22 July 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Warns Families against Danger from Small Button Batteries

Some bad things come in small packages.
The EcoWaste Coalition hammered home this message as it reminded parents of the hazards of accidental ingestion of button batteries containing acids and heavy metals.
As part of its campaign to raise awareness on “Clean and Safe Homes for Zero Poisoning Incidents,” the group drew attention to the choking and ingestion hazards of button batteries that can cause chemical burns and put a child’s life in highest danger.
Data obtained by the EcoWaste Coalition from the UP National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC) indicate that button batteries is number three among the top 10 poison agents in 2013 in terms of in-patient referrals for the pediatric age group.
“Products run by button batteries may pose a choking and chemical risk to young children who can have access to these small things, put them in the mouth and ingest them,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Oftentimes, children push button batteries into their nostrils or swallow the batteries.  Prolonged contact with the mucus membranes in the nose or in the stomach may cause burns or ulcers.  If the battery is more than or equal to 1.5 cm in diameter, the battery can get lodged in some parts of the gastrointestinal tract of children less than 6 years of age and cause obstruction,”   Dr. Carissa Deoquino, Head of UP National Poison Management and Control Center (UPNPMCC), added.
“Parents should promptly bring kids to their physicians if these situations arise,” she emphasized.
Small, light weight, thin, shiny and coin-shaped, button batteries are often used in children’s talking books, games and toys,  flashing jewelry, hair accessories and shoes, hearing aids, musical greeting cards, pocket calculators, remote controls, wrist watches and other portable electronic devices.
Some mercury-containing batteries are targeted for phase out by 2020 under the Minamata Convention on Mercury that governments, including the Philippines, signed in October 2013, except for button zinc silver oxide and zinc air button batteries with less than 2% mercury content, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.
To reduce risk of swallowing button batteries that can cause internal injuries, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following five steps to prevent choking and ingestion hazards:
1.  Carefully read the product label and follow the safety instructions on battery use, storage and disposal.
 2.  Ensure that button batteries in children’s products and household items are duly secured with a screw.
3.  Keep button batteries in their original packaging and store them in a childproof container.
4.  Ensure  that button batteries, old or new, are kept out of children’s sight and reach.
5.  Do not allow children to handle and install button batteries and never let them play with them.
In addition, the group advised parents to properly dispose of spent batteries and not to simply throw them in regular trash nor toss them into a fire.
To report any case of poisoning and to obtain advice, the public may call the NPMCC’s 24-hour Poison Information Service at 5241078 or 5548400 local 2311.

20 July 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Thrilled to Find Lead Safe Wooden Toys in Manila Stores (25 of 25 Samples Contain No Toxic Lead)

Brightly colored wooden toys can be made without using lead-containing paints that can put a child’s rapidly developing brain at risk of permanent damage.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental and health watchdog tracking toxins in toys and children’s products, proved this point after screening 25 colorful wooden toys, mostly imported from China, and finding no toxic lead in all samples.

“Toys coated with lead paints are totally unsafe for kids to play with.  They can unknowingly ingest lead as they place their hands, toys and other objects contaminated with lead paint chips or dust in their mouth. We are therefore elated to find lead safe toys this time around,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Our latest findings should push other toy manufacturers, especially local ones who are still using lead paints, to stop the perilous practice and comply with the law,” he emphasized.

The newly promulgated Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources strictly prohibits the use of lead in the production of toys.

The wooden toy samples, which include alphabet and number toys, animal, flower and shape jigsaw puzzles, pet animal figures, musical instruments, pull toys and other playthings, were fully or partially coated with vibrant colors such as yellow, red, orange, green, blue and other hues.

The samples, costing P16 to P449.75, were obtained from diverse retail outlets in Manila such as the National Book Store, Shopwise and SM Toy Kingdom Express in Harrison Plaza, Malate, Daiso Japan and Toys R Us in Robinsons Place, Ermita,  Booksale, Paco and Isetann Department Store, Quiapo, as well as in bargain stores in 168 and 999 Shopping Malls in Divisoria.  The items were procured from July 11 to 18, 2014.

The paint coatings of the wooden toys were found to contain no detectable level of lead based on the screening performed through a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

Dizon recalled that their previous sampling of wooden toys showed despicable levels of lead on paint coatings in products that are marketed for children’s use.

For instance, six of the 11 wooden toys sent by the group to the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA for laboratory analysis in 2011 were found to contain excessive lead content, with a Cebu-made nautilus jigsaw puzzle registering lead up to 45,671 parts per million (ppm).

More recently, the group’s XRF screening of colorful toy ukuleles from Cebu and Lapu-Lapu Cities last June 2014 found lead in all 10 samples with the highest reading at 26,100 ppm.  In March 2014, 31 out of the 33 painted turumpo (wooden play tops) screened positive for lead up to 15,100 ppm.

Quoting a World Health Organization’s fact sheet, the EcoWaste Coalition said: “Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system.”

“At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioural disruption,” the WHO said.

“At lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms, and that previously were considered safe, lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems. In particular lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioural changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behaviour, and reduced educational attainment,” it further said.

“The neurological and behavioural effects of lead are believed to be irreversible,” the WHO warned.




19 July 2014

Toxics Watchdog Urges Consumers to be Wary of False Advertising Claims, Slams Sale of "Dirty Dozen" Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Cosmetics

Twelve different brands of imported skin whitening creams found laden with toxic mercury, including nine already banned by the health authorities (above), and BG and Feique creams not yet banned by the government (below).

“The gentle formula keeps your skin soft like a child.”

The EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to be on their guard against bogus advertising claims - such as the one above - after its latest test buys confirmed the continued sale of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics in Manila and Quezon Cities in brazen violation of the law.

“Consumers should be cautious of deceptive claims as some cosmetics that promise flawless and lighter skin tone contain undisclosed amounts of toxic mercury, which can damage the kidneys and the skin itself,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

As an example, the group cited two products within the “BG” line of skin lightening cosmetics supposedly from New York, USA, which contain “ten kinds of precious herbal medicines” and whose “gentle formula keeps your skin soft like a child.”

Sold for P120 each at Pan Pacific Chinese Drug Store in 999 Shopping Mall, Manila, the two “BG” creams,  which have no market authorization from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), were found to contain up to 51,100 parts per million (ppm) of mercury.

Under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive, the permissible limit for mercury in cosmetics is one ppm.

Inorganic mercury is added to such cosmetics to inhibit the production of melanin (the pigment that gives the skin its color) and bring about lighter skin complexion.

“Inorganic mercury, an unlisted ingredient, in these products can enter the body through the skin.  Repeated use will cause mercury levels in the body to soar as can be seen in the increased mercury levels in the urine,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Repeated application of mercury-laden skin creams could damage the kidneys and renal function,” she emphasized.

Citing an advisory from the World Health Organization (WHO), Lucero further warned that mercury in skin lightening products can also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.

“Instead of the coveted flawless and lighter skin, users of such creams may end up having ravaged skin with uneven pigmentation,” Lucero added.

“Moreover, innocent children can ingest the toxic metal by hugging or kissing adults who use these creams,” she further said.

In its latest toxic exposé, the EcoWaste Coalition reported detecting excessive levels of mercury in 12 products that the group purchased for P80 to P200 each, mostly from Chinese drug stores, last July 13 to 15, 2014.  The products were purportedly made in China, Japan, Taiwan and USA. 

Mercury was detected through the use of a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device that can screen toxic metals in consumer goods.

As per XRF screening, the following "dirty dozen" skin whitening products were found to violate the 1 ppm limit for mercury in cosmetics:

1. BG Sea Pearl and Papaya Natural Essence 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream with 51,000 ppm.

2.  BG Ginseng and Ganoderma Lucidum 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream with 46,800 ppm.

3.  Yudantang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence with 43,500 ppm.

4.  Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set with 28,800 ppm.

5.  Erna Whitening Cream with 8,284 ppm.

6.  Yinni Green Tea Quickacting Whitener and Speckle Remover Package with 6,554 ppm.

7.  Jiaoli Miraculous Cream with 4,740 ppm.

8.  S’zitang with  4,565 ppm.

9.  Bai Li Tou Hong with 2,859 ppm.

10.  Jiaoli 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set with 2,184 ppm.

11.  Sanli Eliminating Freckle Cream with 1,305 ppm.

12.  Gakadi with 123 ppm.

The FDA has already banned nine of the above mercury-laced skin whitening creams except for BG and Feique creams.

According to WHO, mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into wastewater and then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish.

Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children, the WHO warned.




18 July 2014

Skin Whitening Creams Banned in CA sold in PH (California Department of Health Issues Tagalog Fact Sheet to Warn Consumers against Mercury-Laden Skin Lightening Crems)

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, today revealed two of the four skin whitening creams that health authorities in California, USA asked consumers not to use due to its mercury content are being sold in Metro Manila.
In fact sheets issued in Tagalog and other languages, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) warned consumers against using Jiaoli 7 Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, Jiaoli Miraculous Cream and two other mercury-containing skin lightening creams.
The July 2014 issue of the CDPH-published Occupational Health Watch highlighted the fact sheets in multiple languages such as Chinese, English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
“These Jiaoli products are among the over 100 skin whitening cosmetics banned by our government for containing excessive levels of highly toxic mercury,” stated Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Since 2010 to date, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has banned 104 skin lightening cosmetics from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and USA for containing mercury above the allowable limit of 1 part per million (ppm).
“The unscrupulous traders behind the continued sale of Jiaoli and other dangerous cosmetics are raking in profits at the expense of public health and the environment,” observed Lucero.
According to the CDPH, “Ang asoge ay nakakalason na kemikal. Natagpuan na ito sa mga pamahid sa mukha na ginagamit para pumuti ang balat, panggagamot ng tagihawat, at pagtatanggal ng pangingitim ng balat, peklat, o pekas.”  (“
Mercury is a toxic chemical. It has been found in face creams used to lighten or bleach skin, treat acne,and fade age spots, blemishes, or freckles.”)
“Maaaring maging mapanganib ang mga pamahid na naglalaman ng asoge para sa sinumang nakatira sa bahay kung saan ito ginagamit. Kumakalat ang asoge mula sa mga kamay ng sinumang gumagamit ng pamahid tungo sa ibang mga bagay na kanyang nahahawakan. Pagkatapos, mapupunta sa hangin ang asoge at maaari itong malanghap ng sinuman na nasa loob ng bahay,” the CDPH warned.  (“Creams that contain mercury can be dangerous for anyone living in the home where they are used. The mercury spreads from the hands of anyone using the cream to other things they touch. Mercury then gets into the air and anyone in the home can breathe it in.”)
CDPH identified the following as common signs of mercury poisoning: irritability, bad moods, or depression; nervousness or shyness; memory problems or difficulty concentrating; feeling very tired; tremors, shaking, or weakness; and tingling or numbness in hands, feet, or around the mouth.
Early this year, CDPH tested over 100 imported skin lightening creams and other products obtained from San Francisco Bay Area stores for mercury content.

17 July 2014

"Repair, Reuse, Recycle" Post-Glenda Disaster Debris - EcoWaste Coalition

(Photo Courtesy of Philippine Star by AP/Bullit Marquez)

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, today urged national and local authorities and the general public in areas battered by typhoon Glenda to “repair, reuse and recycle” post-disaster debris as much as possible.

“We know that it’s very tempting to just simply mix and dump
post-disaster trash at the sidewalk, street corner, vacant lot or river as if dumping will make trash disappear,” said Aileen Lucero,
Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Instead of recklessly dumping everything under the sun,
please segregate disaster discards and repair, reuse and recycle those things that can still be put to beneficial use,” she

Let us cut down on what we throw away to lessen the volume of trash requiring final disposal.  Ecological waste management, especially in time of disaster, will take the pressure off our dumpsites and landfills that are already bursting at the seams,”
she stated.

Tree leaves
and twigs and other vegetative debris, wood scraps, galvanized iron sheets and other building debris, flood-soaked
appliances, electronics, furniture and other household items, and
regular household trash such as food waste are among the typical
discards requiring environmentally-sound management following a typhoon

For example,
the trunks of big trees uprooted by strong winds brought by typhoon Glenda can be made into school chairs and tables and other functional items.

Other biodegradable discards such as fallen leaves, fruit and vegetable peels can be converted into an excellent soil enhancer via composting.

“Turning organic discards into compost is also an effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dumpsites and landfills,” reminded

Lucero cited the Philippine Climate Change Assessment Report, which
states that garbage produced by the country is the third biggest
contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, with methane from dumpsites and landfills comprising the biggest part followed by nitrous oxide from wastewater.

The EcoWaste Coalition has time and again emphasized the importance of
zero waste resource management, stressing that the outmoded approach
of dumping or incinerating discards is a complete waste of resources.

“Waste dumping and incineration also leads to wider environmental
pollution that is contributing to climate change and causing harm to
the people's health and livelihood.