EU to study mercury fillings risk

A comprehensive review of the benefits and risks of using mercury in silver dental fillings is being carried out by the European Commission, it emerged this week. It’s hoped the study will help establish conclusive results and plug major gaps in existing research on whether mercury in tooth amalgam can cause health problems.

A comprehensive review of the benefits and risks of using mercury in silver dental fillings is being carried out by the European Commission, it emerged this week. It’s hoped the study will help establish conclusive results and plug major gaps in existing research on whether mercury in tooth amalgam can cause health problems.

A 2009 review by the US Food and Drug Administration deemed mercury fillings safe for adults and children aged six and above, after clinical trials found no ill-effects in these age categories. However due to limited clinical information about the potential effects of these fillings on children under six, pregnant women and their developing foetuses, the FDA advised individuals to consult with their own dentists if they had any concerns.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, said it was vital that the EU study was completed as quickly as possible to plan for a safer dentistry system for both patients and practitioners.

“It’s important to note that only a high level of mercury exposure is associated with adverse health effects to the brain and kidneys, however since amalgam can release a small amount of mercury vapour when being placed in or removed from teeth, we need a thorough evaluation of its use,” she said.

A ban on mercury exports from the EU came into force in March of this year.

The EU’s Mercury Strategy of 2005 set out a range of measures to lower exposure, including a ban on thermometers and other devices containing mercury.

Irish organisations sign up to EU lobbyists register

Several Irish NGOs and business groups including Trócaire, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers and the Irish Wind Energy Association are among the first groups in the country to join the new EU transparency register.

The initiative was agreed jointly by the European Parliament and the European Commission, and is expected to be in place by next month. It establishes a common list of interest groups that lobby the institutions in a bid to influence EU policy. Although it is not mandatory for the estimated 30,000 lobbyists in Brussels to sign up to the register, any group or individual not on the list will not be allowed to access the European Parliament or meet with MEPs.

The move follows recent scandals involving alleged payments and gifts to MEPs as exposed in a recent article by the Sunday times.

Speaking from Brussels, Ireland East MEP Nessa Childers hoped the new transparency register would act as a one-stop shop where everyone can see the full range of stakeholders who contribute to the EU legislative process. The Labour MEP also urged major Irish interest groups, including the IFA and IBEC, to sign up to the transparency register as soon as possible.

“We know only too well in Ireland what happens when big business interests gain access to the corridors of power. We know now the devastating result of the ‘Galway Tent’ culture which led to our property bubble and burst. The European Union needs input from all stakeholders when drawing up new legislation, but it must be a transparent process,” said Ms Childers.

EU dumps toxic waste on third world

MEPs in Strasbourg are demanding better regulation of how the EU’s toxic waste is disposed. 

It follows the release of new research showing that the EU produces an estimated 70 million tonnes of hazardous waste each year, much of which is dumped illegally in countries including Africa, India and China.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness is one of a cross-party group of EU parliamentarians demanding that the scandal be fully investigated and addressed. Speaking from Strasbourg last week, the Fine Gael MEP said as much as 70 per cent of electronic waste produced in the EU is unaccounted for.

“This amounts to Europeans flushing waste on top of the heads of the poor of the world, and it’s having disastrous health and environmental effects on people living in those countries. We have evidence of poisoning and death resulting from people handling toxic metals from electronic waste,” she said.

The MEPs are calling for better Europe-wide enforcment of existing legislation on the disposal of electronic goods. The European Commission is expected to publish a proposal on dealing with toxic waste in the coming months.

Eco-friendly vans by 2017

New EU legislation to be in introduced in 2014 will force van manufacturers to comply with minimum environmental standards. The new law, which will be phased in over a three-year period, has been approved by the European Council of Ministers and aims to complement similar rules on CO2 emission limits for new passenger cars.

From 2014, vans and light commercial vehicles will not be allowed to produce more than 175 grammes of CO2 per kilometre. Initially, 70 per cent of a manufacturer’s fleet will have to comply with the new rule, rising to 75 per cent in 2015 and 80 per cent in 2016. By 2017, full compliance will be required from manufacturers.

To incentivise investment in green technology, producers will be fined if their fleet fails to meet the target. Penalties will depend on the amount by which manufacturers exceed the target, with a maximum fine of €95 per van.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, said eco-friendly vans are the “next logical step” for vehicle manufacturing.

“Following the success of ‘greener’ cars, consumers will welcome similar standards for vans, which will ultimately mean lower tax rates and improved fuel efficiency for motorists,” said the Fine Gael MEP.