13 March 2016

Toxics Watchdog Calls for Ban on Over-the-Counter Sale of Mercury in Dental Supply Stores

A non-profit watchdog group on chemicals, products and wastes today urged government regulators to ban the over-the-counter sale of mercury, a highly toxic substance.

“Despite global recognition that mercury is hazardous to health and ecosystems with the adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, we still find liquid mercury being sold over-the-counter, particularly in dental supply stores,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“If you have the money, you can easily buy as much as you want without any question being asked,” he said.

“We find this worrisome as unhampered sales may lead to mercury being used for unauthorized applications,” he emphasized.

“Severely restricting the retail sale of mercury will contribute to the country’s ongoing efforts to implement the Minamata Convention,” added Dizon, who also noted that governments are currently meeting in Jordan to conduct the final negotiations ahead of the anticipated entry into force of the mercury treaty late this year or in 2017.

The Convention, which the Philippines signed in 2013, recognizes mercury “as a substance producing significant adverse neurological and other health effects, with particular concerns expressed about its harmful effects on unborn children and infants.”

“Reckless handling may result in accidental spillage that could expose store workers and customers to toxic mercury.
  Exposure to mercury via ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption even at low levels is detrimental to health,” Dizon warned.

On Saturday, the EcoWaste Coalition went store-hopping to check the current practice on the sale of mercury in shops selling dental supplies in Quiapo and Sampaloc, Manila.

Four of the 10 stores visited sell mercury in liquid form that is contained in miniature clear glass bottles and sold for P85-P95 for 5 grams and P150 for 10 grams of mercury.
   All four bottles procured provided no toxic warning or cautionary text at all.    

In light of the unrestricted sale of mercury in dental supply stores, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the authorities to expedite the issuance of a regulation that will phase out or phase down the use of mercury in dental care with a short deadline. 

“While the regulation is being finalized, we urge the government to immediately stop the over-the-counter sale of mercury in dental supply stores and to impose stringent restrictions to prevent unauthorized uses of mercury such as in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, which is the suspected end point in ‘dental mercury’ trade,”
  Dizon said.

The use of mercury in mineral processing, particularly in small-scale mining activities, is strictly prohibited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) pursuant to Executive Order No. 79 issued by President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2012. 

Last January, the EcoWaste Coalition joined by 14 other public interest groups wrote to the Environmental Management Bureau to support the position paper submitted by the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry (WAMFD) for a time-specific phase down of dental amalgam under the Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds, which is undergoing review and revision.

“Phasing down amalgam use on a timeline with an end date and transitioning to non-mercury alternatives is the only way to reduce – and eventually eliminate – this significant source of mercury that threatens our environment,” the WAMFD said.




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