Environmental NGOs are urging the European Commission (EC) to restrict sales of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, showing how they can be feasibly replaced with lighting emitting diode (LED) lamps. “The time is ripe for an EC decision to take CFLs (<30W) off the shelves throughout the EU by 2018,” said EEB’s Elena Lymberidi-Settimo. Since the US Energy Department’s lifecycle analysis shows that LEDs far surpass CFLs in efficiency and other environmental impacts, advocates are also calling for US retailers to follow IKEA’s lead in ending CFL sales. “LEDs are environmentally preferable to CFLs from a lifecycle perspective,” said Alicia Culver, RPN’s director. “LEDs use less energy, last three times longer than CFLs. They are a practical and affordable alternative for most general purpose lighting applications.” Workers can be exposed to mercury when manufacturing, transporting, installing, recycling or disposing of CFLs and other fluorescent lamps. Pregnant women and toddlers may be exposed above safe levels when CFLs are broken in rooms without ventilation. “LEDs don’t contain mercury and are becoming more cost competitive, especially when energy use and higher CFL disposal costs are factored in,” said MPP director Bender.
On behalf of CSPI and MPP, Earthjustice recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against FDA for failing to respond to our 2011 petition requesting the Agency to give consumers clear, accurate and accessible information about mercury in seafood (as recent press reports explain.) The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered deadline since under its own regulations, FDA had 180 days to respond and its failure to do so violates federal law. In 2004, FDA acknowledged MeHg exposure risks when it issued an online advisory based on now outdated research. Several recent studies suggest adverse effects at exposure levels 10-fold lower than those considered acceptable a decade ago.
The EEB and MPP welcomed a new study for the European Commission, which recommends phasing out dental amalgam use in five years. The BIOS report noted that mercury-free fillings appear more expensive than amalgam because the negative external costs associated with management of amalgam are not factored in. MPP director Bender discussed the EU study in a recent youtube interview, and also said that “When factoring in external costs to society, the average price of an amalgam would be 15% higher than that of a composite,” referencing a recent study on the The Real Cost of Dental Mercury.
Dental mercury fillings pollute the environment, contaminate fish and are far more costly for taxpayers than the alternative tooth-colored material, according to an economics report released by MPP and a broad coalition of health, consumer and environmental groups. The study was prepared by Brussels-based Concorde East/West Sprl and details how society pays for dental mercury through additional pollution control costs, deterioration of public resources, and the health effects associated with mercury contamination. The report shows that when the real cost to taxpayers and the environment is considered, amalgam is significantly more costly than composite as a filling material, by at least $41 more per filling, as reflected in the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology brochure.
Today, ZMWG, EEB, HEAL and HCWHE sent a letter sent to all EU Environment Ministers and Commissioners and Director Generals for Environment and Health, asking for support for phase-outs of mercury use in dentistry in the EU and globally. This was in response to the EU in 2011 conducting a full life-cycle assessment of mercury use in dentistry- mainly looking at the environmental effects caused. The study is expected to be completed by spring 2012. The EEB had sent its initial input on the study in September 2011.
Environmentalists laud proposed Amendment 541 of the ENVI Committee report for providing targeted consumer safety labeling for methylmercury in fish for pregnant women and children in the European Union. Amendment 541 adds labeling of the mercury content in meat from large predatory fish or foodstuffs containing meat from these fish species. The amendment would read: “contains methylmercury- not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, women who might become pregnant, and children” and be added immediately after the list of ingredients. In absence of a list of ingredients, the statement would accompany the name of the food. The first reading vote on this amendment will be held next week.
The European Parliament recently adopted a ban on the export of mercury from the EU, one of the world’s biggest mercury exporters, and ensuring its safe storage, beginning in March 2011. In addition to metallic mercury, the ban covers other compounds such cinnabar ore, mercury chloride and oxide. The regulation requires the storage of mercury either in salt mines, in deep, underground, hard rock formations, or in above-ground facilities. “Although we would have liked to see a more robust regulation, this agreement between the two institutions is a very good step towards locking down mercury in the EU,” said Elena Lymberidi Settimo, EEB’s Project Coordinator of the Zero Mercury Campaign (see press release).
The EU Commission is required to submit by 2010 a report on any technological advances in the solidification of mercury and, if appropriate, a proposal for revision of the directive not later than 15. March 2013. In addition, the Commission must report by 2010 if there is a need for an import ban on mercury and if the export ban should be extended to other compounds, mixtures and products containing mercury, in particular thermometers, barometers and sphygmomanometers. More information on the EU mercury export ban.
Today, US Senator Barack Obama sent a letter to US Dept. of Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman requesting clarification on recent reports that DOE is considering the sale of its 1300+ tons of its surplus mercury currently stored at its Oak Ridge, TN facility. “Given that mercury is a trans-boundary pollutant that is deposited both locally and globally, any strategy to reduce mercury in the environment must also include reducing the volume of mercury traded and solid in the world market,” states the letter from Senator Obama. Senator Obama has expressed concerns about global mercury issues and has introduced the Mercury Market Minimization Act (S. 3627), which would ban the export of surplus mercury from the US, similar to the proposal to ban mercury exports described below by the European Commission. The EC recently hosted an international conference on managing international supply and demand of mercury (see online presentations), including a presentation from MPP director Michael Bender. Policy makers, industry representatives, non-governmental organizations and scientists participated in this event. The conference brought together experts and stakeholders from around the world to discuss, in an open dialogue, the way forward to reduce mercury supply and demand.
As the U.S. considers surplus mercury issues, NGOs welcomed an EU regulation to ban mercury exports and ensure safe storage of surplus mercury so that this dangerous neurotoxin will not re-enter the global market. The proposed EU export ban sends a clear message to world governments and the upcoming UNEP Governing Council meeting in February 2007 that mercury exports should be curtailed globally, say NGOs. Mercury trade to over 50 developing countries, according to EU reports exposes miners to severe health impacts when used in gold mining and also pollutes the global environment, according to the UNIDO Global Mercury Project . “We’ve got to stop the cycle of toxic trade and contamination which ends up polluting our lunch sandwiches and dinners in the US,” said Michael Bender of MPP and Zero Mercury Working Group (see coverage). “The Commission recognized that it is very important that mercury supply and demand are addressed simultaneously.” The U.S. EPA has stated that it will initiate discussions on the surplus mercury issue in its Roadmap on Mercury in 2006. “Ultimately, it will be important to look at ways to permanently “retire” non-federally owned or managed commodity-grade mercury that will eventually have little or even negative economic value,” states the Roadmap. The Department of Defense has decided to permanently store, rather than sell, over 4,000 tons of surplus mercury.