substance. It also supports preventing the export of certain mercury compounds and goods containing the toxic metal, which are already banned from sale in the EU.

Elena Lymberidi, EEB’s Zero Mercury campaign project coordinator said: “They’ve clearly signaled that until further notice, liquid mercury storage can only be a temporary arrangement: there’s no ‘out of sight, out of mind’ option.”

Parliament also advocated the ‘polluter pays’ principle, and recommended creating a fund to ensure money from mercury-related industries is available to pay for this process.

Various environmental and health organizations have signaled backing of the ban from the EU and want to ensure surplus mercury is stored out of harm’s way.

Although encouraged at progress towards a mercury export ban, NGOs would have preferred an earlier implementation date, which may prolong the risk of mercury contamination worldwide over the next three years.

“Following this decision, we’ve got an excellent opportunity to stop the export of mercury-containing products to developing countries,” said Lisette van Vliet of Health Care Without Harm Europe.

“At present, we’re restricting the trade of these products inside Europe, but effectively saying it’s OK for poorer nations to suffer the consequences of their use. Ending these double standards would be a powerful demonstration that we’re serious about phasing out mercury use anywhere on the planet.”

Dana Gornitzki

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