The rise and fall of mercury

The use of mercury could slowly die out as Europe and the US recently passed a ban to export one of the most infamous element in chemical history.

Yesterday, the US Congress approved the Mercury Market Minimization Act of 2008, which would ban the export of elemental mercury, prohibit federal agencies from selling or distributing mercury; and direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide permanent storage for domestic stocks of mercury under certain conditions.

The export ban will be effective on January 1, 2013. The bill also requires the Environmental Protection Agency to report to Congress on mercury compounds that may currently be used in any products or processes.

“The intentional use of mercury is declining in the United States as a consequence of process changes to manufactured products (including batteries, paints, switches, and measuring devices), but those uses remain substantial in the developing world where releases from the products are extremely likely due to the limited pollution control and waste management infrastructures in those countries.”

The legislation will curb the direct and indirect flow of mercury into the US waterways keeping it out of tuna and other fish, according to the National Resources Defense Council.

The American Chemistry Council also released their pleased statement about the bill saying the chemical industry has worked aggressively and voluntarily to reduce mercury use and releases, achieving a 94 percent reduction rate since 1996.

The bill followed a recent regulation enacted in Europe last week also banning European Union mercury exports starting March 2011. The region is said to be the world’s biggest mercury exporter despite the EU ban of mercury mining since 2001.

One Response to The rise and fall of mercury

  1. Robbo 8 October, 2008 at 2:28 pm #

    The UK phrase “as mad as a hatter” for someone who is clearly mentally unbalanced is generally taken as coming from hatters ironing mercury salts into hats while they were making them. It was the mercury vapour which did for them. There is a school of thought though which suggests it might have been a corruption of as mad as an adder (viper).

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