Toxics Watchdog Group Bares Online Sale of Liquid Mercury and Mercury-Added Products

It’s not only mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics that are being sold online.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the shocking discovery after finding mercury thermometers, which are used to measure body temperature and sphygmomanometers, which are used to measure blood pressure, as well as liquid mercury in flask containers, being sold illegally by third-party dealers in e-commerce marketplaces. 

The group 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.

The group’s latest toxic alert coincided with the 7th anniversary of the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury on October 10, 2013 by the government of the Philippines at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries held in Kumamoto, Japan.  It also coincided with the 10.10  super sale today in some online shopping sites.  

“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,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Mercury is highly toxic,” he emphasized, “so we advise consumers to seek out mercury-free products," stressing that the enforcement of mercury-related policies and regulations, including the environmentally sound management of mercury wastes, should be actively supported.

The group had already notified lead regulatory agencies, particularly the Environmental Management Bureau (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 had reported to the FDA Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health and Research (FDA-CDRRHR) the online sale of mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers in non-compliance with DOH A.O. 2008-0021 titled “Gradual Phase-Out of Mercury in All Philippine Health Care Facilities and Institutions,” which phased out mercury-containing medical devices in September 2010.

“As civil society representative to the interagency committee that developed the National Action Plan for the Phase-Out of Mercury Added Products and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes, we are concerned that the unchecked online sale of mercury-containing medical devices goes against the government’s policy of preventing and controlling mercury emissions and releases pursuant to the Minamata Convention,” wrote the group. 

To address the problem, the group requested the FDA to make a policy issuance reiterating the ban on mercury medical devices.   In response, the FDA-CDRRHR confirmed they will “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, the EcoWaste Coalition 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.

DENR A.O. 2019-20, or the Revised Chemical Control Order (CCO) 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.

EMB had informed the EcoWaste Coalition that it had prepared a memorandum to the bureau’s legal division.