Group calls on gov't to ratify Mercury treaty

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December 4, 2019

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ENVIRONMENTAL justice group BAN Toxics called on the Philippine government to ratify the Minamata Convention to protect the people and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury exposure.

The group participated at the recently concluded 3rd Conference of Parties of the Minamata Convention in Geneva, Switzerland and co-released the ZMWG report on skin-lightening creams.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty that is designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

“The Duterte administration must follow through on its promise to protect the health of every Filipino by ratifying the Minamata Convention. This will ensure that we are protected from the dangerous effects of mercury, especially from those that are coming from human activities,” said Reynaldo San Juan, executive director of BAN Toxics.

Testing throughout 2019, the report revealed 95 of the 158 products purchased in the 12 sampling countries exceeded the legal limit of 1 ppm (part per million), with mercury levels ranging from 40 ppm to over 130,000 ppm. More than two-thirds (65 of the 95) of those were bought online from such internet marketers as Lazada, Amazon, eBay, BidorBuy, Daraz, Flipkart and Jumia. In the Philippines, BAN Toxics also revealed that mercury-laced products were also available in Divisoria and are also being sold by online sellers on Facebook.

The Philippines is one of the 128 countries that signed the Minamata Convention in 2013. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the instrument for the ratification of the Minamata Convention was already transmitted to the Office of the President awaiting his signature. The Convention came into force in August 2017.

Human activity contributes to the largest portion of mercury release. Every year, as much as 9,000 tons of mercury are released into the atmosphere, in water and on land. The largest source of mercury emissions is artisanal and small-scale gold mining, followed closely by coal combustion, non-ferrous metal production and cement production. Everyday items, such as cosmetics, some fluorescent bulbs, some batteries and dental fillings also contain mercury and mercury compounds. Poisoning occurs most often by ingestion of contaminated fish and inhalation – liquid mercury, once commonly used in thermometers, evaporates at room temperature.

According to the Philippine Minamata Initial Assessment report, released by the DENR this year, the primary anthropogenic sources of mercury in the country is the extraction and use of energy sources. This is followed by the production of primary or virgin metal, which includes mining and gold processing, and the production of other minerals and materials with mercury impurities.

At least five bodies of water in Luzon and Mindanao and several mining sites all over the country have rising levels of mercury. The bodies of water and sites suspected to have high concentrations of mercury include Manila Bay in Metro Manila, Meycauayan River in Bulacan, Mambulao Bay in Camarines Norte, Lumanggang Creek, and Naboc River, both in Davao region, the abandoned Palawan Quicksilver Mines in Puerto Princesa City, Mabuhay Vinyl Corp. in Iligan City, a chlor-alkali producer, and mining and gold processing sites in Camarines Norte and Masbate.


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