Mercury and its compounds

Little Pro on 2016-07-17

Mercury and its various compounds are widespread and persistent in the environment. They have a range of serious health effects including brain and neurological damage especially among the young. Others include kidney damage and damage to the digestive system. Victims can suffer memory loss and language impairment alongside many other well documented problems. Mercury and its compounds are mainly used for producing measuring devices and some metal products.

Mercury and its compounds and REACH annex XVII

Mercury and its compounds are included in REACH Annex XVII restricted substances list (entry 18 and 18a). The restriction conditions are listed as follows.

Substances Conditions


Shall not be used in fever thermometers and other measuring devices supplied to the general public.

Shall not be used in mercury-containing measuring devices intended for certain industrial and professional uses (exception:  sphygmomanometers,  mercury triple point cells, etc.)

Mercury compounds

Shall not be placed on the market, or used, as substances or in mixtures where the substance or mixture is intended for use:

(a) to prevent the fouling by micro-organisms, plants or animals of: — the hulls of boats, — cages, floats, nets and any other appliances or equipment used for fish or shellfish farming, — any totally or partly submerged appliances or equipment;

(b) in the preservation of wood;

(c) in the impregnation of heavy-duty industrial textiles and yarn intended for their manufacture;

(d) in the treatment of industrial waters, irrespective of their use.

Mercury and EU RoHS 2

EU RoHS 2 restricts mercury and its compounds in all electrical and electronic products. The limit is 0.1%. The limit  applies to each homogeneous material in a product rather than a product or a part itself.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury and its compounds. More than 140 countries have ratified the Convention. The major highlights of the Minamata Convention on Mercury include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing mines and mercury-added products, as well as control measures on air emissions.

Mercury and its compounds
  • New mercury mines are banned;
  • Existing mercury mines will be phased out in 15 years since the date of entry into force of the convention;
  • Export is only allowed if a written consent has been received from importing party;
  • Import from a non-party is not allowed;
  • Exemptions: Quantities of mercury or mercury compounds to be used for laboratory-scale research or as a reference standard; and naturally occurring trace quantities of mercury or mercury compounds.
Mercury-added products
  • The manufacture, import or export of mercury-added products will be banned after phase-out date 2020;
  • Examples: Batteries, Switches and relays, Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and non-electronic measuring devices;
  • Some products are excluded: For example, where no feasible mercury-free alternative for replacement is available, switches and relays, cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps (CCFL and EEFL) for electronic displays, and measuring devices;
  • More exemptions available to a Party upon request.
Manufacturing processes
  • The use of mercury or mercury compounds in a new facility is banned;
  • The use of mercury or mercury compounds in some manufacturing processes will be phased out after phase-out date;
  • Examples: Production of polyurethane using mercury containing catalysts , Vinyl chloride monomer production .


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