Plans for a total ban on ‘toxic’ mercury in the EU by 2025

European Union (EU) negotiators have reached an agreement to phase out mercury by 2025, with an emphasis on dental amalgam, lamps, and environmental safeguards.

In brief:
  • Agreement extends the ban on dental amalgam to all individuals in the EU by January 1, 2025, with exceptions for specific medical needs.
  • Commission to review mercury emissions from crematoria by December 31, 2029, assessing the need for further phase-outs.
  • Six additional mercury-containing lamps face a manufacturing, import, and export ban from January 1, 2026, and July 1, 2027, depending on type.
In detail:

Negotiators from the Council and the European Parliament have reached a provisional political agreement on a proposal to completely phase out the use of mercury within the European Union.

The deal includes a ban on dental amalgam and certain mercury-added products, emphasising the protection of human health, the environment, and the promotion of safety standards.

Mercury, known for its severe health risks when released into the environment, has long been a concern for policymakers. The provisional agreement, pending formal adoption, aims to address the residual uses of mercury, striving to establish a mercury-free Europe.

The agreement particularly focuses on dental amalgam, a common dental material. While current regulations restrict the use of dental amalgam in children under 15 years old and pregnant or breastfeeding women, the amendments extend this prohibition to include all individuals within the EU. The total phase-out is set for January 1, 2025, unless strictly necessary for specific medical needs. An 18-month derogation is introduced for member states where low-income individuals might be disproportionately affected, with justification and implementation measures due by June 30, 2026.

The prohibition on the export of dental amalgam from January 1, 2025, is maintained, accompanied by a ban on manufacturing and import within the EU from June 30, 2026. However, a derogation allows the import and manufacturing for patients with specific medical needs. A general review of exemptions for dental amalgam use will be conducted by the Commission by December 31, 2029, considering the availability of mercury-free alternatives.

The amendments also target mercury emissions from crematoria. By December 31, 2029, the Commission will review the implementation and impact of emission guidelines in member states, assessing the need to phase out remaining mercury uses and expand the list of mercury waste sources.

The agreement also addresses the manufacturing, import, and export ban of six additional mercury-containing lamps, effective from January 1, 2026, and July 1, 2027, depending on the lamp type.

Alain Maron, Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, expressed the importance of the agreement in safeguarding public health. He stated, "When released into the environment, mercury can severely endanger our lungs, brain, and kidneys. With today’s agreement with the Parliament, we are targeting the remaining use of mercury to make the EU mercury-free."

The next steps involve submitting the provisional agreement to the Council's representatives and the Parliament's environment committee for endorsement.

If approved, the text will undergo formal adoption by both institutions, following revision by lawyer-linguists, before being published in the EU’s Official Journal and entering into force.

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