ENVI Committee vote on Eck Report a positive step towards the reduction of mercury in the EU

Brussels, 13th October 2016


The ENVI Committee today voted to accept amendments to the Eck Report, which addresses the major environmental and public health concerns with mercury. The outcome of the vote is a significant first step in the legislative process and it has substantially improved the Commission’s proposal on the regulation of mercury.1 HCWH Europe welcomes the level of ambition shown by the ENVI Committee with this vote, which should translate into an absolute reduction in the use of mercury in the EU.

In particular, HCWH Europe welcomes the amendments tabled on Article 10 of the report, dealing with dental amalgam. The proposed phase out of dental amalgam one year after the entry into force of the regulation for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children, and the complete phase out of dental amalgam by 31st December 2022 is in keeping with the EU environmental policy, as set out in the Treaties. These proposed measures build on the principles of preventive action and address pollution at source.

“We welcome the outcome of today’s vote by the ENVI Committee. It shows both leadership and recognition of the serious environmental and potential health risks posed by the release of mercury from dental amalgam. We hope that the upcoming trilogue will be equally constructive and will take another step towards protecting EU citizens and the environment from the effects of mercury” – Philippe Vandendaele, Chemicals Policy Advisor, HCWH Europe

The suggested staggered plan for addressing dental amalgam is a sensible approach to meeting the EU’s commitments under the Minamata Convention, and it allows sufficient time for regular consultations with dental practitioners to address their concerns regarding a phase-out.

The proposed phase-out is the next logical step following on from the SCNIHR opinion, which stated that “for the first treatment of primary teeth in children and for pregnant patients, alternative materials to amalgam should be the first choice”.2

Progressive countries that have already either banned or drastically phased down dental amalgam, such as Sweden and Norway, have all started by issuing a recommendation against the use of amalgam for vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women.

The progressive approach of the ENVI Committee is part of a larger trend whereby countries have gradually moved away from using mercury fillings to the benefit of alternatives.

HCWH Europe hopes that the upcoming trilogue will be constructive and calls on Member States to seize this opportunity to make a major contribution to the phase-out of mercury. This would help to meet the EU´s very own objectives as set out in REACH and would help the EU regain credibility with civil society and EU citizens at large.

View HCWH Europe's Mercury regulation infographic here



On 2nd February 2016, the European Commission proposed a new regulation on mercury (the Proposal), which will repeal Regulation (EC) No 1102/2008 of the European Parliament and the Council of 22 October 2008 on the banning of exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds and mixtures and the safe storage of metallic mercury.

The Proposal seeks to align EU law with the provisions of the International Convention on Mercury (Minamata Convention). The United Nations Environment Programme initiated the negotiations of the Minamata Convention in 2009, and the Convention was signed in 2013. It covers all aspects of the mercury life cycle, from primary mining to waste disposal, including trade provisions and rules for artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), products containing mercury, and mercury emissions into the air. 

The Proposal focuses on gaps that exist in EU legislation for it to be compliant with the Minamata Convention. These are: 

  1. The import of mercury;
  2. The export of certain mercury-added products;
  3. The use of mercury in certain manufacturing processes;
  4. New mercury uses in products and manufacturing processes;
  5. Mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and
  6. Mercury use in dental amalgam. 

About HCWH Europe

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe is a non-profit European coalition of hospitals, healthcare systems, healthcare professionals, local authorities, research/academic institutions and environmental and health organisations. It currently has 75 members in 26 countries from the WHO European region, including 17 EU member states.

HCWH Europe works to transform the healthcare sector worldwide so that it becomes more ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice across the globe. We bring the voice of healthcare professionals to the European policy debate about key issues such as chemicals, climate change and health, green building, sustainable procurement, pharmaceuticals, sustainable food and waste management. (www.noharm-europe.org)

Over the years, HCWH Europe has advocated for the adoption and implementation of legally binding instruments that would reduce mercury in the global environment to a minimum. This is because we are concerned about the effects of the presence of mercury on both the environment and human and animal health.

[1] COM (2016) 39 final Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on mercury, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1102/2008, 2 February 2016

[2] Opinion on the safety of dental amalgam and alternative dental restoration materials for patients and users, Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), (2015), pages 75-76.