Product-related emissions of Mercury to Air in the European Union

Mercury emissions to air from the use of mercury in products have been estimated for the EU for the year 2005. A simple model for distribution and emissions described in Munthe and Kindbom (1997) has been used with minor modifications. Data on consumption of mercury in the EU in 2005 was obtained from Maxson (2006) and amounted to 125 tonnes in technical products. Estimates of emissions of mercury from dental amalgam were derived from information on cremations in European countries and average contents of amalgam fillings. Annual emissions of mercury to air from product use in EU27 have been estimated to be in the range 10-18 tonnes (best estimate 14 tonnes) from technical products and to 2-5 tonnes from cremation, in total 12-23 tonnes. Of the mercury consumed in technical products, 11% was calculated to be emitted to air, 31% to end up in safe storage while 58% would still be accumulated in society or disposed of in landfills. From the share still accumulated in society, as well as from the already land filled amounts, further emissions of mercury to air may occur in the longer term. Emissions from technical products are calculated based on the consumption of mercury in 2005. Emissions occurring in the same year but caused by consumption in the previous 10 years were derived using the consumption in 2005 and assuming the same patterns of distribution and emissions. The latest available estimates of total anthropogenic emissions of mercury in EU27 refer to the year 2000 and are in the order of 140-190 tonnes, probably to have declined to 2005. Based on these figures the contribution to anthropogenic mercury emissions to air in EU from product use and cremation in 2005 is at least 6-16%. In the previous report (Munthe and Kindbom, 1997) product related air emissions of 72 tonnes were estimated for Europe in the mid 1990ns, corresponding to 18% of the total air emissions. A significant decrease of emissions has thus occurred which is in line with a decreasing use of mercury in technical products, more efficient collection of remaining products and better emission control. However, the calculations show that the use of mercury in products still contributes significantly to total air emissions of mercury in the EU.

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