They say there is no more perfect time to hit “add to cart” than during a holiday sale season. However, as much as Filipinos desire to join the shopping rush, toxic and harmful products remain widely available on these online shopping sites.
In the recent market monitoring conducted by toxic watchdog group BAN Toxics, numerous mercury-added products are still available for sale in online shopping sites.
The group monitored a total of 2,305 mercury-added products–1,015 sphygmomanometers, 630 skin whitening creams, 576 thermometers, 62 light bulbs, and 22 mercury dental amalgam–sold by various sellers through online shopping platforms.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Fact Sheets on Mercury and Health, mercury is considered as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern. Exposure to mercury, even small amounts, may cause serious health problems and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life. Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued FDA Circular No. 2022-003 which aims for “the total ban of the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, sale, offer for sale, donation, transfer, and where applicable, the use, promotion, advertising, or sponsorship of mercury-added thermometers and sphygmomanometers along with dental amalgam capsules and liquid mercury for use in dental restorative purposes to protect human health from the adverse effects of mercury-added medical devices.”
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued Administrative Order No. 2019-20 or the Revised Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Mercury and Mercury Compounds which aims to regulate, restrict or prohibit the importation, manufacture, processing, sale, handling, storage, distribution, use and disposal of mercury, mercury compounds, and mercury-added products that present risk and danger to human health and environment.
“We appeal to the public to not add mercury-added products to your cart to prevent exposure to highly toxic chemicals like mercury,” said Thony Dizon, Toxics Campaigner of BAN Toxics.
“We further recommend to regulatory agencies, including local government officials, to strictly enforce government regulations against toxic chemicals by conducting online and on-site inspections, and information dissemination efforts to raise public awareness,” he added.
Citing information from the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the common consumer products that contain mercury includes: skin whitening creams, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), thermometers, sphygmomanometers, batteries, mercury in dental amalgam, and electrical switches.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the most recent global agreement on environment and health. It is an international agreement established to protect human health and the environment from emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds caused by human activity. The convention sets a 2020 phase-out period to safeguard the public against mercury’s adverse effects on humans and the environment.
BAN Toxics conducted a study to assess the availability of mercury-free alternatives in the Philippine market in view of the country’s commitments of phasing out mercury-containing products under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
The study also highlighted the Philippines’ progressiveness in managing mercury-added products, with distributors and manufacturers of batteries, lamps, and medical measuring devices successfully shifting most, if not all, of their business to safer alternatives.
“We reiterate our call to the government, as well as the industry, to implement and comply with the 2020 mercury phaseout set by Minamata Convention. It is our shared obligation to combat hazardous chemicals and protect the public from toxic harm,” BAN Toxics added.