MAC: Mines and Communities

EU Lawmakers Put Mercury Thermometers out in Cold

Published by MAC on 2006-11-15

EU Lawmakers Put Mercury Thermometers out in Cold

PlanetArk FRANCE

15th November 2006

STRASBOURG - European Union lawmakers voted on Tuesday in favour of an EU-wide ban on mercury in thermometers in a bid to cut the risk posed by the toxic heavy metal to humans, the ecosystem and wildlife.

Thermometers account for up to 30 of the 33 tonnes of the mercury used in measuring and control devices across the EU every year. Direct exposure from a broken thermometer can cause damage to lungs, kidneys and brain when inhaled.

The European Parliament vote in Strasbourg was carried by 582 in favour, with 17 against and 21 abstentions. EU member states must now give their approval for the ban for it to take effect.

The move does not apply to devices that are already in use, or those which have already been placed on the market, the parliament said in a statement. Mercury-based barometers also got a reprieve, with the European Parliament concluding that a ban on their use would lead to more mercury found in household waste, as there will be no producers left to repair any broken instruments.

British Conservatives hailed the derogation for barometers as a victory for their campaign to save what they called in a statement an "ancient weather instrument" with a 400-year tradition.

But some ecologists were unhappy, with Swedish Green parliamentarian Carl Schlyter criticising the fact that the exemption also covered new barometers.

"It is a disgrace that a handful of small producers of new barometers should be able to hold public health to ransom," he said in a statement.


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