Sweden reports success in mercury clean-up

"Substantial" amounts of metal identified, collected, decision awaited on final disposal

Results of a five-year Swedish campaign to phase out the use of mercury by 2000 have been "highly satisfactory," the national environment protection agency (EPA) says. In a final report on the programme issued last week, it announced that between 6 and 7 tonnes of mercury had been collected and a further 4 tonnes labelled to await collection. About 1.3 tonnes was sniffed out by specially trained dogs in schools (ENDS Daily 8 April), while electricians detected further caches in more than 70 different industries. However, the EPA estimates that about 40 tonnes more remains in "technical products" such as electrical goods, glass bottles and drains in dental surgeries, which will have to be handled in an "environmentally safe" way for many years to come. The environment ministry will now prepare the next stage of the initiative, including the formulation of guidelines for industries still using equipment containing mercury as well as scrap dealers. The approach is very much a "voluntary rather than a legislative one," the official added. A commission will be formed to draw up the guidelines and decide on a terminal storage site for the mercury. An EPA report from 1977 recommended using a deep rock site in an as yet undecided location.

Follow Up:
Swedish EPA, tel: +46 8 698 1000.

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