Environmentalists in the Philippine capital and several other international non-governmental organizations have urged the proper disposal of toxic waste after they detected high levels of mercury smoke in the harbor area of Tondo district.
An investigation conducted on 19 April at the Pier 18 Garbage Transfer Station showed 117.2 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) in 14 used mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps in two separate disposal areas in Manila's district, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. One lamp registered mercury vapor at 502.4 µg/m3, the PDI reported.
These values are more than the US safety recommendation of 100 µg/m3.
Concerned by the disturbing levels of mercury in the air near recycling stations, EcoWaste Coalition chemical safety project coordinator Thony Dizon, said "We need to emphasize that it is not only the lamp waste recyclers who bear the brunt of toxic pollution. The mercury vapor escapes as the glass tubing is broken and travels around, exposing the workers, their children and the environment to this toxic metal.
Other than lamps, mercury is a present in common household items like thermometers. It is also used for extracting gold and silver in mining clothes.
Although minute amounts (0.9 µg/m3) of atmospheric mercury is normal, exposure to high levels of the rare metal leads to toxicity that may damage the brain, eyes, heart, kidney, liver and other internal organs.
It may cause a host of health conditions such as blindness, loss of memory and sensation and tremors.
Studies conducted late last year until early this year likewise yield high levels of mercury in the air in three provinces near mining communities outside Manila—Benguet (3.7 µg/m3), Camarines Norte (14.3 µg/m3) and Palawan (1.5 µg/m3), the PDI said.
The community studies were conducted by Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and Health Care Without Harm. It was held in the observance of Earth Day on 22 April and the World Day for Safety and Health at Work to be held on 28 April.
Details of this report here.