24 June 2016

Watchdog Prods Students and Teachers to Avoid Products Laced with Toxic Chemicals

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on toxic chemicals and wastes, today went to a public high school in Kaunlaran Village, Navotas City to promote student and teacher awareness on hazardous substances lurking in some toys, school supplies and cosmetics.

To conclude its participation in this year’s National Poison Prevention Week, the group conducted a lively chemical alertness activity at the Kaunlaran High School.

“Not all products are created equal.  Some products are laden with dangerous chemicals that can pose serious threat to a person’s health and even pollute the environment.  In many cases, these poison chemicals are not written on the product labels, thus keeping consumers in the dark,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect. 

Dr. Annabelle Sinlao, who graduated valedictorian from Kaunlaran High School, told the audience that “we need to be on the lookout for these hidden toxins in the products that we use, which can penetrate our bodies via ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption and cause damage to our health even at low levels of exposure.”

Both Dizon and Sinlao emphasized the need for manufacturers to produce non-toxic products and for companies to provide complete product information, including the chemical ingredients comprising a product and their effects, if any, to health and the environment.

To show that some products contain hazardous substances, the group screened a variety of samples using a handy X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer that is able to rapidly identify and measure up to 20 elements present in a given sample. 

Engr. Mark Anthony Sodila of QES (Manila), Inc., assisted by the EcoWaste Coalition’s staff, conducted the on-the-spot product screening activity.

With the help of the XRF device, the group uncovered high concentrations of cadmium, lead and mercury, among other toxic metals, in some children’s toys, school supplies and cosmetics.     

For example, cadmium was detected in one plastic raincoat with a popular “Ben 10”cartoon character; lead was found in a variety of school supplies such as backpacks, paper clips and water colors, as well as in lipsticks; and mercury was discovered in skin whitening facial creams.   

Cadmium, lead and mercury are among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” according to the World Health Organization, which are known to cause reproductive and birth defects, developmental abnormalities,  brain and central nervous system disorders,  hormonal disruptions, behavioral problems, and other health issues.

To prevent exposure to unsafe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed that consumers should examine the product label, particularly the age recommendation, precautionary warnings, safety instructions and manufacturing details, as well as to look for the government-issued license to operate (LTO) number.

When buying school supplies, the group reminded the audience to carefully read the labelling information and seek non-toxic products, avoiding items made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic,  those with strong chemical smell and those painted with bright colors unless certified as lead-safe.

As for cosmetics, the group advised consumers to peruse the product label, which should contain the required information in English such as the brand and product name along with the function, ingredients, net content,  directions for use, special precautions, batch number, manufacturing/expiry date, country of manufacture, and name and address of the company or person who placed the product on the market.

The group also encouraged the public to visit the website of the Food and Drugs Administration for other useful tips on how to select safe toys, school supplies, cosmetics and other products.


22 June 2016

Groups Spread Information to Protect the Elderly from Accidental Overdoses due to Medications

The nation’s elderly people are at risk of unintentional poisoning injuries and deaths due to the overuse or misuse of medicines, which can be prevented by taking steps to rationally use drugs.

At a forum aptly themed “Bantay Kalusugan para kay Lolo at Lola: Tamang Paggamit ng Gamot at Iba Pa,” pharmacology and toxicology experts took turns to enlighten the elderly audience about the factors that contribute to altered effects of drugs among senior citizens and the do’s and don’ts to avoid poisoning.

The forum was held in observance of the National Poison Prevention Week as per Proclamation No. 1777, Series of 2009, and was co-organized by the National Poison Management and Control Center UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital (NPMCC UP-PGH), the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT) and the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Because of physiological changes, elderly people handle drugs differently, which can cause serious adverse health effects if not properly used.  Due to their poor eyesight, absentmindedness and lack of awareness and understanding of the intended uses of drugs, the elderly are prone to adverse drug events (ADEs) or injuries resulting from the use of a drug,” said Dr. Lynn R. Panganiban, Professor,  UP College of Medicine and Consultant, NPMCC UP-PGH.

“Social and economic factors such as vices, dietary preferences and polypharmacy (the simultaneous use of multiple drugs) increase the risk to incidence of ADEs among the elderly, which can be avoided through the rational use of drugs,” she added.

Joining Panganiban in providing life-saving information to prevent overdose and poisoning incidents among the elderly people were Dr. Carissa Paz C. Dioquino and Dr. John Paul Ner.

To prevent ADEs among senior citizens, the experts emphasized that 1. the administration of medicines should be supervised; 2.  pills should be stored in their original containers, or in pill boxes or organizers, to avoid mixing of pills; 3.  the labels on medicine containers should be retained and kept legible; 4.  self-medication or buying medicines marketed as “wonder” or “miracle pills” with cure-all indications should be avoided; 5. a list of medications currently taken should be kept and those that are no longer used should be discarded; and 6. polypharmacy (especially of over-the-counter drugs) should be avoided.

The experts also reminded the elderly to consult a doctor when new signs and symptoms appear and when contemplating to take an over-the-counter medicine.  

To avoid mishaps and accidental poisoning, the experts also stressed that elderly patients should request for a written treatment plan from their doctors.

The treatment plan should include the name(s) of the drug(s), dosage, indication(s) and instructions as to the manner of administration, and also make a note regarding adverse effects to be monitored and food to be avoided.

For his part senior citizen Noli Abinales, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, commended the NPMCC UP-PGH and PSCOT for paying attention to overdose and poisoning cases involving the elderly, which often go unnoticed and unrecorded.

“We laud and thank our poison centers and poison experts for their efforts to uphold the right to chemical and pharmaceutical safety of vulnerable groups such as the elderly, and may they get more budgetary support for their crucial work from the incoming administration,” he said.

Based on NPMCC UP-PGH’s census of poisoning cases, the top five toxicants affecting the elderly include pesticide (e.g., Malathion), sodium hypochlorite (e.g., Zonrox ), kerosene, benzodiazepine (e.g.,Diazepam), and ethanol (e.g., alcoholic drinks).


20 June 2016

Groups Push for Poison-Proofing Homes and Schools to Prevent Poisoning Emergencies


An expert on the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms today advised students and their teachers to be on their guard against harmful substances that may put their health in danger.

Speaking at a forum organized by the EcoWaste Coalition to mark the National Poison Prevention Week,  Dr. Nerissa M. Dando, Associate Professor and Toxicology Consultant of the National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC UP - PGH), reminded some 300 students of the Manila Science High School to be cautious as poisons come in various containers, forms  and sizes.

In line with the theme “Poisons in the School: Prevention is the Solution,” Dando, who is also the President of the Society of Adolescent Medicine of the
Philippines, underscored the old saying “prevention is better than cure” to stress the importance of avoiding exposure to poisonous substances in a proactive manner than to deal with it later.

“Poison prevention education is essential to protect our children from unwittingly exposing themselves to hazardous products and wastes.  We can avoid poisoning emergencies that may even lead to severe injury and death by becoming aware of actual and potential hazards in our surroundings and taking concrete steps to poison-proof our homes, schools and workplaces,” said Dando, a clinical toxicology expert.

For her part, Maria Eva S. Nacion, Principal of the
Manila Science High School, stated that “
by learning and acting together, we can make our faculty members, students and non-teaching staff more safety-conscious to prevent poisoning incidents, which can put our children’s health and their future at risk.”   

Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect cited s
ome of the more common poisons in the school setting that can make children ill if ingested or inhaled, including lead-containing paint chip and dust, schools supplies laced with hazardous ingredients, laboratory chemicals, busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps, and cleaning agents such as chlorine granules, oxalic acid crystals and sodium hypochlorite (aka “clorox”).  

Seemingly harmless stuff like paracetamol, vitamins, lipsticks, colognes, perfumes and sanitizers can become a poison and cause serious injury if used in a wrong way, Dizon also warned.

Dando explained that children are more sensitive and susceptible to the harmful effects of hazardous substances than adults because their body defense systems are still developing, they consume more food and water and breathe more air in proportion to their body size, and their hand-to-mouth behaviour can expose them more to environmental contaminants.

To poison-proof our homes and schools, the groups school administrators and teachers, as well as parents, to observe the following:

1.  Handle, use, store and dispose of products safely.  Seek out eco-friendly products that do not contain hazardous substances.

2.  Read the product labels carefully and follow the safety instructions.  Pay attention to the hazard pictograms and precautionary warnings.

3.  Keep medicines, bleaching, cleaning and laundry products, insecticides, paints, varnishes and thinners, and car maintenance materials out of children’s sight and reach in a securely locked cabinet or area.

4.  Return all products to their proper storage immediately after use.  Do not leave them unattended.

5.  Never place poisonous products in beverage and food containers such as drinking cups or softdrink bottles.  Keep them in their original containers.

6.  Never reuse pesticide and other chemical containers for storing food and water.

7.  Do not mix household cleaning products together.  Combining bleach and cleaning products with ammonia, for example, can form dangerous fumes.

8.   Wash children’s toys and other play things regularly to minimize the risk of your child coming into contact with lead-containing dust and other environmental pollutants.

9.  Teach kids how to safely use art materials such as crayons, water colors, glues and other adhesives and remind them not to eat or drink while doing their art assignments.

10.  Whenever there is question of poison exposure, please call the NPMCC or consult a medical doctor nearest to you.  Don’t make your child vomit.  Keep the following numbers of the NPMCC by your phone: at
 02-5241078, 5548400 local 2311 or 0922-8961541.

The National Poison Prevention Week is observed every fourth week of June as per Proclamation No. 1777, series of 2009 to increase awareness on the preventive aspects of poisoning prevention at home, school, work and the general environment.




18 June 2016

Watchdog Tells Men to Take It Easy on Fragranced Cosmetics


As Father’s Day is celebrated tomorrow, a watch group on hazardous substances cautioned men to be extra careful in purchasing cosmetics containing fragrances that can disrupt hormonal functions and adversely affect their sexual and reproductive health.

The EcoWaste Coalition, citing precautionary warnings by US-based advocacy groups, said that some cosmetics marketed to men and teenage boys like body spray and cologne, shaving cream, aftershave and hair products may contain undisclosed chemicals of concern.

“The safety of cosmetics is not only a women’s issue as men and boys nowadays use a variety of cosmetics and personal care products, making them just as vulnerable to ingredients that can possibly harm their reproductive health and fertility,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.  

“One of these ingredients of concern is ‘fragrance’ which may contain endocrine disrupting chemicals such as phathalates,” he pointed out.

“As fragrance ingredients are seldom fully listed on the label, consumers should seek out fragrance-free products as a precaution against phthalate exposure.  Take it easy on fragrance-laced cosmetics,” he said. 

“Although it’s just one little word on the ingredient label, ‘fragrance’ can contain dozens, even hundreds of chemicals, including hormone-disrupting phthalates and synthetic musks,” warned the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Fund.

The Washington DC-based Environmental Working Group warned “some ingredients are hormonally active; some of these are specifically linked to male reproductive system disorders” such as endocrine-disrupting phthalates, which are commonly found in fragrances. 

Some of the reproductive health issues associated with exposure to phthalates include poor semen quality, decreased sperm counts, infertility, altered hormone levels and testicular and prostate cancer.

“While men are exposed on average to six products a day versus 12 products for women, they are still exposed to some 80 unique chemicals from personal care products such as soap, shampoo, shaving cream, fragranced aftershave, etc.,” said scientist Dr. Ann Blake, an expert on toxics reduction strategies.

Blake, who spoke at a lecture-forum in 2012 co-organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and Food and Drugs Administration, said that “some male-specific health effects include exposure to Di-Ethyl Phthalate (DEP), a hormone disruptor, that impact on sperm quality and motility.”

Safe cosmetics groups advised men and other consumers to avoid or reduce their use of products with added fragrance, to read product labels closely and to find safer substitutes.




16 June 2016

EcoWaste Coalition Makes a Pitch for Healthy “Baon” to Combat Obesity among Children

In a bid to prevent the health consequences of being overweight and obese among children, the EcoWaste Coalition today organized an event showcasing “baon” with good nutritional value that are within ordinary people’s reach and budget.

The “back-to-school” event dubbed as “Healthy Baon, Healthy Bata, Healthy Eswela” was held at the Sto. Cristo Elementary School in Quezon City and featured healthful snacks and drinks prepared by the Edukasyong Pangtahanan at Pangkabuhayan teachers of the said public school.

Among their snack creations were burger patty made of shredded banana heart, grated carrots and chopped malunggay leaves; pancake batter with mashed squash, coconut milk and malunggay water on it;  and spring roll with crushed camote and malunggay as fillings.

For healthier beverage options, the teachers concocted “Pinoy” drinks such as the malunggay, kalamansi and tanglad juice, guava juice and talbos ng kamote (camote tops) juice.

“We have staged this event to stir up interest and support for healthy school snacks and drinks as a way of reducing children’s consumption of junk food  that are high in fat, sugar and salt, which can lead to overweight and obesity problems at an early age,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Obese children are likely to stay obese later in life and are likely to suffer from related non-communicable diseases, hence the need to actively promote healthier foods, as well as regular physical activities, among our kids,” she pointed out.  

As confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), “childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.”

Citing data from the 8th National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), the EcoWaste Coalition expressed concern over the rise of overweight and obese Filipinos from 16.6% in 1993 to 31.1% in 2013. The overweight and obesity prevalence was 5% among children aged five to 10 and 8.3% for teenagers aged 10 to 19.  

The FNRI cited physical inactivity, changing dietary patterns, child under-nutrition, and poor breastfeeding practices as possible reasons for the steady rise of obesity in the country. 

As stated by the FNRI, “creating a healthy food environment starts at home and school as they remain the largest sources of food access for children.”

Towards a healthy food environment, particularly in schools, the EcoWaste Coalition urged school administrators to strengthen their implementation of the Department of Education (DepEd) Order No. 8, Series of 2007, which states that “school canteens shall serve as a venue for developing desirable eating habits of pupils/ students.”

The DepEd guidelines also states that “only nutrient-rich foods such as root crops, noodles, rice and corn products in native preparation, fruits and vegetables in season, and fortified food products labeled rich in protein, energy, vitamins and minerals shall be sold in the school canteen. Beverages shall include milk, shakes and juices prepared from fruits and vegetables in season.”

The guidelines also prohibit “the sale of carbonated drinks, sugar-based synthetic or artificially flavored juices, junk foods and any food product that may be detrimental to the child’s health and that do not bear the Sangkap Pinoy seal and/or did not pass BFAD approval.”  BFAD is now known as the Food and Drugs Administration.