Working in reference to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which lays out restrictions on products containing mercury, the EPA announced revisions to toxic substance management regulations so as to upgrade Taiwan’s restrictions on mercury into accordance with the Convention.
The EPA noted mercury primarily enters the human body through inhalation or ingestion. Once mercury is in the body, it is difficult to remove, resulting in nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains. Accumulation of mercury over a long period can damage the brain, nervous system, liver, kidneys, and lungs. Because mercury is persistent and bioaccumulative, it can circulate in the environment and accumulate within organisms, thus affecting the environment and human health.
To prevent mercury pollution, the EPA in 1991 listed mercury as a Class 1 toxic chemical substance to be regulated under the law. The current revisions are made in response to measures laid out in the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The EPA revised the usage and restrictions on mercury to reduce people’s risk of mercury exposure. The main points of the revisions are as follows:
1. Revisions to terminology regarding mercury-containing products.
2. Prohibiting the usage of mercury in the manufacturing of batteries, switches, relays, fluorescent light bulbs, high pressure mercury lamps and non-electronic measuring instruments from 1 Jan 2021.
3. In accordance with Table 2 in Item 2 in the announced revisions, a list of calibration instruments and reference standard products that are allowed to be manufactured with mercury was added.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury took effect on 16 August 2017. It regulates mercury-containing daily commodities such as button cells, switches and relays, lighting fixtures, fluorescent lights, cosmetics, and pesticide-related products, as well as non-electronic measuring instruments such as barometers, hygrometers, pressure gauges, thermometers, and blood pressure monitors. The Convention comprehensively restricts the mercury content in these products and bans their production, importation and exportation from 2021.
In response to these revisions, the EPA held four inter-ministerial meetings on how to divide the work of managing mercury and derive strategies for restrictions. In addition, the creation of a small inter-ministerial control group was planned. This will allow ministries to cooperate in an effort to restrict the import and export of mercury products. Three additional meetings were held to invite related industries. The participants all expressed understanding of the provisions of the Minamata Convention and agreed to gradually transition to mercury-free alternatives. The EPA also took into consideration suggestions from enterprises, and referred to exemptions on mercury uses in the Convention, so as to amend the regulations by lifting certain mercury controls.
To follow international trends, the EPA not only revised the management regulations, but also collaborated with the Council of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Labor to draft the Implementation Plans for the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Through this inter-ministerial effort, Taiwan expects to implement its domestic mercury management system.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 22 (8)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)