Mercury spotlight: The toxic lamps that shall not be turned off

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Batteries, thermometers, fluorescent lamps, cosmetics and other products containing mercury have their days numbered, the UN Environment Programme announced on Friday.

Over 110 parties, including most EU countries, re-affirmed their commitment to phasing out mercury-added products by 2020. Parties agreed to review and possibly expand the list that contains products to be banned.

The commitment is part of the Minamata Convention, the world’s main initiative to protect human health and the environment from mercury, which was first announced in 2013. It is named after the bay in Japan, where in the mid-20th century mercury-tainted industrial wastewater poisoned thousands of people.

In Europe, the use of mercury is already banned or limited in many products. If viable alternatives exist, electrical products containing mercury should be phased out as agreed under the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.

Though mercury-added batteries and thermometers were taken off the market, one particular product has become the subject of a lengthy dispute between a handful of companies, campaigners and EU institutions. 



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