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Committee for Socio-economic Analysis agrees on two draft opinions on restriction proposals for mercury compounds under REACH


Alternatives available for mercury in measuring devices

SEAC concluded, in its draft opinion on mercury in measuring devices, that there are technically and economically feasible alternatives available for these devices and that the restriction is justified from a socio-economic point of view.

The scope of the original restriction proposal made by ECHA was slightly modified; SEAC proposed to also restrict the placing on the market of mercury-in-glass thermometers used in industrial applications for temperature measurements above 200°C, given the evidence that economically feasible alternatives exist.

Furthermore, as a result of the public consultation, SEAC supported a restriction on the placing on the market of mercury strain gauges (instead of restricting the placing on the market of plethysmographs designed to be used with mercury strain gauges).

As foreseen by REACH, the draft opinion of SEAC will be published for public consultation. The final opinion is scheduled to be adopted in September 2011.

Phenylmercury compound restriction: further reduction of the use of mercury

SEAC supports in its draft opinion the restriction, proposed by Norway, on five phenylmercury compounds used as catalysts in polyurethane systems: phenylmercury acetate, phenylmercury propionate, phenylmercury 2-ethylhexanoate, phenylmercuric octanoate, and phenylmercury neodecanoate. The Committee concluded that the proposed restriction of these five phenylmercury compounds is the most appropriate Community-wide measure, and that the action is justified from a socio-economic point of view.

SEAC concluded that the restriction should enter into force with a delay of five years after its adoption, in order to allow for substitution of the substances and processes.

As foreseen by REACH, the draft opinion of SEAC will be published for public consultation. The final opinion is scheduled to be adopted in September 2011.

Mercury in measuring devices

At the request of the European Commission, ECHA has reviewed the availability of safer alternatives to measuring devices containing mercury and, as a result, prepared a restriction report proposing to restrict mercury in several measuring devices that are used in industrial and professional settings (thermometers, sphygmomanometers, barometers, manometers, metering devices for the determination of softening point, pycnometers and strain gauges).

Mercury in measuring devices intended for the general public is already restricted.

The restriction proposed by ECHA, which is now supported by its scientific committees (RAC and SEAC), concludes that as suitable alternatives are available the measuring devices listed above could be restricted and would thus no longer be placed on the market in the EU (with some minor derogations).
Phenylmercury compounds

Norway prepared a restriction report proposing a ban on manufacture, placing on the market and use of five phenylmercury compounds, as well as a ban on placing on the market of articles containing these substrances..The proposal is now supported by ECHA’s scientific committees (RAC and SEAC).

Phenylmercury compounds are mainly used in the production of polyurethane coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers. They are degraded in the environment and produce hazardous degradation products, which can be transformed to methylmercury. Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife. There is a widely recognised need to further reduce mercury emissions at an EU and global level. Action at an EU level is necessary, for a global persistent pollutant like mercury, because it causes cross-boundary problems to human health and the environment. The life-cycle of the phenylmercury compounds leads to a release of mercury into the environment corresponding to around 4-7% of the total European mercury emissions.

Source: ECHA

Related Information

ECHA: SEAC - Opinion on an Annex XV dossier proposing restrictions on five phenylmercury compounds (draft)

Related EVISA Resources

Brief Summary: REACH: Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals
Link database: Industrial use of mercury and its compounds
Link database: Toxicity of inorganic mercury compounds
Link database: Toxicity of organic mercury compounds

Related EVISA News

September 25, 2010: The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) calls for comments on reports proposing restrictions on mercury and phenylmercury

March 10, 2010: ECHA suggests further chemicals for SVHC list

last time modified: June 20, 2011


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