23 September 2018

Toxics Watch Group Exposes Sale of Unregistered Skin Cream with High Lead Content

A medicated facial cream that claims to lighten the complexion and cure every skin woe has been found to be contaminated with lead, a potent neurotoxin.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit environmental and health group, aired the stark warning against “Top Shirley Medicated Cream” from Taiwan after finding lead impurities in this product, which is not notified or registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The group obtained the product yesterday, September 22, for P50 from LVD Chinese Drugstore located at 999 Shopping Mall in Divisoria, Manila.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence analytical device, the group detected lead reaching 2,088 parts per million (ppm) on Top Shirley.  This is way above the trace amount limit of not more than 20 ppm for lead as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive’s restrictions for heavy metal impurities.

“Lead is a highly toxic poison, which can be ingested or absorbed through the skin, that is why it is banned in cosmetic product formulations.  To protect public health and the environment, lead is not only banned in cosmetics, but also in gasoline, paints, toys, school supplies, water pipes, and food contact packaging,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We are worried that consumers craving to have lighter and flawless skin are being enticed to buy and use this unsafe product because of its efficacy claims and affordability,” he pointed out.

As written on the package insert, Top Shirley is the “best cream” that can “remove black heads, pimples, freckles and smooth wrinkles.”  According to the information provided, Top Shirley also “contains natural albumen and aloe base that have an effect on lightening facial skin.”

According to the US-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC), “lead is a well-known and proven neurotoxin that has been linked to learning, language and behavioral problems.”

“Lead has been linked to reduced fertility in both men and women, hormonal changes and menstrual irregularities. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable because lead crosses the placenta and may enter the fetal brain, and has also been linked to miscarriage,” the CSC fact sheet says.

To prevent exposure to heavy metals like lead and other health-damaging contaminants, the EcoWaste Coalition echoed the FDA’s advice telling consumers “to be vigilant against cosmetic products that might not be duly notified with the FDA.”

The FDA has time after time reminded consumers that it cannot guarantee the quality and safety of non-notified cosmetics because these products have not gone through the agency’s verification procedures.

“Always check if a cosmetic product has been notified with FDA before purchasing it by making use of the embedded search feature of the FDA website accessible at https://www.fda.gov.ph/,” the FDA suggested.





21 September 2018

Group Welcomes Baguio City Government’s Resolve to Address Problem on Toxic Cosmetics

Contraband cosmetics procured by the EcoWaste Coalition from retailers in Baguio City.  The Jiaoli and S'Zitang skin whitening creams were found to contain high concentrations of mercury, while the counterfeit MAC lipsticks were contaminated with excessive levels of lead.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a Quezon City-based environmental health NGO, has welcomed the moves by the Baguio City government to address the problem on toxic cosmetics being sold in the city.

The group had earlier written to the Office of Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan about the unlawful sale of contraband cosmetics that can expose consumers to lead and mercury -- toxic chemicals banned in cosmetic product formulations.

“We welcome the moves by the Baguio City Government, particularly the Health Services Office and the City Council, to address the problem with the unethical and unlawful sale of cosmetics that can pose serious health risks, especially to women consumers,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Through a letter sent to the group, City Health Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo said: “We are very thankful and appreciative of the extended efforts you have made during Baguio City’s Charter Day Celebration.” The group last September 1 went to Baguio and collected samples of unregistered skin whitening creams and lipsticks, which were found to be contaminated with mercury and lead.

“As a response to your letter, we immediately notified and forwarded your e-mail to the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health – Cordillera Administrative Region Office for them to look into the products being sold,” wrote Galpo.

“It was also agreed upon that our offices would meet the soonest to discuss plans on how to deal with the proliferation of these products that are very detrimental to the health of the population,” she said.

Galpo noted that the proposed “Cosmetic Products Regulation Ordinance” introduced by Councilor Leandro Yangot Jr. “is very timely because it addresses the issue at hand.”

“The Health Services Office has been very optimistic of the passage of this ordinance,” she added.

It will be recalled that the EcoWaste Coalition managed to buy skin whitening creams laced with mercury and lipsticks laden with lead from retail shops selling beauty and herbal products, Chinese medicines, and other goods in Baguio City.

The products containing heavy metal impurities are not notified with the Food and Drug Administration and have not undergone the required quality and safety assessment. 

The samples were later screened for toxic metals using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “exposure to mercury – even in small amounts – may cause serious health problems, and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.” 
Mercury in skin lightening creams and soaps, can damage the kidneys, according to the WHO.  Mercury in products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, the WHO said.

Lead, according to the WHO, “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurological, hematological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and renal systems” as per the WHO, which has also warned “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”




18 September 2018

Palawan Barangays Get Trained on Zero Waste Management to Curb Threats to Marine Protected Areas

The implementation of ecological solid waste management, or ESWM, at the barangay level is essential if we are to prevent garbage from polluting water bodies, including marine protected areas in the province of Palawan.

This was the overriding message learned by over 50 participants from eight barangays of Puerto Princesa City who took part in a day-long training program on ESWM held today in Barangay Maruyugon.  Two more training events covering 12 more barangays with 175 participants will be held on September 19 and 20 in Barangay Santa Monica and Napsan.

The training events are organized by Candis 3 Marketing Cooperative as part of a biodiversity conservation project that is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Philippine-American Fund (Phil-Am Fund).

The training program is held in collaboration with the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental health group advocating for a zero waste and toxics-free society.

“We have gathered our community leaders in the hope of assisting them in identifying gaps as well as solutions in the way discards are currently managed by our barangays,” said Bonifacio Tobias, Project Manager for C3MC’s project on “Mitigating Threats to Marine Protected Areas through Reducing and Recycling Solid Waste Materials.”

“Through the strengthened implementation of ESWM at the barangay level, we hope to prevent garbage, particularly plastic waste, from being carelessly dumped into our rivers and seas and causing harm to the marine ecosystems,” he said.

For her part, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, highlighted the relevance of the training event amid the plan to erect a waste-to-energy incineration facility in Barangay Sta. Lourdes where Puerto Princesa’s landfill is also sited.

“The energetic enforcement of ESWM at the barangay level will result to greater environmental awareness and responsibility among residents, and this will surely lead to decreased generation of garbage through enhanced segregation of waste materials at source, recycling and composting,” she said.

“With less amount of garbage being generated by households, institutions and business establishments, who will need a quick-fix incineration-based disposal technology?,”  she asked.  

Towards the effective implementation of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management, resource person Rey Palacio of the EcoWaste Coalition underscored the need for barangays to constitute functional Barangay Solid Waste Management Committees and for them to have adequate Barangay Solid Waste Management Plans to achieve “zero waste”.

“Simply put, zero waste means materials get reused, recycled and composted instead of being thrown away, dumped, burned or wasted,” he said.

Small group discussions helped the participants to reflect on gaps in current waste management policies practices and to identify solutions that will avoid the generation of waste at the point of generation, while improving waste diversion.  

Waste diversion,  as defined in R.A. 9003, refer to activities that reduce or eliminate the amount of solid wastes sent to waste disposal facilities such as landfills and incinerators.

Activities contributing to higher percentage of waste diversion include segregation at source, “no segregation, no collection,” reusing, recycling, repurposing, composting, and other waste prevention and reduction regulations and techniques, including clean production, Palacio said.


16 September 2018

EcoWaste Coalition Gives Helpful Eco-Tips for Post-Ompong Cleanup

Photos taken by the EcoWaste Coalition on 15 September 2018: Informal recyclers retrieve plastic bottles and other useful discards washed ashore in Manila Bay (first five photos from top); mercury lamp waste abandoned at the sidewalk along M. H. del Pilar St., Manila.   

A waste and pollution watch group today released a set of ecological and precautionary tips as tens of thousands of families clean up the damage caused by typhoon Ompong that battered Luzon and affected other regions with enhanced habagat rains.

“Cleaning up after a storm has passed is no easy task.  Depending on the extent of Ompong’s impact on your home, cleaning chores can be daunting and dangerous, too,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“To encourage families to clean up in a way that will not exacerbate the garbage disposal problem in affected communities, we have gathered some tips, which, if carried out, will cut waste and toxic exposure, protect human health, as well as conserve resources,” he added.

For his part, community leader Noli Abinales emphasized that "consciously avoiding the generation of more garbage during cleanup efforts will reduce the volume of rubbish sent to disposal sites such as dumps and landfills, which sadly are often located in environmentally critical areas, including watershed."  Abinales is adviser to Buklod Tao, a community organization based in disaster-prone San Mateo, Rizal and a board member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The following 13 eco-tips, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed, is not an exhaustive list as the group urged Ompong-impacted families to observe other safety precautions as they tidy up the mess left by the typhoon.

1. Wear protective gloves and boots while cleaning up as a protection against animal bites, bruises, cuts, and water-borne diseases such as leptospirosis.

2. Use “free” water such as rainwater and grey water from laundry tubs, washing machines, showers and sinks to remove silt left behind after the flooding, scrub with soap and water, and then rinse thoroughly.

3.  Use natural cleaning products such as vinegar and water solution to remove dirt and grime from floors, walls, kitchen and toilet.

4.  Wipe glass windows clean using a damp newspaper (considered a "brown composting material"), which can be shredded after use for composting.  If needed, create a homemade non-toxic glass cleaner made out of vinegar and water.

5.  Clean furniture and other stuff that have been submerged in floodwater with hot soapy water and let them dry under the sun.

6.  Fix and reuse flood-soaked furnishings and other typhoon-affected items including blown-off roofing materials.

7.  Create non-toxic disinfectant for things contaminated by floodwater by mixing equal amounts of white vinegar and water.  The mixture can be placed on a spray bottle for easy application.

8.  Wash flood-drenched clothes and linens separately from uncontaminated ones.

9.  Reduce the volume of post-typhoon discards requiring disposal by safely repairing, reusing, repurposing and recycling them as much as possible; clean and use salvaged and reclaimed materials.

10.  Refrain from burning or dumping fallen leaves and twigs and other biodegradable debris, and compost them instead. 

11.  Do not mix mercury-containing busted lamps and other hazardous items, including broken TVs and other e-wastes, with regular household discards as such wastes require special handling and disposal due to their toxic content.

12.  Remove all trash that can collect and hold water where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can lay their eggs.

13.  If so required, give damaged parts of your home a fresh coat of certified lead-safe paint.


14 September 2018

Environmental Advocates Plead for Proper Waste Management as Communities Brace for Typhoon Ompong

Environmentalists were quick to remind the public to mind their trash as communities in large sections of the country, particularly in Luzon and Metro Manila, brace for the onslaught of typhoon Ompong.

Noli Abinales, Adviser of Buklod Tao and Board Member of the EcoWaste Coalition, urged affected citizens to make it a point to include the ecological management of discards before, during and after Ompong as an essential  part of the household and community preparation for the severe weather disturbance.

“Waste prevention and reduction is a key component of any effective community-based disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).  The faithful implementation of good practices in ecological waste management will help in reducing the typhoon’s impact to community health and the environment,” said Abinales, a resident of San Mateo, Rizal and survivor of the deadly typhoon Ondoy in 2009.

“We need to cut the volume of what we throw out as our dumpsites are already bursting at the seams.  We need to ensure as well that what we dispose of are safely managed so as not to pose harm to our families, neighbors, waste workers, and our fragile ecosystems as a whole,” he added.

A DRRM champion, Abinales emphasized that ecological solid waste management should be incorporated in all phases of DRRM strategy, including, disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and rehabilitation and reconstruction.

“Attesting to the importance of ESWM was the recent risk profiling of our community's vulnerable groups conducted last summer.  Women, older persons, persons with disabilities and youth singled out mismanaged waste as one disaster risk factor.  Its consequences or impacts to our communities include , clogged drainage and esteros, exposure to illness and unhealthy environment,” he said.

"Ecological solid waste management is an essential element of any DRRM strategy that has to be put in place even before a disaster strikes, " he emphasized.

For his part, Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, called on all the Barangay Solid Waste Management Boards (BSWMBs) to  take the lead in enforcing Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, as part of the community preparation for typhoon Ompong. 

“The vigorous enforcement of R.A. 9003, led by active BSWMBs, will complement the DRRM efforts by the public and private sectors and should be strongly supported by all as this will make the lives of everyone, especially the vulnerable groups, cleaner and safer,” he said.

Both Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition expressed their hopes that communities located in the path of typhoon Ompong will weather the storm.