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Fact Sheet: Mercury

The use of mercury must be limited because it is a toxic heavy metal. It is therefore prohibited to import, sell or export mercury and mercury-containing products that are not mercury-containing measuring instruments.

It is prohibited to import or sell:

  • Mercury-containing medical thermometers intended for either commercial or private use
  • Other mercury-containing measuring instruments intended for private use

It is also prohibited to import, sell or export mercury and mercury-containing products that are not mercury-containing measuring instruments.

"Mercury" means the element mercury in either metallic form or chemical compounds. "Mercury-containing products" means products containing more than 0.01 per cent by weight of mercury.

Mercury-containing measuring instruments intended for private use include manometers, barometers, blood pressure monitors, non-medical thermometers, etc.

Mercury is toxic

The use of mercury must be limited because it is a toxic heavy metal. Mercury can cause severe damage to both health and the environment.

Humans easily absorb mercury vapour through their lungs and skin, and may exhibit symptoms such as coughing and breathing difficulties. Mercury may also lead to allergic contact dermatitis. Mercury can also be absorbed from food, particularly fish contaminated with mercury.

Perhaps the most serious damage is that caused to the nervous system of humans during the foetal period and the consequent risk of impaired learning and development in children.

Exemptions

For the time being, mercury and mercury-containing products may be used for the following:

  • Dental products for filling permanent molar teeth
  • Mercury-wetted film switches and relays for special applications
  • Thermometers for two specific applications
  • Special light sources
  • Flash units for safety installations in railway lines
  • Manometers for a specific application
  • Barometers for a specific application
  • Electrodes for three specific applications
  • Mercury-containing chemicals for special applications
  • Research
  • Education
  • Essential applications in aeroplanes
  • Repair of existing mercury-containing equipment

Some products are not covered by the restrictions, but must comply with other legislation relating to mercury. This is the case for batteries, cosmetics, medical equipment, paint, lacquer, packaging, waste products, and electrical and electronic equipment. The disinfection of walls, wood and textiles is also covered by other legislation.

Importers, distributors and exporters are responsible

Anyone who imports, sells or exports mercury or mercury-containing products is responsible for ensuring compliance with the restrictions, as set out in the Statutory Order.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical inspectors monitor compliance with the restrictions (eller legislation, da det kan menes bredt?) and will ensure that illegal situations are brought into compliance. This may involve withdrawing the product from the Danish market, or making the product legal in some other way. Anyone who breaches the restrictions may additionally face a fine or prison sentence of up to two years.

Further information

The legislation is available (in Danish) at the Retsinfo website: Ministry of the Environment Statutory Order No. 627 of 1 July 2003 banning the import, sale and export of mercury and mercury-containing products.