Web Date: September 26, 2008
Mercury Export Ban
The European Union will ban exports of elemental mercury as of March 2011, under a law it adopted on Sept. 25.
The legislation is aimed at the EU chemical industry, which is phasing out its use of mercury cells to produce chlorine and caustic soda. Both chlor-alkali makers and other EU industrial operations that end up with elemental mercury as a by-product must put their excess of this metal into storage once the export ban takes effect.
According to the European Commission, the EU is the world's largest exporter of mercury and is responsible for as much as a quarter of the global supply of the element.
The United Nations has raised concern that exports of mercury from the industrialized world, which is phasing out the use of this element, end up in and on the hands of small-scale gold miners. Many use quicksilver to separate flecks of the precious metal from sand. These small-scale miners, who include children, as well as those living near mining operations, become contaminated with the neurotoxic substance, as does the surrounding environment (C&EN, May 28, 2007, page 26).
The House of Representatives passed a bill in November 2007 that would have banned U.S. exports of mercury starting in 2010 (C&EN, Nov. 19, 2007, page 36). The Senate has not acted on the legislation.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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