In Chile the toxicity of mercury has been effectively neutralized

Publicado: 31 May, 2016
Sustainability

With the purpose of protecting the environment and the community form contamination produced by mercury, Fundación Chile, developed a project called Mercutreat that establishes the creation of a plant that encapsulates the element, converting it into a harmless waste.

“The toxicity of mercury may damage the nervous and circulatory systems together with the heart. This element is able to bioacumulate and travel big distances. For this reason, is important to develop technologies to convert mercury into a harmless element” explained the Sustainability Project Manager of Fundación Chile, Paola Matus.

The Mercutreat project consists in a mobile plant, capable to convert mercury wastes into a harmless brick that cannot be altered in the environment. This technology is able to treat between 8 to 10 kilos of mercury daily and expected to process between 1,92 y 2,4 tons a year. Nowadays, pilot tests are being done, to refine and improve the system, in order to create a commercial scaling prototype.

“Thanks to this initiative, we hope to comply with the Law of Extended Responsibility of the Product (or REP Law), which is still in the Congress, since it is a regulation demanding good practices form the companies that make, produce or import goods with such element” added the expert of Fundación Chile.

Mercury in the world

Currently, the supply of the element at global level exceeds the demand, because, there are alternatives to mercury such as LED lamps, digital pressure indicators and thermometers, lithium batteries, among others. Besides, in several OECD countries, the export of the element has some restrictions.

The toxicity of mercury, element in batteries, may damage the nervous, circulatory systems and heart. Therefore, is important to develop technologies to convert mercury into a harmless element.

The initiative of Mercutreat contributes with the Minamata Agreement-treaty signed by 92 countries, including Chile- which regulates the processes where mercury is specifically used, besides restricting its commercialization and developing technologies for treating its wastes.

The project is looking for results on the first semester of 2016 and is funded by CORFO.

¿ Why mercury is so harmful to health?

The mercury is a volatile element, that is to say, evaporates easily, so in this way is much easier for living beings to absorb it, allowing its entrance into the food chain and consequently, health damage. Besides that, this element affects the organic nature, because a series of metabolic mechanisms are inhibited, seriously damage the central nervous system and even produce genetic mutations.

¿Where mercury can be found?

The technology of Mercutreat may be applied to mercury concentrate, present in compact fluorescent lamps, fluorescent tubes, thermometers or pressure indicators, some batteries and amalgams.