March 2017

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Safer Chemicals
Climate & Energy
Member update
Safer Chemicals

New publication - Dental Amalgam in the EU: Heading towards a phase out?


The EU Mercury Regulation seeks to align EU law with the provisions of the International Convention on Mercury (Minamata Convention), which was initiated by The United Nations Environment Programme in 2009 and signed in 2013.

Taking affect at the beginning of 2018, The EU Mercury Regulation focuses on filling gaps in EU legislation so that it becomes compliant with The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which covers all aspects of the mercury life cycle:

  • The import of mercury
  • The export of certain mercury-added products
  • The use of mercury in certain manufacturing processes
  • New mercury uses in products and manufacturing processes
  • Mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM)
  • Mercury use in dental amalgam (fillings) 

Notably, dental amalgam has now become the largest source of mercury in the EU, with current usage estimated at 75t/y. In principle, mercury in the EU chlor-alkali industry was phased out at the end of 2017.

HCWH Europe’s latest publication provides some of the policy background leading up to historic adoption of the Minamata Convention and subsequent alignment of EU law, as well as summarising the health risks associated with mercury as documented by the WHO, and the significance of dental amalgam towards these risks. 

Dental Amalgam in the EU: Heading towards a phase out? also lays out the timeframe of the EU Mercury Regulation, which will be fully implemented by July 2019 with Member States submitting national plans to phase down dental amalgam. Our factsheet also provides an overview of current national legislation in Member States and recommendations on how to work towards a phase-down as laid out in the regulation, including a phase-out for vulnerable groups, which can be seen as a first step towards a full phase-out.

Continue reading

Climate & Energy

2017 Global Climate & Health Summit
Summary of Proceedings

The Summary of Proceedings from the 2017 Global Climate and Health Summit is now available, the event was convened alongside COP23 last November in Bonn, Germany.

The summit was a dynamic and interactive event, sharing learning and inspiration about the role health professionals and organisations can play to ramp up global efforts to mitigate climate change. The Summary of Proceedings is a rich resource for anyone who attended the summit and wants more info on the issues discussed, and for those who were not able to attend, who want to know what transpired. It summarises all of the sessions and provides links to reports, toolkits, videos, fact sheets, and websites where you can follow up and learn more.

The Summit was co-hosted by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, the World Health Organization, the WHO Regional Office for Europe and its European Center for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany, and the Health and Environment Alliance.

Health Care Without Harm was a partnering organisation of the summit, with Josh Karliner, International Director of Program and Strategy speaking on the topic
Climate Smart Healthcare.
Read the report


Actions to address the risks from pharmaceuticals in the environment


The growing problem of pharmaceuticals in the environment has been recognised as an emerging policy issue by the UN Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which adopted “Environmentally Persistent Pharmaceutical Pollutants” in its process in autumn 2015.

It was only recently, however, that the European Commission decided to start addressing this issue and published their consultation on pharmaceuticals in the environment (which closed on 21 February), seeking “views on possible actions to address the risks from pharmaceuticals in the environment”. This would inform their already delayed strategic approach to pharmaceuticals in the environment - due in September 2015 according to Article 8c of Directive 2013/39/EU, it is now expected by the end of May 2018.

HCWH Europe has been working to tackle pharmaceuticals in the environment for the past six years. The goal of our work on pharmaceuticals is to support their safe production, management and disposal, while reducing their environmental and health impact throughout their life cycle. We also aim to foster innovations for green products. We currently lead the only EU-wide campaign dealing with the presence of pharmaceuticals in the environment - Safer Pharma

HCWH Europe has organised workshops and webinars, and published a variety of materials - position papers, reports, brochures and infographics, as well as attended meetings with the European Commission on issues related to pharmaceutical pollution in the environment.

A multitude of pharmaceuticals can be found in the environment: antibiotics, antidepressants, anti-inflammatories, anti-cancer drugs, contraceptive pills - practically everything we produce and consume. There are not enough detection methods to monitor all these different types of molecules; we don’t even know the safe concentration levels in the environment for most of these molecules or how long term exposure from pharmaceutical pollution may affect our health. Learn more with our Safer Pharma video.

HCWH Europe’s Pharmaceuticals Policy Officer, Dr Adela Maghear, said:

“The presence of pharmaceuticals in the environment is not just an isolated case – we face a global pharmaceutical pollution problem. It’s foolish to think that this will not affect us; we must acknowledge the seriousness of the problem - with no preventative measures in place to avoid exposure, the environment and our health are part of an unregulated experiment. Immediate action in line with the precautionary principle is required to protect human and environmental health.”

In HCWH Europe’s response to the European Commission public consultation, we presented a series of policy measures that would help reduce pharmaceutical pollution in the environment: 

  • Develop and promote guidelines on how to identify and design "green pharmaceuticals"(i.e. pharmaceuticals that pose lower risk to the environment).
  • Encourage Member States to review their ethical procurement policies at national level with a view to including environmental criteria in contractual requirements.
  • Demand more transparency in the pharmaceutical supply chain: The pharmaceutical industry should disclose the origin of their pharmaceuticals by providing information regarding where the active pharmaceutical ingredients were produced, therefore ensuring a complete traceability profile for all pharmaceuticals in the supply chain. This will improve both production practices and patient safety...
Read more

Member update

WECF's Plastic-free Lent

For the last 40 days, Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) participated in a different Lent: a Plastic-Free Lent! WECF took part in a Europe-wide challenge to inspire people to reduce the plastic in their lives, thus improving their health and the planet’s health.
We are sure people learnt from us, and we learnt from them!During the first week WECF talked to people on the streets, promoting this free and healthy lifestyle. The public was able to ask us questions directly (“What’s wrong with using plastics?” “Do I have to stop immediately?”) and get direct answers.

During the second week, WECF focused specifically on women’s health, as regular pads and tampons may contain harmful plastic. At the same time, nearly 45% of women in India still don’t have access to menstrual hygiene products. WECF joined the Pad Man Challenge, showing its commitment on ending menstrual poverty and the taboo that still surrounds the menstrual cycle itself.

On the following weeks, WECF gave valuable tips on why and how we should reduce our plastic consumption in our shopping, cosmetics, family activities, etc. When plastic consumption is unavoidable, we can always reuse old plastic to build useful things! Pencil cases and kitchen containers, or even couches and greenhouses can be made from plastic bottles we could not avoid buying.

Going plastic-free is a step-by-step learning process, and as Lent comes to an end, the plastic-free journey doesn’t have to stop; WECF encourages people to continue on this path that can save our wildlife, oceans, land, and our ecosystems.
Learn more


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