Mercury Legislation in the EU

Restrictions on Mercury Sale and Export

The EU has banned the sale of mercury thermometers altogether. It has also banned the sale of mercury blood pressure devices for public use. It recently made illegal the export of raw mercury and some mercury compounds.

What the EU has banned

And what it hasn't

The sale of mercury thermometers for both public and healthcare use

The sale of mercury blood-pressure devices for public use

The export of liquid (raw) mercury

The export of some mercury compounds

The sale of mercury
blood-pressure devices for healthcare use

The export of mercury blood-pressure devices and thermometers

Products and devices containing mercury have not, however, been banned from export. This means manufacturers in the EU can still export items such as mercury thermometers and blood pressure devices for sale abroad, even though they are considered too hazardous for public use within the EU. NGOs working on the legislation would like the EU export ban to have been strengthened to include products and devices that contain mercury.

The EU export ban was recently mirrored by regulation in the US, which also passed a similar, albeit weaker, ban on liquid mercury exports. By allowing products which contain mercury to be manufactured in Europe but sold abroad, there is a risk of dumping old, dirty technology on developing countries which are less well-equipped for dealing with the problems of disposing of waste mercury.

Next Steps

The European Commission is putting together a report on the feasibility of banning the sale of mercury sphygmomanometers for professional use. If the report finds that economically and technically viable alternatives are widely available, then the likelihood of a ban is higher.

Since mercury has largely been phased out in US hospitals, the Netherlands and Denmark, is already banned in Sweden, and is restricted or recommended against in many other places, HCWH believes a ban is feasible.

If you have experience with mercury-free alternatives, you can help us by getting in touch by email.