According to a report in Reuters, the EU is planning to ban new mercury thermometers in an effort to minimize the serious health risks that the highly toxic heavy metal poses to humans, wildlife, and ecosystems.
The European Commission, which initiates and administers laws for the 25-country EU, wants to ban new mercury-containing devices such as all types of thermometers, barometers, and blood pressure gauges.
According to Guenter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry: “This measure will reduce the amount of toxic mercury entering the waste stream. This is good for our citizen’s health and the environment.”
Direct exposure to mercury from a broken thermometer can cause damage to the lungs, kidneys and brain when inhaled. EU ministers and the European Parliament will debate the proposed ban. Thermometers account for over 90% of the 33 tons of mercury used each year in the EU.
Environment and health groups welcomed the Commission’s proposal, saying that thermometer manufacturers should make better use of readily available alternatives like digital thermometers that are inexpensive, accurate, and user-friendly.
The ban would exclude specialty medical measuring devices for which adequate alternatives are not always available.