24 October 2014

Quezon City Pre-Schoolers and Parents Push for Lead Paint Elimination for Healthy Bodies and Environment

To mark the continuing celebration of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (ILPPWA) and in commemoration of the United Nations Day today, over one hundred school kids dressed in vibrant national costumes of UN member states paraded with their parents and teachers at Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, to raise public consciousness about lead hazard and gather support for the elimination of lead paints in the market.

The activity, a component of the European Union-assisted Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project, is jointly organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and ROTCHNA Day Care Center and has “Kids and Communities for a Lead Safe Future” for its theme, reflecting the shared aspiration of the participants to protect every child from being exposed to lead, a toxic brain-damaging chemical.

"We are assembled here today to reach out to the community folk and spur caring action to deter childhood lead exposure at home and in school. It is important for parents and teachers to know what causes lead poisoning and how it can be avoided, so that they can proactively defend the kids against varied sources of lead exposure such as through the ingestion and inhalation of lead-contaminated paint chips and dust,” explained Jeiel Guarino, Communications and Policy Officer of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Lead Paint Elimination Project.

After the parade, the group gathered in front of the school to learn more about lead poisoning through instructive and exciting games, followed by the turn-over of the newly-painted ROTCHNA Day Care Center, a collaborative project of the EcoWaste Coalition with the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM).

"The paint remediation done on the school’s exteriors, interiors, chairs, tables and cabinets is our voluntary response to the Quezon City government’s drive to make residents cautious about the health effects of exposure to lead, especially among our young children who are vulnerable to such chemical hazard,” said Evelyn Galang, Head Teacher, ROTCHNA Day Care Center.

The Quezon City Council last August 11 adopted a resolution calling for the observance of the annual “Lead Poisoning Prevention Week” to “raise awareness on lead poisoning prevention, particularly from avoidable sources of lead pollution such as lead paints.”

Through the resolution sponsored by Councilor Dorothy Delarmente, the councilors further “recognized the reduction of childhood lead exposure as a fundamental goal in public health.”

“We thank the EcoWaste Coalition for screening our facility for lead paint hazard and the PAPM for providing the labor and lead safe materials for the repainting work. Hopefully, our experience will encourage the local government to recognize possible lead hazards in other school environments and act with urgency to prevent kids from continually being exposed from the dangers of lead,” added Galang.

Last April, the EcoWaste Coalition observed chipping paints on the interior walls of the day care center, which yielded positive for lead upon screening with an x-ray fluorescence (XRF) device. This prompted the group to partner with PAPM for basic lead paint remediation for the day care facility.

To further ensure children’s safety from hazardous lead paint chips and dust, the EcoWaste Coalition advised the school to keep all coatings in excellent shape, frequently wipe off dust, regularly wet mop the floors, and ensure that kids always wash their hands after play and before meals.

In addition, the EcoWaste Coalition shares the following recommendations for parents to minimize childhood exposure from household dust:

- Keep the areas where your children play as dust-free and clean as possible.
- Wash pacifiers and bottles after they fall on the floor, and keep extra ones handy.
- Clean floors, window frames, window sills and other surfaces weekly using wet mops, sponges or paper towels and a general all-purpose cleaner.
- Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
- Wash toys and stuffed animals regularly.
- Make sure your child does not chew on anything covered with lead paint, such as painted window sills or cribs.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “lead poisoning is a serious child health concern throughout the world. Children are most likely to be exposed to lead from ingestion of flakes and dust from decaying lead-based paint. This affects children's brain development and their measurable level of intelligence (IQ).”

Furthermore, the WHO’s report on “Childhood Lead Poisoning” states that “these effects are untreatable and irreversible because the human brain has little capacity for repair, causing diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.”

Organized worldwide by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a joint undertaking by the WHO and the United Nations Environmental Programme, the ILPPWA also seeks concrete action and policy support from both national and local governments in the country to minimize, if not eliminate childhood lead exposure.

The EcoWaste Coalition-led campaign is part of a seven-country EU-supported Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project by IPEN, a global civil society network promoting safe chemical policies and practices to protect human health and the environment.


22 October 2014

Environmentalists, waste workers slam pro-incineration shift, say it will burn jobs, poison the environment

Members of the informal waste sector or IWS and community and environmental organizations marched to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), then to the House of Representatives today to shun attempts to legalize incineration and to protect thousands of waste management-related jobs and valuable resources from ending up in dirty smoke and ash.
Led by the zero waste advocacy network EcoWaste Coalition, some 100 waste workers and environmental activists joined the protest march and assembly to express their firm opposition to moves by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and some lawmakers to open the floodgates for waste incineration. The group, instead, proposed zero waste approach as the real solution.
During the activity, the group portrayed the horror of incineration through a tableau highlighted by a depiction of incineration as an insatiable monster named “Toxic Burner,” with its fiery mouth full of all sorts of waste and paper money to show valuable resources and livelihood getting burned. The monster horns, meanwhile, emit toxic smoke.
“Moves to allow waste incineration completely disregards the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or RA 9003, which mandates ecological management of discards to salvage tons of valuable resources and provide thousands of waste workers with environment-friendly jobs,” stated Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.
In the Philippines, over 100,000 workers, by rough estimation, live by means of recovering and selling tons of materials, which go back to factories for purposes of recycling, creating jobs along the way.
In a statement, Fr. Jose Vicente Y. Tin-Ga, President of Lingkod Mamamayan at Lipunan Foundation Inc., a community-based organization in Rodriguez, Rizal, dedicated to the promotion of the welfare of the waste pickers working with wastes in and around Rodriguez Landfill, said that “If you burn wastes altogether, the waste workers do not have anything to salvage and sell, so they end up without livelihood, which in Rodriguez would mean more than 4,000 waste workers losing their jobs.”
“Incineration also goes against the spirit of the Clean Air Act, which is supposed to protect the people and the environment from the hazards of air pollution, to be made worst by the inevitable toxic fumes and ashes from incinerators,” Lucero added.
“Contrary to what is being peddled by incinerator proponents, even so-called modern incineration release highly toxic air emissions that include tons of carbon dioxide, acid gases, heavy metals, and new and more toxic compounds, such as dioxins, furans, and even PCBs,” Lucero explained.
The Coalition emphasized that even when an incinerator is equipped with sophisticated ‘scrubber’, toxic releases to the environment are merely transferred to the solid by-product which is the fly ash that has to be safely disposed of.
As genuine solution to the country’s waste problem, EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that zero waste concepts, in addition to what is already mandated in RA 9003, will greatly eliminate wastes.
“It entails the participation of every sector in society to achieve zero waste: product design should promote easy and non-toxic recycling; product manufacturing should make use of environment friendly processes and materials; and extended producers’ responsibility, e.g. “take-back” policy must be adopted and seriously implemented,” EcoWaste Coalition clarified.

“Nonetheless, segregation at source, reusing, recycling, composting, banning of non-environment friendly products and packaging, set-up of materials recovery facilities -- all enshrined in RA 9003, will work wonders if implemented by LGUs. A good example is San Fernando, Pampanga, which now has a waste diversion rate of 55% as a result of implementing major provisions of the law,” stressed the group.


21 October 2014

Undas Safety Warning: Watchdog Cautions Consumers against Toxic Candles, Offers Precautionary Tips

Imported Chinese candles with metal wicks are still sold in Binondo, Manila despite being banned in many countries due to the risk of lead poisoning.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog campaigning to eliminate preventable sources of childhood lead exposure, made the revelation as the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action is observed around the world.

The group had earlier bought 15 pairs of red, white and yellow paraffin wax candles with metal wicks for P150 per pair.  The candles, placed on a gourd and pineapple shaped clear glass containers, are sold at shops selling Chinese prayer articles.

The candles were subsequently sent to SGS, a global testing company, for laboratory analysis that detected a whopping 207,350 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the composite wicks of approximately 20 candles.

“Most candles in the market, especially those made by local manufacturers, use cotton wicks and pose no risk of lead pollution. However, consumers should be wary of imported candles with lead core wicks as these products could discharge harmful lead fumes during burning,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Such candles would be illegal to sell in Australia which banned candles with  leaded wicks in 1999, Finland in 2001, Denmark in 2002 and USA in 2003, observed the group.

The EcoWaste Coalition therefore urged the Department of Health, particularly  the Food and Drugs Administration which has jurisdiction over candle  products, to ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of  candles with lead-containing wicks.

A health warning from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission warned that “children may  inhale the vaporized lead, placing them at risk.”

The agency also said that “children may also be exposed to lead by mouthing objects on which lead has settled or by handling such objects and then mouthing their hands.”

“While the ingestion or inhalation of lead-containing paint chips and dust is the common source of exposure for children, lead builds up in the body and even exposure to small doses of  lead can add to blood lead levels in children,” Dizon said, as he emphasized that “no safe blood lead level has been ascertained.”

Health experts have associated lead exposure in children and unborn babies to brain damage, learning disabilities and IQ deficits, delayed growth and development, and behavioral problems.

Experts have also warned that lead-exposed pregnant women can transfer lead to the fetus via the placenta and inflict serious harm to the developing fetal brain and central nervous system.

To minimize risk when using candles, especially during the Undas holidays, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded the public to observe the following safety tips:

1.  Read and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions on candle use.

2.  Do not light candles with lead metal in the wicks; choose candles with cotton and other non-metal wicks.
3.  Prune candlewicks to ¼ inch before lighting the candle as long wicks can cause irregular burning and dripping.

4.  Use sturdy candle holders that will not turn over, catch fire or shatter when they get too hot, and big enough to capture the wax drips; be sure to place the candle holder on a stable, heat resistant and uncluttered surface.

5.  Burn candles in a well-aerated space to lessen indoor air pollution, but keep the candles away from air currents to avoid fast burning and flare-ups.

6.  Always keep a burning candle in sight,  do not leave lighted candles unattended, snuff them out before you leave the room or go to sleep, and make sure they are completely out.
7.  Do not drop matchsticks and other objects into the wax pool.

8.  Keep burning candles away from flammable materials such as paper, books, beddings, curtains, decorations, fabrics, furniture, plastics, etc.
9.  If a candle must burn continuously, ensure that it is placed on a durable candle holder and put it on a ceramic, metal or plastic container filled with water.

10. Keep burning candles out of reach of children and safe from pets; educate the kids that candles are not things to eat or play with.