The government of Switzerland have decided to allow the export of mercury to continue for another decade.

This puts the Swiss out of step with the rest of Europe who have enacted a full export ban and they have been described as the ‘weak link’ in Europe in the control of the dangerous neurotoxin.

A Swiss government statements this week explained that subject to approval by the Federal Environmental Office, exports of mercury dental amalgam will be permitted until the end of 2027.

The deadline for other mercury exports, for electric discharge lamps and welding machines, was set for the end of 2020.

The measures are aimed at withdrawing recycled mercury from the global market and store it safely, according to the statement.

Earlier in the week over 50 environmental organisations called on the government of Switzerland to enact a full ban. The letter said that commercial interests appear to have convinced the government to extend the deadline but asked them to resist.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause serious health problems and needs to be controlled. In August the Minamata Convention on Mercury came into force. It is an international treaty designed to control and phase out certain mercury uses. The first Convention of the Parties to the treaty was recently held in Geneva.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’ at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said:

“Switzerland remains the weak link in Europe when it comes to allowing mercury flows to the rest of the world.”

Michael Bender, Director, Mercury Policy Project, USA said:

“Unfortunately, commercial interests are reportedly trying to convince the Swiss government to allow mercury exports dental amalgam, even though that use has been nearly phased out in Switzerland,”

“If Switzerland wants to be the flag bearer for the Convention, it needs to show exemplary leadership.”

Advocates point out that the Convention calls on Parties to phase down the use of dental amalgam, which Switzerland has already done.

Dr Shahriar Hossain, Senior Research Advisor, Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO, Bangladesh said:

“We strongly urge Switzerland to reconsider implementing only a partial export ban,”

“Exporting mercury specifically for dental mercury use sends a contradictory message.”