The environmental watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition commended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its latest policy directive aimed at protecting human health and the environment from mercury, a highly toxic chemical.
Signed by Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III, FDA Circular No. 2022-003 issued on June 10, 2022 bans all mercury-added thermometers, sphygmomanometers, dental amalgam capsules and liquid mercury used in dental restorative purposes.
“We commend the FDA for its action that reinforces the government’s stance to protect public health and the environment from mercury-added devices and to promote mercury-free substitutes,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
The ban is in pursuit of related mercury regulations issued by the DOH, particularly Administrative Order 2008-0021 and Administrative Order 2020-0020. The ban is also in line with the country’s commitment as a party to the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
“With the growing popularity of online trading, the ban also applies to the sale of mercury-containing thermometers and sphygmomanometers, including second-hand devices, in various social media and online shopping platforms,” said Lucero.
As stated in the circular, “offering for sale and/or sale of mercury-added thermometers and sphygmomanometers through different digital platforms including social media or through online shopping platforms is strictly prohibited.”
At the virtual consultation held last June 28, 2021, the EcoWaste Coalition submitted several comments and suggestions aimed at further strengthening the draft circular, particularly the explicit inclusion of persons or entities using e-commerce in the trade of mercury-added products.
Prior to this, the EcoWaste Coalition alerted the FDA through reports sent on September 14, 2020 and April 26, 2021 about the rampant sale of mercurial thermometers and sphygmomanometers, as well as dental amalgam capsules, in online shopping platforms.
As mentioned in the Circular, “the manufacture, distribution, importation, exportation, sale, offer for sale, donation, transfer, and where applicable, the use, promotion, advertising, or sponsorship of mercury-added thermometers and sphygmomanometers are strictly prohibited. “
In accordance with the DOH A.O. 2020-0020, the importation, distribution, sale or offer for sale of liquid mercury and dental amalgam capsules is also not allowed.
The FDA assigns to the manufacturer, importer, exporter, trader, distributor and wholesaler the task of conducting stock inventory and of recalling mercury-added thermometers and sphygmomanometers to ensure that these devices are removed from the market and are no longer made available to consumers.
The storage, transport and disposal of the banned medical devices, according to the FDA, should comply with the rules and regulations being enforced by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Sanctions and penalties, as prescribed under Republic Act 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Act, await violators of the FDA Circular No. 2022-003.
The said circular, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, will help advance the implementation of the “National Action Plan for the Phase-Out of Mercury-Added Products and the Management of Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes.”