Toxics watchdog group warns vs. Mercury use to counter sorcery

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14 September 2023, Quezon City. The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has warned against the marketing of liquid mercury as an antidote against witchcraft.
The group alerted individuals who sell and those who use mercury for such a purpose to be wary of the health hazard of direct exposure, stressing “there is no known safe level of exposure” to mercury, a highly toxic element.
The group’s warning was prompted by its discovery of online product listings for mercury packed in a small bottle that is touted to thwart the effects of black magic. “Asogi pangontra sa kulam, barang at iba pa; pwede din itanim sa balat,” one listing says.
The group likewise saw local videos and photos on Facebook and Youtube promoting the use of mercury to protect oneself from “kulam.”
“People should not be lured into using such a poisonous substance, including ‘planting’ mercury into the skin, as a ‘pamatay-bisa’ or antidote to acts of witchery,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “Toxic mercury has no known function in the human body and there is no level of mercury in the body that is deemed safe.”
As part of its advocacy to make e-commerce mercury-free, the EcoWaste Coalition has been urging online shopping platforms and others to stop the unlawful trade of mercury and mercury-added products such as those marked for global phase-out in 2020 under Article 4 of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
“We urge all e-commerce platforms to take concrete steps to make their sites safe from mercury and other regulated chemicals and products that can put the health of their clients and their families at risk,” Lucero said. “We likewise urge the authorities to look into the ‘cultural’ uses of mercury in the country and curb their impacts.”
While the Minamata Convention does not cover “products used in traditional or religious practices,” DENR Administrative Order No. 2019-20 excludes such use among the allowable uses of mercury. Governments are not prevented by the treaty from taking additional measures to protect public health and the environment from mercury exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Also known as the revised Chemical Control Order (CCO), the directive aims to “reduce hazards to health and the environment from the production, manufacture, use, handling, management, transport, interim storage, and disposal of mercury, mercury compounds and mercury-added products.”
“In the human body, mercury damages the central nervous system, thyroid, kidneys, lungs, immune system, eyes, gums and skin,” the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said. “Neurological damage to the brain caused by mercury cannot be reversed. There is no known safe exposure level for elemental mercury in humans, and effects can be seen even at very low levels.”
“People using mercury for cultural uses are often unaware of mercury’s toxicity and associated risks,” UNEP pointed out.
The EcoWaste Coalition will notify the authorities through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) about this public health matter and request for the necessary regulatory action.**


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