Mercury-laced medical devices sold online, ‘alarming’ —EcoWaste

Published October 10, 2020, 3:46 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Health and environmental group EcoWaste Coalition has made a “shocking” discovery of mercury thermometers, sphygmomanometers, as well as liquid mercury in flask containers, being sold illegally by third-party dealers in e-commerce marketplaces. 

Thermometers are used to measure body temperature, while sphygmomanometers are used to measure blood pressure.

“We remind consumers to be cautious and alert to the dangers of buying and using mercury and mercury-added products that are illegally being offered for sale by online dealers,” EcoWaste chemical safety campaigner Thony Dizon said in a statement.

“Mercury is highly toxic so we advise consumers to seek out mercury-free products,” he pointed out.

EcoWaste had previously aired its concern over the sale on popular online shopping platforms of skin whitening products banned by health authorities for containing mercury compounds, which are forbidden in cosmetic formulations. 

Dizon stressed the enforcement of mercury-related policies and regulations, including the environmentally sound management of mercury wastes, should be actively supported.

EcoWaste said it had already notified lead regulatory agencies, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about the alarming use of digital commerce to vend mercury and banned mercury-added products in direct contravention of the country’s mercury policies and regulations.

The group cited that online selling of mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers is not in compliance with the Department of Health Administrative Order (AO) 2008-0021, or the “Gradual Phase-Out of Mercury in All Philippine Health Care Facilities and Institutions,” which phased out mercury-containing medical devices in September 2010.

EcoWaste cited that the FDA-Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health and Research has committed “to facilitate the development of the requested policy banning or prohibiting the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of thermometers and sphygmomanometers with mercury.”

In a separate letter to the EMB, which was co-signed by Ban Toxics and Health Care Without Harm, EcoWaste requested the bureau to get to the bottom of the illegal online sale of liquid mercury, which may be diverted to uses prohibited by law such as mineral processing.

Under DENR AO 2019-20, or the Revised Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds, “prohibits the use of mercury and mercury compounds and mercury-added products for artisanal and small-scale gold mining and any other related mining activities” in line with Executive Order 79.

EcoWaste cited that the EMB has already prepared a memorandum to the bureau’s legal division.

The group’s latest toxic alert coincided with the 7th anniversary of the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury on Oct. 10, 2013 by the government of the Philippines at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries held in Kumamoto, Japan.