Swordfish is one of the species that accumulate more mercury. (Photo: Oceana/Juan Cuetos)
Oceana calls for measures to reduce mercury pollution
Tuesday, July 05, 2011, 23:20 (GMT + 9)
The international marine conservation organization, Oceana requests the "urgent" removal of the use of mercury in chlor-alkali industry to reduce fish pollution.
In addition, the NGO calls for chlorine plants using mercury cells to fit "to the best available techniques, such as the cell membrane or asbestos-free diaphragm, since together with thermal power stations they represent the main sources of mercury emissions into the sea and of fish species pollution."
According to Oceana, this obsolete technology should have been removed in October 2007 after a period of 11 years, during which the adaptation of production processes was expected.
However, the Government of Spain and the autonomous communities’ authorities agreed with the National Association of Electrochemistry to have an extension until 2020.
For the NGO, this extension is illegal.
According to the data handled by Oceana, Spain has eight plants that continue using this outdated technology:
- Andalucía: Aragonesas Indistrias and Energía SA (Palos de la Frontera, Huelva);
- Aragón: Aragonesas Industrias and Energía SA (Sabiñánigo, Huesca) and Química del Cinca SA (Monzón, Huesca);
- Cantabria: Solvay Química SL (Torrelavega);
- Cataluña: Aragonesas Industrias and Energía SA. (Vila-Seca, Tarragona); Ercros Industrial SA (Flix, Tarragona) and Hispavic Ibérica SL (Martorell, Barcelona);
- Galicia: Electroquímica and Electroquímica del Noroeste SA(Lourizán, Pontevedra).
"As an immediate measure, Oceana claims that retail outlets should offer consumer recommendations for the most vulnerable sector of the population, with reference to the species that accumulate more mercury, including swordfish and shark species like mako and blue shark," Xavier Pastor, NGO executive director in Europe, commented.
"However, the key factor is to adapt chlor-alkali plants and replace their technology for another one, mercury-free, which has existed for years and should have been implemented since 2007 under European law," he added.
Oceana highlighted that the recent recommendations of the Spanish Food Safety Agency (Aesan) were known after a long legal process undertaken by the NGO.
In 2007, Oceana asked the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) for the results of the Study of Arsenic and Heavy Metals in Fish and Shellfish with Commercial Interest held in 2003.
Having been unsuccessful in obtaining those results, Oceana started legal actions and in December 2009, the High Court ruled in its favor and against the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (MARM).
However, the authorities delayed the delivery of the full report until March 2011.
Last week, Aesan recommended that 3-12 year-old children should not consume more than 50 grams of these products per week and that pregnant women should avoid them in their diet.
With respect to shellfish, the Agency stated that they contain high doses of cadmium, a heavy metal generated by mining and industry.
This metal is concentrated in the viscera of shellfish such as prawns, Norwegian lobsters, lobsters, crabs and spider crabs, among others.
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By Analia Murias