Sweden Bans Remaining Uses of Mercury

Sweden's government has issued new regulation that ban the use of mercray in all products -- extending a ban in place since the early 1990s on the manufacture and sale of thermometers and other measuring devices and electronic components containing mercury. The new regulations will take effect June 1, 2009, and will ban mercury's use in dental amalgam, chemical analysis, and the chlor-alkali industry. The Swedish Chemicals Agency will have authority to grant exemptions when companies apply individually for permission to continue using it.

"Sweden is now leading the way in removing and protecting the environment from mercury, which is non-degradable. The ban is a strong signal to other countries and a Swedish contribution to EU and UN aims to reduce mercury use and emissions," Minister for the Environment Andreas Carlgren said Jan. 15, when the ban was announced.

The government's decision also means mercury waste will be stored not in Sweden, but in deep geological deposits in other EU countries such as Germany, which has such repositories that meet the Swedish regulation's safety requirements.

Creating a new Swedish repository would cost roughly 15 times more than the cost of placing mercury waste in existing EU facilities. "By using common solutions and almost 40 years of experience of storing mercury in the EU, we are not lowering safety standards. The waste will be transported to a deep geological repository with high safety standards. In accordance with the polluter pays principle, the owners of the waste will be responsible for ensuring that disposal in a repository is arranged and paying for it," said Carlgren.

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