MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker on Thursday expressed worries over the sale of products with excessive amounts of mercury in products easily accessible to children and pushed for a measure seeking to provide protection from mercury poisoning and pollution.
Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, a member of the House of Representatives’ committee on health, urged his fellow lawmakers to pass House Bill 451 or the Mercury Reduction Act.
He cited EcoWaste Coalition’s proof that 13 out of 14 whitening products being sold in Manila violated the one part per million (ppm) mercury limit set by the Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) Cosmetics Directive.
EcoWaste said that labels of the products did not include mercury in its list of ingredients despite containing excessive levels of the said chemical from 550 to 60,800 ppm.
Angara worried that despite risks “mercury continues to be used in medical devices in school laboratories and even ordinary consumer products like toys, clothes, electronic gadgets, bags and drinking bottles which can be accessed easily by schoolchildren.”
Angara, who chairs the committee on higher and technical education, said that the Mercury Reduction Act would ban the use of mercury compounds in laboratories of schools, universities and colleges and seeks to set guidelines on mercury release and waste management.
It also plans to mandate that alternatives to products containing mercury be used instead and establish an Environmental Advisory Council on Mercury Pollution with representatives from the Senate, the House, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The said council would be tasked to make recommendations on how to prevent mercury pollution and reduce human exposure, said Angara.
He mentioned that the president will also appoint a public health specialist, toxicologist, scientist, consumer advocate, environmental group representative, and children’s advocate to the council.
Part of the measure will be activities to disseminate information about the risks posed by mercury exposure, said Angara.
He recalled the incident of mercury exposure at the St. Andrew’s School in Paranaque City back in 2006 wherein a student accidentally opened a beaker containing mercury.
Some students from the said school were hospitalized due to mercury exposure.
“School children should have the right to mercury-free schools,” said Angara.