|BRUSSELS - EU environment ministers agreed on Monday to clamp down on using cadmium in batteries in a bid to stop the toxic heavy metal from seeping into water supplies and polluting the atmosphere.|
Cadmium in consumer batteries will be banned, but cordless power tools, medical equipment, emergency lighting and alarm systems will be exempt.
Exposure to cadmium, most often found as nickel-cadmium in rechargeable batteries, has been linked with kidney and liver diseases. EU battery laws have been under review since 1997.
Batteries contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury that can be harmful if they leak into water supplies or eventually produce noxious gases which enter the atmosphere.
Such pollution can occur when used batteries are dumped in landfills or incinerated.
After four years, the ban would be reviewed by the European Commission, which would then be encouraged to propose removing power tools from the list of exceptions -- a sop to countries like Sweden and Denmark who wanted a total cadmium battery ban.
The European Parliament will have to approve the ban.
The ministers also set collection targets for all types of portable batteries, hoping to boost recycling rates that vary widely across the 25-nation bloc. Belgium has one of the highest rates, while that of Britain is low by comparison.
EU governments will have to ensure that 25 percent of all used batteries are collected on their territories over an initial period four years following the date when they alter national laws to reflect the new EU legislation.
This rate rises to 45 percent after eight years -- the equivalent of about 5 billion batteries a year.
The Commission, the EU's executive arm, had proposed tougher collection targets, seeking to close a loophole where batteries used in vehicles and industry are already recycled but batteries in domestic appliances tend more often to be dumped.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE