One of the main sources of marine pollution from mercury is the chlorine-alkaline industry

All Press Releases…

Oceana is calling on the EU to maintain the 2007 deadline for the elimination of an obsolete technology that emits tonnes of mercury into the atmosphere each year.


January 27, 2005
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( mmadina@oceana.org )




Oceana has asked the EU to maintain the 2007 deadline for the elimination of the obsolete mercury cell technology in chlorine-alkaline plants and to put a similar programme to the one used by the United States into operation, by 2008, in order to put an end to one of the leading sources of mercury pollution.

The high levels of mercury that reach the oceans are seriously contaminating many marine organisms. Various health authorities have warned about the danger of consuming large amounts of certain fish, such as sharks, catfish and swordfish.

Both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have published respective communiqués which warn of the risks that the consumption of these marine products can pose to pregnant women and children.

While this information is generally available to the inhabitants of countries such as the United States and Great Britain, in Spain, the Spanish Food Safety Agency (AESA) has decided not to inform the general public by direct methods but rather via medical professionals.

“Despite the fact that warnings about the mercury contamination of marine organisms can be found on certain web pages, most people do not access these sites. Every country should provide regular, easily-accessible information for its citizens and make a serious commitment to urgently eliminating sources of contamination that are totally unjustified, such as mercury emissions from chlorine-alkaline plants,” says Xavier Pastor, the Director of Oceana for Europe.

One of the leading sources of the high levels of mercury contamination in the sea is emissions from the chlorine-alkaline industry. According to information from Oceana, some 60 plants around the European Union and the United States annually emit more than 22 tonnes of this dangerous heavy metal into the atmosphere, which affects marine life to very worrying levels, including species destined for human consumption.

Oceana, the leading organisation dedicated exclusively to research for the protection and recovery of the oceans, believes that it is inexcusable for the EU and US to maintain an industry that is as old and obsolete as the mercury cell technology used for manufacturing chlorine.

There is also the exacerbating factor that dozens more tonnes are possibly being emitted into the environment without being accounted for, because it is unknown how and where they are emitted: even though the mercury is used and replaced, they are regarded as “lost” tonnes.

In the European Union, chlorine-alkaline plants consume 30% of all the mercury used by the industry, while in the United States this figure is 35%.

The EU has agreed to progressively eliminate these plants, or replace them with modern systems that do not use mercury, by 2007. Indeed, the United States already only uses mercury in 10% of its production and in Europe some 40 plants have been closed or converted in the last 15 years.

However, some countries in the EU have asked for an extension of several years to the 2007 deadline, and the industry is trying to prevent its total elimination from taking place until 2020.

Meanwhile, in the United States there are no plans  to put an end to this dirty technology.

Other major sources of the emission of mercury into the environment are coal-fuelled power plants and waste incinerators. But while in these cases the mercury is more difficult to eliminate or prevent, in the case of chlorine plants there have been systems in place for years that do not need to use this metal, so this form of pollution is 100% preventable.

Chlorine-alkaline plants using mercury cells in the European Union and the United States:

 

Location

Number

Location

Number

Alabama

1

Belgium

2

Delaware

1

Finland

1

Georgia,

1

France

7

Louisiana

2

Germany

9

Ohio

1

Holland

1

Tennessee

1

Spain

8

West Virginia

1

Sweden

2

Wisconsin

1

UK

3

 

 

Slovakia

1

 

 

Poland

2

 

 

Italy

7

 

 

Hungary

1

 

 

Greece

1

 

 

Czech Republic

2