Euro MPs have signalled the end of traditional barometers, in a move to ban the sale of products containing mercury across the EU.

The parliament's environment committee rejected a bid to exclude barometers from the ban, which will also affect thermometers and blood pressure gauges.

The draft law is designed to phase out the use of a substance harmful to health and the environment.

It still has to be approved by the full parliament, and by EU ministers.

An amendment to the law supporting the continued manufacture of mercury barometers was passed in the European Parliament last November, but not supported by the member states.

The author of the amendment, British Conservative MEP Martin Callanan: "If you get rid of the companies they will then be forced to close, and that removes all of the expertise."

"So the many thousands of people up and down the country that have an existing barometer cannot get it repaired and will therefore throw it away which will result in more mercury entering the environment."

Transition period

But Mr Callanan has acknowledged there is now no hope of more support to save barometers.

British Labour MEP, Linda McAvan, welcomed the ban: "Research has shown that even at low doses mercury is extremely harmful to human health."

She added: "If even US states, the latest being New Hampshire, are passing laws banning mercury devices in a country where environmental issues are not usually a priority, I cannot see why the European Union should carry on allowing their production."

Once the legislation is adopted, manufacturers will have two years to switch to alternative ways of making thermometers, barometers, blood pressure gauges, marine instruments, and devices such as hygrometers for measuring humidity.

Some wall clocks have also traditionally been made with mercury.

Barometers are produced by a small number of companies in Europe, mainly in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.

It will not be illegal to own an old mercury barometer.