(Jul 10, 2007)

EU bans mercury in measuring devices

From AP

STRASBOURG, France (AP) - The use of mercury in thermometers and other measuring devices is to be banned in the European Union to protect the environment and human health.

The European Parliament on Tuesday approved a law that bans the use of the highly toxic metal in fever thermometers, manometers - devices that measure pressure - and other non-electrical measuring devices. The legistlation has already been endorsed by the EU's 27 member states.

Safer non-mercury alternatives exist for almost all the devices covered by the ban, the parliament said.

Existing devices can still be used and repaired, and instruments classified as antique - more than 50 years old - may also still be bought and sold.

The EU is the world's biggest exporter of mercury, which is gradually being phased out by industry. EU governments agreed last month to ban mercury exports from the bloc from 2011.

Mercury poisoning can be fatal and even small amounts can damage the nervous system. Elevated mercury levels have been linked to learning disabilities and developmental delays in children and to heart, nervous system and kidney damage in adults.

Traces of mercury are found in nearly all fish and shellfish. Released through industrial pollution, mercury accumulates in streams and oceans as a more toxic form, methylmercury. This can pass through the blood barrier and into the placenta, posing a particular risk to pregnant women and children.

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