By Chito Chavez
An environmental group on Thursday stressed as urgent for lighting firms to include in their packaging the mercury content and hazard labeling information of the fluorescent lamps and similar products being sold to the public.
Quezon City-based toxic watchdog EcoWaste Coalition found this matter as very urgent “to uphold the consumer’s right to know’’ of being informed of vital details on the lighting products they intend to purchase.
In anticipation of the global phase-out in 2020 of specific mercury-added products, including certain types of fluorescent lamps, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed for essential labeling information to assist consumers in picking fluorescent bulbs with the lowest mercury content.
“Specifying the mercury content on the lamp and its packaging will help consumers in selecting the bulb with the least amount of mercury, and avoiding those scheduled for phase-out by 2020 as per the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition.
Without the mercury content information, Dizon insisted the difficulty of the public and government regulators to identify fluorescent lamps that should no longer be sold in the market starting next year.
He noted the said mercury treaty, which the Philippines has signed but not yet ratified, provides for the phase-out by 2020 of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) equal to or less than 30 watts with mercury content above 5 mg mercury per lamp, as well as linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) such as triband phosphor less than 60 watts with mercury content exceeding 5 mg per lamp and halophosphate phosphor equal to or less than 40 watts with mercury content greater than 10 mg per lamp.
Dizon added the phase-out also covers high-pressure mercury vapor lamps (HPMV) for general lighting purposes and a variety of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) and external electrode fluorescent lamps (EEFLs) for electronic displays.
The EcoWaste Coalition also urged the lighting industry to provide for mercury hazard warning as specified in Philippine National Standards (PNS) IEC 60968:2012 for self-ballasted lamps.
Among other things, the said PNS requires the following labeling information: “WARNING: Contains Mercury, Handle with Care and Dispose Properly.”
“The inclusion of such basic cautionary statement will promote the safe handling of fluorescent lamps to avoid breakage and to reduce the risk of mercury exposure from broken lamps through inhalation of the mercury vapor or dermal contact with the mercury-laden phosphor powder. Proper disposal will help in limiting the amount of mercury entering disposal sites and polluting communities,” Dizon said.
According to the “Guidebook on the Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Wastes” published by the government, “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic, especially to the developing nervous system, which is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.”
“Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, vision loss, sensation loss, and tremors,” it noted.
It warned that “even at low-level exposure to mercury has caused serious health effects, including neurological damage, reproductive system damage, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.”
“Mercury is also a suspected endocrine disruptor, which means it can damage the reproductive and hormonal development and growth of fetuses and infants,” the guidebook said.