February 21, 2006

EU plans to ban new thermometers with toxic mercury

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union may soon ban new
thermometers that contain mercury, hoping to minimise the risk
that the toxic heavy metal poses to humans, ecosystems and
wildlife, the EU executive said on Tuesday.

The Commission, which administers and instigates laws for
the 25-country EU, wants to ban the marketing of mercury in new
fever and room thermometers, barometers and blood pressure
gauges due to its serious threat to health.

"This measure will reduce the amount of toxic mercury
entering the waste stream. This is good for our citizen's
health and the environment," said Guenter Verheugen, EU
Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry.

Thermometers account for up to 30 of the 33 tonnes of the
mercury used in measuring and control devices across the EU
every year. Direct exposure from a broken thermometer is
dangerous, causing damage to the lungs, kidneys and brain when

The proposed ban will now be debated by EU ministers and
the European Parliament. Specialist applications, in particular
medical measuring devices, are not covered in the ban since
adequate substitutes were not always available, the Commission

Environment and health groups broadly welcomed the
Commission's move, saying it was time that thermometer
manufacturers made better use of alternatives like digital
thermometers that are cheap, accurate and easy to use.

"Many of these devices have already been extensively
analysed. Non-mercury alternatives are commercially available
and costs are comparable," said Genon Jensen, executive
director of the European Public Health Alliance Environment