Here is a non-exhaustive list of the European legislation in force on the mercury issue. In Belgium, given the fragmented nature of the competences, these legislations are implemented at the Federal level on the one hand and at the regional level on the other. The links given below redirect to the competent authority.

The distinct objectives are:
to restrict products containing mercury
to prohibit mercury in some products
the management of mercury throughout its life cycle
to ban exports outside Europe

[NEW] The European Mercury regulation enters into application on 1/1/2018

The new EU Regulation (EU) No. 2017/852 on mercury and mercury compounds complements the export ban on mercury (preexisting in the repealed Regulation (EC) No. 1102/2008), by strict conditions on import, by phasing out various products and industrial process (and establishing an authorization process for the new products and processes), by (quasi) banning the use the dental amalgam for the children (and pregnant women) and by imposing strict management rules on the storage and on the mercury waste (including their traceability).

The objective for this Regulation include both the protection of the human health and the environment (including the exposure to humans via the environment) from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

The main provisions of Regulation (EU) No. 2017/852 are:

  • Article 3: restriction of mercury exports
  • Article 4: restriction of imports of mercury and mixtures of mercury  and consent to import mercury or mixtures of mercury
  • Article 5: restriction of the export, import and manufacturing of mercury-added products
  • Article 7: restriction of the use of mercury in manufacturing processes
  • Article 8(1): restriction of the placing on the market of new products containing mercury
  • Article 8(2): restriction of the use of mercury or mercury compounds in new manufacturing processes
  • Article 8(4): process relating to new mercury-added products and new manufacturing processes using mercury
  • Article 9: ban of the use of mercury in artisanal and small scale gold mining
  • Article 10(4): requirements for an amalgam separator in dental facilities
  • Article 10(6): requirements on the handling and collection of amalgam waste and limitations on the release of amalgam waste into the waste water
  • Article 11: disposal obligation for mercury waste issued from specific large sources
  • Article 12: reports and certificates relating to the traceability of mercury waste
  • Article 13: requirements relative to the permanent storage of mercury waste
  • Article 14 requirements, registers and traceability relating to the temporary storage and the conversion of mercury waste
  • Article 18 reporting obligation relating to the implementation of the regulation by the authorities

The corresponding annexes to the above provisions are fund under:

  • ANNEX I: Mercury compounds subject to Article 3(2) and (3) and Article 7(3) and mixtures of mercury subject to
  • Article 3(2), Article 4(1) and Article 7(3)
  • ANNEX II Mercury-added products referred to in Article 5
  • ANNEX III Mercury-related requirements applicable to manufacturing processes referred to in Article 7(1) and (2)
  • ANNEX IV Content of the national plan on artisanal and small-scale gold mining and processing referred to in Article 9

Limited exemptions apply to these obligations and these are specific to the provisions of the distinct articles.

This Regulation applies without prejudice to the provisions of the applicable Union legislation that set stricter requirements for mercury-added products, including the maximum mercury content.

Additional development will take place on basis of provisions directed to the Commission and the Member States in this legislation, including: the ban of export of products produced in Europe, the inventories of existing products and processes in EU and national plans for the phase-down of the dental amalgam.

Limitations of products containing mercury:

- The REACH regulation(EC) No 552/2009 regulates the registration, assessment, authorisation and restriction of chemical substances. The appendix XVII includes several restrictions about mercury:

o Compounds of mercury are prohibited in biocide applications. See entry 18 of Appendix XVII.
o Marketing of measuring devices meant for consumers and clinical thermometers is prohibited. See entry 18a of Appendix XVII.
o Measuring devices for professionals and industries (for example thermometers, sphygmomanometers and barometers): text under preparation at present. The measure is planned to become applicable 18 months after the regulation comes into force.
o Five compounds of phenylmercury, mainly used for polyurethane applications: text under preparation at present and the measure is planned to become applicable 18 months after the regulation comes into force.

- The ROHS directive(2002/95/EC) prohibits the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and the WEEE directive(2002/96/EC) promotes the collection and recycling of these pieces of equipment. Both are applicable to the mercury issue. It must be noted that some products may bypass this prohibition, especially cost-saving light bulbs.

o Cost-saving light bulbs (CFL) may contain a limited concentration of mercury.  This waiver is referred to in a progressive reduction programme of authorised concentrations. For more about the legislation for CFL bulbs and preventive measures.

Prohibition in the use of mercury in some products

The use of mercury in prohibited in several other European legislations, especially:
Batteries: The use of mercury in prohibited in batteries, (exception: limited concentration in button cells)

Cosmetics: The use of mercury (and its compounds) is prohibited in cosmetics, (exception: some specific cosmetic products)

Pesticides and biocides: Mercury and its compounds are generally prohibited for use in pesticides and biocides

Toys:  The Safety of Toys directive defines a concentration limit of the mercury content in toys (expressed as migration threshold value). More information on the website of Economy FPS.

Moreover, the presence of mercury in dental amalgams (commonly mistakenly called "sealing") and in button cells is presently under discussion at the European level.

Mercury management obligations at various stages of its life cycle:

water quality: The framework directive on water sets the environmental quality norms regarding the presence of some substances, including mercury in surface water. In Belgium, the regional institutions are competent in this matter.

the food contaminants: several foods have been given a mercury concentration limit.

o View the EFSA recommendations (European Food Safety Authority) about the consumption of fish in the diet of pregnant women and children to limit exposure to methylmercury, a very toxic form of mercury and mainly present in fish at the top of the food chain.

industrial emissions: The Integrated pollution prevention and control directive (IPPC) defines the obligations that the highly polluting industrial and agricultural activities must meet. It sets an authorisation procedure of these activities, especially for discharging polluting substances in the atmosphere, water and soil, as well as waste matter.

In Belgium, regional institutions are the competent authorities in this matter.

storage and disposal on land of mercury:

Alongside the export prohibition measure to countries outside the European Union, provisions were defined for secure storage of mercury as well as the obligation for some industry sectors to discharge mercury on land (and thereby prohibit fresh marketing in the European Market). These obligations are defined by the European regulations (EC) No 1102/2008 of 22 October 2008 relative to the prohibition of exports of metallic mercury and some compounds and mixtures of mercury and for the safe storage of this substance. In Belgium, regional institutions are the competent authorities in this matter.

Prohibition of exports outside Europe  and strict conditions for imports to Europe 

A ban apply to the export from the EU of Mercury and Mercury mixtures above 95% w/w based on EU Mercury Regulation (EU) No. 2017/852  . There are however a few exemptions, especially regarding mercury compounds. Additional obligations are defined in EU Mercury Regulation (EU) No. 2017/852, as presented above.

For more information on the legislation for international trade of mercury, you can also refer to the legislation enforcing the Amsterdam Treaty and especially the PIC procedure that is applicable to exports of mercury compounds as well as to exemptions for exports of metallic mercury.

Besides, strict conditions on the import of Mercury also apply based on the EU Mercury Regulation (EU) No. 2017/852: Please find information and procedures applying to Importers under our section “conditions for mercury imports to the European Union”.