A GROUP of health experts warned the public against using merthiolate due its mercury content that could cause diseases when it finds its way to the bloodstream.

Merthiolate, like the cosmetics recently banned by Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), contains mercury that not only pollutes the environment but also harms the human body, said the Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA).

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Even as the group lauded the FDA for banning mercury-laden cosmetics, the HCWH-SEA said the agency should also pay attention to mercury containing items that are common in hospitals and homes.

These products include merthiolate, thimerosal-containing products such as contact lens cleaner and most vaccines; mercurial devices in hospitals such as thermometers, blood pressure devices, fixatives, laboratory chemicals, and cleaners; as well as building products such as thermostats, pressure gauges and switches.

The HCWH-SEA said even the rubber shoes that have lights at the bottom contain mercury.

It said merthiolate, which has been used as germ killer, was already banned due to its mercury content. Salons, however, continue to use it for cleaning nails.

The group also said merthiolate poisoning occurs when large amounts of the substance are swallowed or come in contact with the skin. It also occurs after constant exposure to even small amounts of the substance.

Thimerosal, on the other hand, is an organomercury compound that is used in vaccines as preservatives. The HCWH-SEA said there is no need for preservatives if only manufacturers use freezers to preserve it.

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

HCWH-SEA, however, said implementation of the phase-out is a little slow. It said majority of the rural health units (RHUs) and other health care facilities under the local government units are still behind in the implementation of the AO. Other health workers also claimed they have not heard of the order.

“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,” said Sonia Astudillo of the HCWH-SEA.

The group also asks the public to be wary when buying products.

“They should check the label if it contains thimerosal or merthiolate, or use the safer alternatives,” the group said. (Rimaliza Opiña)