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Mercury-added product imports to be restricted from 2021: EPA

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EPA official Hsieh Yein-rui gives examples of Mercury-added products. CNA photo Dec. 2, 2020

Taipei, Dec. 2 (CNA) Taiwan will restrict the importation of products containing mercury from Jan. 1, 2021, in line with an international agreement which aims to reduce mercury pollution, an Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) official said Wednesday.

The EPA issued a notice in August detailing regulations on banning the manufacture, importation and exportation of nine types of products containing mercury from Jan. 1, next year, in accordance with the Minamata Convention on Mercury (MCM), a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

The MCM, an international agreement that took effect on Aug. 16, 2017, established a timetable for restricting the trade of products containing mercury.

The products to be prohibited from next year in Taiwan include batteries, switches and relays, fluorescent lamps, high-pressure mercury lamps, and non-electronic measuring instruments such as barometers, hygrometers, pressure gauges, thermometers and blood pressure monitors, as well as cosmetics, and insecticides.

Although the manufacture, import and export of certain products containing mercury will be banned from 2021, mercury-added products currently on the market can still be sold and used, said Hsieh Yein-rui, head of the Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau under the EPA, at a press conference Wednesday.

The EPA has worked with other government agencies to devise measures to strengthen mercury pollution controls and will continue its efforts by improving the recycling and management of mercury-added products, Hsieh added.

To counter mercury pollution, the EPA has also set up a soil pollution and groundwater pollution remediation fund to better control heavy metals entering groundwater and keep food supplies safe, EPA chief Chang Tzi-chin  has said.

As sediment deposits in rivers are the final destination of mercury, Hsieh said the EPA has been monitoring sediment in Taiwan's major rivers and found mercury contamination to have fallen significantly in recent years.

According to the EPA, mercury enters the human body through skin contact, breathing airborne vapor and food intake and is difficult to expel. Long-time exposure can have toxic effects on the brain, nervous system and organs including the liver, kidneys and lungs.

Mercury was classified as a class I toxic chemical substance by the EPA in 1991, which means the substance does not break down easily in the environment and may lead to environmental pollution or pose a hazard to human health.

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