Environmental group Ban Toxics praised the Philippine government for affirming a treaty aimed at phasing out the use of mercury in the country.
On July 8, the Philippine government ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury that provides a comprehensive policy to address the threats of human-induced mercury emissions.
Reynaldo San Juan, executive director of Ban Toxics, lauded the government for “taking the first step in the fight against mercury.”
“By joining the community of nations in addressing the mercury scourge, the Philippines improves its chances in fighting off this deadly toxin,” said San Juan.
The Philippines is among 128 countries that signed the Minamata Convention on January 19, 2013, in a conference held in Japan.
The treaty entered into force in August 2017. It was named after the Japanese city of Minamata, where thousands were killed due to mercury poisoning.
From 1932 to 1968, methylmercury was released by a chemical factory in the city’s industrial wastewater and was acquired by shellfish and fish.
In 1956, the Minamata disease or mercury poisoning was discovered.
Mercury is a toxic chemical with negative effects on both human health and the environment. The World Health Organization listed it as one of the “top chemicals of major health concern.”
Exposure to the substance can cause harmful effects on the digestive and nervous systems not only of humans but of animals.
Primary sources of human exposure to mercury are dental amalgams, mercury-laden hospital devices, and gold mining activities.
The convention addresses the issues of direct extraction of mercury, its trade, safe storage, and its disposal as waste.
The convention also aims to prohibit the production and trade of products containing mercury including batteries, compact fluorescent lamps, relays, soaps and cosmetics, thermometers, and blood pressure devices.
In some Philippine gold mining towns, mercury is used to process gold by mixing it with gold particles to form an amalgam.
The amalgam is burned to extract pure gold and releases the mercury into the atmosphere as fumes.
“Our fight against mercury does not end here,” said San Juan.
“The only way we can ensure the safety of the Filipinos, especially the future generations, against mercury is by adapting the Minamata Convention into our local laws and implementing it.”