- Published on 27 October 2014
The use of mercury as a stabilizer in batteries is programmed to come to an end by October 2, 2015, as the result of an amendment to the EU Battery Directive. Small amounts of the heavy metal mercury have long been used in batteries, including silver oxide, alkaline, and zinc air batteries. But mercury is known to have a detrimental effect on the environment and on human health. Currently, the mercury content may be up to 2% by weight. This situation will however change as of October 2015 when a European-wide ban on the sale of mercury-containing button cells comes into effect.
The move to mercury-free batteries has been underway for some time and its importance for the environment and human health has been backed up by a significant body of research and product testing. Legislation required the elimination of mercury in household alkaline batteries in 1996 and in the area of hearing aids, mercuric oxide batteries were banned in the 1970s. They were replaced by the zinc air formulation that significantly reduced mercury levels but did not eliminate the substance.
Until now button cell batteries were exempt from a European Directive dated 2006 which required that batteries and accumulators contain no more than 0.0005% mercury by weight. With this change to mercury-free hearing aid batteries, over 10,000 kg of mercury will not enter the environment every year, according to a release by the manufacturer Rayovac. The company says that manufacturers are ready for the change and have carried out extensive research on viable alternatives so that battery performance will not be affected.