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22 September 2017

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New treaty effectiveness will depend on adequacy of data to be collected, say NGOs  

Geneva, Switzerland

Prior to the start of the first Conference of Parties (COP1), the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) welcomed the entry into force of the Minamata Convention. 

“While there are alternatives to mercury, there are no alternatives to global cooperation,” said Michael Bender, international ZMWG coordinator. “We applaud the world’s governments for committing to curtail this dangerous neurotoxin.”

The First Conference of the Parties will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.  Over 1,000 delegates and around 50 ministers are expected to assemble in Geneva to celebrate and lay the groundwork for the treaty’s overall effectiveness.
During the prior negotiations, the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) approved many of the forms and guidance that the Convention specifies must be adopted at COP 1, which are needed for the swift and smooth launch and running of the Convention.  These include guidance documents on identifying stocks, determining best available technologies and reducing mercury use in small scale gold mining; as well as forms for trade procedures and for exemptions from certain deadlines.

“These INC approvals were achieved by consensus after considerable deliberations, and are ready for approval without further debate,” said Satish Sinha, Toxics Link India.

Among the most critical open issues to be discussed at COP1 are the reporting requirements, which will provide critical information on both the global mercury situation and the effectiveness of the Convention in achieving mercury reductions.   Particularly critical to collect will be data on mercury production and trade, which can change significantly in a short period of time.

 “Countries will not have readily available information about production and trade in bordering countries or within their region, unless there is frequent reporting under the Convention,” said David Lennett, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council “Many borders between countries are “porous,” and where a significant portion of mercury trade is informal/illegal.   Good data on legal trade flows will enable actions to address illegal trade, all of which has a huge impact on artisanal and small scale gold mining, the largest source of mercury pollution globally.

Mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury - accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in our bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero

For more information, see:




Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, ZMWG International Coordinator
T: +32 2 2891301,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, T: +1 802 917 8222,   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For information on reporting, please contact David Lennett, Natural Resources Defense Council, T:  +1 202 460 8517   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For further information, please contact:

*The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of over 95 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project.  ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.  Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.


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Friday, 03 September 2010 15:25



BAN Toxics in partnership with the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, IAOMT-Phils, and Asia Center for Environmental Health released today our study on mercury vapor in dental institutions.

The report is available at:  http://www.bantoxics.org/report/mercury-vapor-levels-dental-institutions

Pictures are available at: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153867914780414&;set=a.10153867913850414.1073741840.318212925413&type=3&theater

Please see full PR below.


Envi group bares high levels of mercury in dental institutions

As part of the observance of Dental Health month, environmental justice group, BAN Toxics (BT), bares high levels of mercury vapor found in dental schools and supply stores around the country in a study entitled, “What is in the Air: Mercury Vapor Levels in Dental Institutions”.

The study conducted in partnership with the International Association of Oral and Medical Toxicologists-Philippines, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, and Asia Center for Environmental Health revealed that mercury vapour in dental institutions exceeds standard reference levels set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), endangering the health and well-being of dental students, dental workers, and patients, among others.

“The exposure to toxic mercury vapors in dental institutions is unnecessary and preventable.  Learning methodologies can be put into place to avoid toxic mercury.  This should itself be a strong incentive as well to abandon dental amalgam use in its entirety in the Philippines,” explained Atty. Richard Gutierrez, executive director of BT.

The study measured mercury vapour concentrations from identified sources such as equipment or facilities used in amalgam procedures, storage and immediate disposal sites, among others, using a Lumex RA-915+ Mercury Vapor Analyzer.[i]

It was found that mercury concentration values varied from 967ng/m3 to a high of 35,617ng/m3—the majority of which were at levels beyond recommended reference standards such as the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) action level of 1,000 ng/m3. Some areas posted a concentration of >10,000 ng/m3, which is considered as the evacuation alert level by the US EPA.

Use of dental amalgam is still prevalent specifically in dental schools, where it is a requirement for dentistry licensure exams. Also known as ‘silver pasta’, it is used as restorative material for teeth that have cavities. Dental amalgam or “silver filling” is an alloy of mercury (50%), silver (22-32%), tin (14%), copper (8%) and other trace materials. Due to its mercury component, paediatricians and toxicologists acknowledge that it is a potent toxic substance that causes adverse effects on neurologic, gastrointestinal, and renal organ systems of patients.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) recently confirmed that mercury is a human carcinogen.

“The DOH phase-out of dental amalgam is much welcome,” stated Dr. Lillian Lasaten-Ebuen, president of IAOMT-Philippines.  “Mercury-free alternatives are now widely-available which safer and as cost effective as amalgam.  Philippine dentistry should move beyond amalgam and we should prepare the future generation of dentists to embrace better and safer alternatives for their patients.”

BT is calling for a change in dental curriculum in schools to exclude the required use of dental amalgams. This is in line with the move to phase-out mercury use in the health sector by 2016.

“Most importantly, this study puts gravity to the need to phase-out mercury use in all sectors, especially in the field of health,” Gutierrez added.

“We go to our doctors and dentists in order to be well, and mercury has no place in a healthy society.  We need to uphold our Hippocratic oath as health practitioners, to help the sick and abstain from harming any person” Dr. Ebuen explains.

The study was made possible through the support of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.


[1] Measurements over a 10-second sampling period were taken and the mean and relative deviation was reported by the instrument. In dental supplies stores, mercury levels were determined in a 5-minute period.

Spotlight: Initial Test Results Reveal New Method of Gold Extraction - Philippines

By Erik Jors:  http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ccc/cccnewsv2n5.html%234" target="_blank">http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ccc/cccnewsv2n5.html#4

The Denmark Clinic of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is working with partners (NGO Dialogos, Danish Society of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Danish Universities and local partner Ban Toxins (BANTOX)) in the Philippines to substitute the use of mercury with borax and soap in small-scale gold mining, thus avoiding mercury intoxications and pollution of the environment. The first results, run from December 2010 tests in Baggio, have shown that the mercury-free gold extraction method is less time consuming and nearly three times more effective than the traditional mercury method. During one of the early demonstrations of the new method, the mercury process produced 1.2 grams of gold while the borax slosh method extracted 4.3 grams using the same amount of randomly picked ore. The gold quality using borax is also higher, which translates to higher selling price for the miners.

In many of the gold rich regions of the country, a significant portion of a family’s income comes from gold mining, a reality that becomes particularly true for areas where other forms of livelihood are non-existent. In an industry where vulnerable workers, including young workers, are engaged in the hazardous work of mining, often spending hours diving into narrow holes filled with water and digging mud for gold extraction, the results open doors for a healthier and safer mining population and a cleaner environment. What was generally believed to be impossible may now become a reality, as partners embark on a project to break off small-scale miners from mercury dependence, keeping these workers safe and healthy in their work.

Coordinating NGO for EEB/ZMWG funded projects:         Ban Toxics!

Contact details:               Richard Gutierrez- This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

2010-11 Project title:     Bridging Work from INC1 to INC2: Mercury Supply, Waste, Storage and Regional Coordination

2011 Project: Coordination with Japanese NGOs to push Japan to  institute an export ban on elemental mercury similar to the US and EU. Use of the Lumex in the Philipines, and Support  to ZMWG coordination activities

Project objectives:          Promote regional coordination with relevant Japanese groups in order to push for a mercury export ban forward in South-Eastern Asia; Conduct mercury vapor testing in various areas, and engage civil society groups and other stakeholders and raise their awareness on the issue of mercury emissions from various sources; Contribute on behalf of EEB/ZMWG to the works of the Basel Convention and Mercury Waste; Supply and Storage Mercury partnership and the European /Global mercury campaign.


ð     Use the Lumex machine to analyze mercury presence in selected Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sites, landfill, open dump sites, coal ash dumps; hospitals, dental offices, cosmetics and schools

ð     Represent ZMWG at the intersessional work of Basel TG and follow up developments of the Basel TG.

ð     Prepare comments to Draft 5, 6, etc of Basel TG, during the term of this Agreement.

ð     Participate in UNEP Intersessional Work on Basel and Mercury Treaty Jurisdictions.

ð     Prepare report on Basel overlap with Mercury Treaty.

ð     Develop and implement a strategy of outreach to countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Canada etc pushing our interests in relation to discussions as above.

Status:  activities completed

Outcome - Within the six-month research period, BT was able to visit and monitor many varied sites in the Philippines. Where they raised local awareness and engaged the policy makers based on the assessment findings. Further info on this can be found in the Chasing mercury report by Ban Toxics! On the Waste and the Basel Convention, Storage of surplus mercury  project, the outcomes incuded:

ü      Stepped on board as ZMWG representative at the Basel TG Working Group

ü      Commented and helped coordinate NGO comments on the 6th Basel TG v.1 and v.2. 

ü      Participated at the Intersessional Working Group call on Nov. 30, 2010.

ü      Prepared 2 briefing papers on the relationship of the Basel Convention and the Mercury Treaty and the discussion on Mercury Waste issues for INC2 delegates and NGOs.

ü      Participated at the UNEP Waste Partnership email exchanges.

ü      Commented and coordinated NGO response to UNEP Waste Partnership Good Practices Document on Minimizing Mercury Emissions from Waste

Ban Toxics! Proposal 2010

Final report from 2010 project

Deliverable from 2010-11 project - Report: Chasing mercury: Measuring mercury levels in the air across the Philippines

Ban Toxics! proposal 2009

- Quick Thoughts on mercury
- Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining
- Mercury in Coal

Terminal Storage Options for Mercury Wastes in the Philippines

FInal report from 2009 project

NEWS in Philipinnes

December 2011

Group presses ban on mercury use in mining
by Gigi Dumallig / PIA 

BALBALAN, Kalinga –The provincial government and the non-government organization Ban Toxics (Bantox) are embarking on a project to break off small-scale miners from mercury dependence.

Starting the groundwork, a couple of information education campaign and demonstration on the use of an alternative method was recently conducted at the Gaang Mines of Barangay Sesec-an in Balbalan.

Leoncio Na-oy of Bantox said that IEC includes lecture on mercury poisoning and hands-on demonstration on the construction and usage of borax slosh boxes as an alternative for the mercury process in extracting gold.

The miners, he said, were very receptive to the idea of adopting a new mining method after learning about the devastating effects of mercury on their health and environment.

Having witnessed the demonstration results, the miners were convinced to shift their methods after discovering that they are able to extract more gold using borax, he said.

He said that during one of the demonstrations, the mercury process has produced 1.2 grams of gold while the borax slosh method extracted 4.3 grams using the same amount of randomly picked ore. The gold quality using borax, he said, is also higher, which translates to higher selling price for the miners.

Dominic Sugguiyao of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office said that in an effort to eventually stop mercury usage in local mines, the office will include in next year’s work and financial plan the conduct of additional training and the construction of borax slosh boxes for the demonstrations.

Having seen positive reception of the miners, the province will emulate the process and introduce the same to other miners who have yet to undergo the training especially in the municipality of Pasil where a larger number of miners are operating.

To strengthen the campaign, it is proposed that the provincial government set a policy banning mercury, including provisions for proper disposal of products that contain mercury such as used batteries and light bulbs.

Bantox selected Balbalan as pilot site for their training in the province after getting reports that mercury contamination had been detected in major river networks in the locality.


'Asoge' video to detail danger of Mercury

Legazpi City, Dec 7 (PIA) –- Much has been said about mercury (asoge) but only a few have a clear knowledge of its origins, properties and presence in everyday items.

Dan Abril, media coordinator of the "Ban Toxics," said the environmental organization has since been devoted to environmental justice and removing the presence of mercury in artisanal small-scale gold mining and other sectors.

The advocacy program, according to Abril, has received support from the Swiss government and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) has produced a 16-minute documentary film on mercury.

Ban Toxic will launch a video December 8 that will detail the toxicity of the heavy metal and how it can seriously affect the environment and communities.

"Biyaheng Asoge" will also show the dangers posed by mercury to our health and the environment.

The video ends with a number of recommendations on how to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of mercury.

Abril stressed that at a time when stakeholders are realizing the dangers and risks posed by mercury, this video is a significant addition to the growing wealth of information on mercury.

This video launching will also formally open a forum on the proper handling and storage of the element. (MAL/DAAbril)


CEBU, Philippines - An environmental organization has brought to Cebu its campaign against the hazards of mercury, also known as “asoge.”

Ban Toxics launched yesterday a 16-minute video entitled “Biyaheng Asoge” to help raise awareness about the dangers of mercury.

It also conducted consultation with schools, hospitals, households and local officials led by Cebu City Councilor Nida Cabrera and barangay officials.

Prior to the event, Ban Toxics executive director Richard Gutierrez said they had conducted survey in Cebu City.

The survey result showed that 65 percent of respondents are using compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) as a major source of mercury.

Gutierrez said there’s nothing wrong with using CFLs but there’s a need to inform the consumers about the presence of mercury and that the local government should have proper collection and management of waste.

Mercury was valued for its “medicinal” and “regenerative” properties by ancient people who were unaware of its dangerous side effects.

 But with the spectre of Minamata disease in the modern times, the dangers of mercury exposure has become well-known. 

 The most publicized case of mercury poisoning in the Philippines was that of Seth Cerillo in 2006. 

Then a first year high schools student at St. Andrew’s School of Parañaque, Cerillo was poisoned when his science teacher used toxic elemental mercury for an experiment in their science laboratory. 

Cerillo’s death caused temporary closure of the school by the Department of Health for mercury decontamination.

 This tragedy has prompted Ban Toxics, through the support of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Federal Office for the Environment of Switzerland, to release the video.

“The dangers and health risks posed by mercury can not be underestimated,” Gutierrez said.

“The WHO (World Health Organization) as far back as 1992 has stated that there are no levels in which mercury can be considered without adverse effects to humans,” he stressed

Viewers of video will learn about the three forms of mercury, come face to face with the serious threat it poses to the environment, wildlife and communities.

“The positive side of this challenge is that mercury-free alternatives do exist and communities and sectors have blazed a clear path forward towards eliminating mercury in our society,” Gutierrez said.

“What we need now is continued government support as well as the participation of all stakeholders in making their homes, communities, and our country, mercury-free,” he added.

 Ban Toxics is a non-profit, environmental organization devoted to environmental justice and removing the presence of mercury. – (FREEMAN)



Directive to Education Department: Ban mercury in schools
CONSUMERLINE By Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star)

Updated February 23, 2010 12:00 AM

This month, four years ago, an explosive piece of news crudely jolted us out of our complacency. The headline screamed: 24 students downed by mercury. At least 24 students of St. Andrew’s School, Parañaque, most of them aged 13, ended up in the hospital as confirmed cases of mercury poisoning. The report said that the students were poisoned after toying around with 50 grams of mercury meant for a science experiment. St. Andrew’s was closed for months while local and international experts cleaned up and decontaminated it.

A civil case was filed by John Seth Cerillo, one of the students exposed to mercury at St. Andrew’s School. We learned some bitter lessons from that sad incident, which has been ingrained in our
collective memory. Or did we?

As far back as 1991, the World Health Organization has recognized the danger posed by mercury to humans when it concluded that a safe level of mercury exposure, below which no adverse effects occur, has never been established.

In 2002, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) zeroed in on the growing danger of mercury exposure in its report that says “new findings during the last decade indicate that toxic effects may be
taking place at lower concentrations than previously thought ...” This lethal metal and its compounds are commonly used in chemical laboratories, hospitals, dental clinics, and facilities involved in the manufacture of products like fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, and explosives. Eating mercury-contaminated fish is the most significant source of mercury poisoning. We can also get it from eating foods with mercury residues from processing, improper use or disposal of mercury and mercury-containing objects, improper disposal of fluorescent lamps, and breathing contaminated air. Coal plants emit approximately half of the atmospheric mercury while natural sources like volcanoes account for the rest. Affected children, who are the most sensitive victims of this culprit, suffer from kidney dysfunction, memory impairment, insomnia, loss of hair, teeth, and nails.

Ban Toxics! has urged Education Secretary Jesli Lapus to immediately issue an order to all schools in the country to: immediately prohibit the purchase of and use of mercury and mercury-containing equipment,
and ensure their proper and secure storage.

For more information on Ban Toxics’ petition, read letter below.  (You can visit www.bantoxics.org for more info on mercury.)

Dear Consumerline,

This is Richard Gutierrez again, the lawyer/environmental advocate, not the actor. I’d like to send out the message that mercury should NOT be used in schools. We sent Education Secretary Jesli Lapus
yesterday an open letter urging the DepED to immediately take action.

Our request is based on the following facts:

• Mercury is a biased poison; its ill effects are not borne equally by the population. The most sensitive to its adverse impacts are children, the fetus, and pregnant women.  Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the brain and nervous system. And once mercury penetrates either the blood-brain barrier in children or bypasses the placental barrier between the fetus and the mother, the effects could be as subtle as lowered IQ or as severe as developmental problems when the child is born.  In all cases, the effect is permanent, incurable.

• Last Tuesday, Feb. 16, we marked the fourth year of the most publicized mercury spill in the Philippines — the St. Andrew’s School incident.  This tragedy exposed the dysfunction of how we view this toxin in our society. First, the lack of awareness of teachers and educational institutions of the toxins they expose their students to. Schools have an obligation not only to nurture the mind, but also to protect the health of their wards. It is the height of irony, that by using mercury lab experiments in school, teachers and school
administrators are actually exposing their students to danger, that could very well debilitate the very organ which houses the intellect they are attempting to cultivate — the brain.

• Second, our government’s lackadaisical approach to stemming mercury use in our country.  The Department of Health has taken a significant step towards this goal with AO 21, but the other agencies’ efforts, particularly those of the Department of Education, are wanting. Four years have elapsed and there has been no order coming out of DepEd that prohibits the use of mercury in schools. Reaction to a spill is
not the appropriate response to mercury. As mentioned previously, the effects of mercury are often permanent and incurable. So once a child is exposed to mercury and is adversely affected, it is too late. The solution is in preventing mercury use, to begin with.

• Lastly, there’s the lack of awareness among parents of the toxins their children are exposed to in school.  No parent would willingly expose his/her child to harm.  Yet this is what happens in schools as
long as toxins, such as mercury, are used in laboratories, clinics, and classrooms.

We must stop using mercury or mercury-containing products, not only in hospitals, but also in our homes and in our schools, where the most precious and vulnerable among us spend their time.

It will only take one order from Secretary Lapus to get the schools to stop using mercury and begin a path to be mercury-free.


Executive director, Ban Toxics!

* * *

A burning issue

A reader asked: How do we dispose of old batteries? Some are leaking already. What dangers do leaking old batteries pose?

EcoWaste Coalition head Manny Calonzo gives this answer:

Used household batteries are considered as “special waste” under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and should not be mixed with ordinary solid waste. Unlike your typical discards,
batteries have harmful chemicals that consumers should be aware of.

While major brands of alkaline batteries claim to contain no cadmium and mercury, some battery types may still have these toxic metals and other substances of concern.  Throwing them into the dumps or into the fire can cause the chemicals to be released and cause health, safety, and environmental problems.  The EcoWaste Coalition encourages consumers to consider the following guidelines to prevent harm and injury from the improper disposal of used batteries:

• Read the product safety instructions. A major brand has this warning on the battery label: “Do not install backwards, charge or put in fire — may explode or leak.”

• Do not mix different battery types, or use used batteries with new ones, including batteries with varying expiry dates. The batteries can leak, ignite or explode, causing harm to you and the electronic item.

• Do not leave batteries in a product for an extended period as the batteries may leak and ruin the product.

• Steer clear of leaking batteries as potassium hydroxide may be released, causing chemical burns.

• Store old batteries in a Ziploc bag or other sealed containers until you can dispose of them properly.  Properly label the bag or container.

• Do not store used batteries together or dispose them in big amounts. These batteries might still have some small charges remaining that can cause them to ignite or explode.

• Do not dispose of old batteries in fire as this can result in explosions that can discharge harmful chemicals and cause damage to health and property.

• Check with your municipal or city Environmental and Natural Resources Officer (ENRO) on the proper disposal of used batteries in your locality or contact the National Solid Waste Management Commission (phone/fax: 920-2252; e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) for advice.