HCWH Europe welcomes the EU triggering the Minamata convention

19 May 2017, Brussels
For immediate release

HCWH Europe warmly welcomes the European Union’s formal submission yesterday of the legal instruments required to implement the Minamata Convention. The convention was ratified in 2013, but it was on the 18th of May 2017 at the New York United Nations Headquarters, that the requisite number of 50 signatories, (from the 128 party to the Convention), was reached - thus bringing this global treaty into force. The Convention's main objective is to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. 

For many years HCWH Europe has advocated the adoption and implementation of legally binding instruments that would reduce mercury pollution globally - to protect the environment and human health. HCWH Europe has worked on the phase out of mercury-based thermometers (achieved in the European Union in 2007), mercury-based blood pressure devices (achieved in 2012 in the EU), and was closely involved in the discussions culminating in the Minamata Convention’s global ratification, agreed in 2013.

HCWH Europe acknowledges the leadership shown by the EU in the original negotiations leading to ratification, and particularly commends the European Parliament for transforming the original European Commission proposal for a Mercury Regulation into a more ambitious instrument to comply with the Convention’s requirements.

HCWH Europe is particularly pleased with the EU measures addressing the partial phase-out of dental amalgam: prohibiting the use amalgam for vulnerable populations i.e. pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under 15 years old.

"This is a first step towards a total ban and we, at HCWH Europe, will continue to push for a full phase out of dental amalgam in the EU.  We will do what it takes to assist EU member states in the elaboration of their national plan (to be submitted to the European Commission by 2020) on a full phase-out of dental amalgam."

- Philippe Vandendaele, Chemicals Policy Advisor - HCWH Europe

The Mercury Regulation sets rules that put the EU firmly on track to become the first mercury­free economy. The provisions imposing responsibility on dental practitioners for waste disposal in an environmentally sound manner, is a timely reminder of the need for an end-of-life approach. Looking at earlier EU regulations, such as the ban of mercury-based thermometers (2007) or mercury based blood pressure devices (2012), HCWH Europe believes that the objectives of the Minamata Convention will only be partially achieved unless concrete steps are taken by all member states to safely collect and store existing mercury-based devices, both from private homes and devices from healthcare facilities. 

“Let us therefore use the momentum created by the Minamata Convention coming into force, to tie up loose ends and reverse the current increasing trend of mercury contamination in the environment and the food chain.”

- Philippe Vandendaele, Chemicals Policy Advisor - HCWH Europe

Next steps

The first Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention will gather governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations from around the world in Geneva 24-29 September 2017. This conference will play a key role in the future of the Convention as it will consider and adopt decisions covering technical, administrative, and operational and financial matters. The President of Switzerland will host a high level side-event “Making Mercury History” on the 28th and 29th of September. [Source]

Related links:

UN Minamata Convention on Mercury

Notes to Editors:

About Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe

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.



Preview image: Sebastien Bertrand via Flickr cc