EC Ends Mercury Exemptions

The European Commission extends its ban on products containing mercury as the Minamata Convention reaches its first national reporting deadline. 


Extracts taken from European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment News Article 16 Dec 21 

Minamata Reporting Deadline

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The treaty was ratified on 10th October 2013 at a diplomatic conference held in Kumamoto, Japan.

To date 137 parties have signed up to the treaty including all of the G20 economies (excluding Russia and Turkey).   

The deadline for parties to the Convention to report on their fight against toxic mercury – covering the period from 16th August 2017 to 31st December 2020 – elapsed on 31 December 2021.

The first full national report pursuant to Article 21 reflects on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention, on the effectiveness of such measures, and on possible challenges in meeting its objectives.

EC Ends Exemptions

On a similar vein the European Commission announced in December 2021 a package of rules ending a broad range of existing exemptions for the use of mercury in lamps.

The new rules aim to increase the protection of health and the environment from this hazardous substance, as well as boosting innovation and promoting cleaner products.

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

"...Mercury-free lamps exist and should take over. With these new rules to phase out mercury, the EU shows determination to protect health and the environment and promote industrial innovation in achieving our circular economy and zero pollution ambitions..."

Time-Limited Exemptions still remain

For certain lamp categories, mainly for special purposes like in the industrial or medical sector, for which sufficient reliable mercury-free substitutes are not yet available, time-limited exemptions to use mercury are still granted, under the restrictive conditions set by the RoHS Directive.

Terminating mercury exemptions for fluorescent lamps will lead to a reduction of around 2,800 kg of mercury as well as diminishing the risks linked to inappropriate disposal of mercury-based lamps.

The phase-out would provide an additional push for innovation and for the further expansion of mercury-free lamp technologies, such as LED, that are already underway.

Mercury Background

Mercury is a chemical element with neurotoxic effects. It is used in industrial processes and in a variety of products like lamps. Mercury released to the environment enters the food chain where it can bio-accumulate mainly in fish. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause harm to the brain, lungs, kidneys and immune system.

Mercury mining stopped in 2003 and the use of mercury in the EU has been steadily decreasing over the past 15 years, thanks to the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive set of EU rules restricting its use in products. 

What this means for Water Treatment

Mercury UV lamps are used throughout the water industry for various applications most notably for disinfection of Drinking Water and Wastewater for which they provide an effective, chemical free, solution to removing harmful bacteria and viruses.

In recent years UVC-LED alternatives have started to grow in popularity, particularly for smaller point-of-use applications where the Instant ON/OFF and unlimited cycling features offer obvious advantages.

Larger applications - such as Municipal Drinking water and industrial Process water - required more power than LEDs have historically been able to deliver. However today, with innovative reactor design, and the strides being made by  LED manufacturers to increase output power, efficiency, lifetime and at the same time reducing cost, there are indications that the transition to solid state technology, even for these larger applications, is reaching a tipping point.

The transition will not happen overnight and we will likely see a continuum over a number of years as LED technology gradually occupies a greater and greater proportion of the overall UV water treatment market. So starting an orderly transition today will reduce the impact on End Users of rising component costs and obsolete equipment tomorrow.    



Mike Hemingway

With over 25-years' knowledge and experience in the water industry in general and UV water treatment in particular. Mike is Sales & Marketing Lead for Typhon Treatment Systems.

Topics from this blog: MakeMercuryHistory

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