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PIA Press Release

Envi-health group warns of other mercury-containing products

Applauds FDA for banning mercury-laced items

Puerto Princesa City (16 February) -- Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) warns the public of other mercury-containing products and devices commonly used in household and health care setting.

"We applaud the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for banning three mercury-laced Chinese-made beauty products and raising awareness on the dangers of mercury. But we would like to call on the attention of the public on other mercury-containing items that people have been using throughout the years," said Faye Ferrer, HCWH-SEA Program Officer for Mercury in Health Care.

"These are the silent killers in the comfort of our homes and even hospitals."

Included in these products are merthiolate tincture, thimerosal-containing products such as contact lens cleaner and most vaccines, and mercurial devices in hospitals such as thermometers, blood pressure devices, fixatives, laboratory chemicals, cleaners and building products such as thermostats, pressure gauges and switches.

"Even the rubber shoes that has lights at the bottom that parents are so fond of buying their kids, those lights contain mercury," added Ferrer.

According to Medline Plus, service of the US National Library of Medicine and the US National Institutes of Health, merthiolate is a mercury-containing substance that was once widely used as germ-killer and a preservative in many different products, including vaccines. Merthiolate poisoning occurs when large amounts of the substance are swallowed or come in contact with the skin. Poisoning also occurs after constant exposure to small amounts of merthiolate.

"Up to now, in majority of the salons in the country, merthiolate tincture and nail polish are used as if one cannot live without the other. And mainly for vanity," added Ferrer.

Thimerosal, an organomercury compound, on the other hand is used in vaccines as preservatives. "It has no other real purpose but to preserve the vaccines. Whereas if the drug companies or dealers would simply add a freezer to safely preserve the medicines, then there is no need to use thimerosal," Ferrer pointed out.

In the health care setting, the Department of Health (DoH) issued as early as 2008 Administrative Order 21 mandating the gradual phase-out of mercury-containing devices in all Philippine health care facilities and institutions by 2010.

"While the DoH is leading in the movement away from mercury, the implementation is rather slow," Ferrer lamented.

In the Regional Conferences on Mercury Phase-out and Proper Health Care Waste Management in Regions 1 and 2 organized by HCWH-SEA and DoH Center for Health Development (CHD), majority of the Rural Health Units (RHUs) and other health care facilities under the local government units are so behind in the implementation of the AO. "Several claimed that they have not heard of the AO," said Ferrer.

"Now that FDA has made the bold move on banning three mercury-laced crèmes, we are urging other concerned agencies to follow suit. The AO works well in lowering the demand for mercurial devices but if we will simply ban the entry of these products in our marker, it will speed-up mercury phase-out."

The group also asks the public to be wary when buying products-check the label if it contains thimerosal or merthiolate and please use the safer alternatives. (PIA) [top]

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