20 October 2014

EcoWaste Coalition urges cemeteries to reduce waste during “Undas”

Waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition urges cemeteries to reduce their waste generation during the commemoration of Undas.
“The observance of Undas is a uniquely-Filipino time-honored tradition that aims to commemorate and show respect for our departed loved ones. No other than keeping clean and free of wastes the places where their remains lay will concretely reflect such regard for our dead,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Program Officer of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Each year, observed the EcoWaste Coalition, despite their regular advisories for waste-free Undas celebrations, cemeteries become major generators of garbage during All Souls Day and All Saints Day. 

“We call on cemetery administrators and concerned authorities to be vigilant against littering, indiscriminate disposal of garbage, burning of trash, and other wasteful and pollutive acts in cemeteries,” Vergara added.

The Coalition asks cemetery authorities to strictly enforce prohibitions against littering and other forms of non-ecofriendly practices, such as open burning and dumping, especially since these are explicitly prohibited under Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

The Coalition listed the following specific measures that cemeteries can adopt to keep the abode of the departed ones clean and garbage-free:
  1. Put up signs with specific actions that visitors should take to keep the cemetery clean and waste-free 
  2. Assign materials recovery stations, which are areas for purposes of storing large volumes of segregated discards until they are sold or brought to recyclers
  3. Put up segregation bins in strategic areas for proper segregation of cemetery-goers’ discards
  4. Engage the services of waste pickers or informal recyclers to man the materials recovery stations and segregation bin areas, and help in the ecological management of discards
  5. As much as possible, prohibit single-use plastic disposables, such as bags, cups, straws, and the like, inside the cemetery premises or require cemetery-goers to take disposables and  non-recyclable items back to their homes.
  6. Require vendors to serve food and beverages in reusable mugs and plates, and to have their own segregation bins.
  7. Penalize violators.
“Personnel should be deployed before, during, and after Undas (October 31, November 1 and 2) to take on the responsibilities in the upkeep, sanitation, and clean-up of cemeteries,” the Coalition noted.

“This yearly event of paying respect to our departed loved ones is oftentimes marred by wastes generated by the tons. This year’s Undas should see genuine celebration of respect and due regard for our departed ones by keeping the abode of their remains free of waste and pollution,” Vergara stressed.

The group also called on cemetery administrators to stop the unchecked practice of nailing commercial advertisements as well as public service announcements on trees, which do not only uglify the surroundings but also damage or wound the trees.


19 October 2014

Campaigners Say "Get the Lead Out for Our Children's Health" as Filipino Children Join Worldwide Action vs Lead Poisoning

More than one hundred kids and parents today gathered at Rizal Park—the country’s premier national park—at the launch of the weeklong global movement to protect children from lead, a toxic chemical that can permanently damage a child’s brain even at low doses.

Organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network for zero waste, chemical safety and public health, the event also marked the release of a European Union-funded report about lead levels in dust obtained from 21 locations in five cities in Metro Manila, including residential homes, day-care centers and preparatory schools where children spend much time, and might be exposed to high levels of lead.

Co-hosted by the National Parks Development Committee, the event commenced the Philippines’ celebration of the 2nd International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (October 19-25) organized by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a joint undertaking by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme.

The event saw parents and kids parade around the park, accompanied by youth drummers and campaigners brandishing a banner that said “Get the Lead Out for Our Children’s Health.” The group then assembled at the Children’s Playground to learn about lead poisoning through pep talks and fun games, which highlighted the need to keep the children’s environment safe from lead hazard.

“Our assembly today is in support of the growing local and global action to protect children’s brains and enhance the health conditions of all children by preventing and reducing childhood exposure to toxic lead. Our government, the paint industry, the healthcare sector and civil society are working together to remove lead paint in the market and help create a conducive lead-safe environment for our children and our children’s children,” said Jeiel Guarino, Communications and Policy Officer for the Lead Paint Elimination Project, EcoWaste Coalition.

In a message sent to the EcoWaste Coalition, Secretary Enrique Ona stated that “the Department of Health (DOH) fully supports the global and local efforts to prevent and reduce maternal, fetal and childhood exposure to lead, a chemical that has no vital use in the human body, which can inflict
irremediable harm to the developing brain and the central nervous system even at low level toxicity.”

“We particularly support the ongoing phase-out of lead-based paints in the Philippine market as this will drastically reduce the risk from lead paint chips and dust, which are recognized as major sources of children’s exposure to lead. Eliminating preventable sources of lead exposure in our homes, schools and communities, including toys and childcare articles, will have a huge impact in protecting our children’s brains and their overall health and benefit the society as a whole,” Secretary Ona said.

“Lead exposure at an early age can cause harmful lifelong impacts on a child’s developing brain and impair rapid growth and development, making it crucial for environmental lead hazards such as lead paint chips, dust and soil be reduced, if not carefully eliminated, to protect children from the adverse health effects of lead exposure,” said Dr. Bessie Antonio, a pediatrician from the East Avenue Medical Center, who spoke at the event.

The World Health Organization’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.”

The lead dust report released by EcoWaste Coalition, entitled “Lead in Household Dust in the Philippines,” provides examples of lead dust levels in sampled locations, and demonstrates why the use of lead-containing decorative paints is a source of serious concern, especially for children’s health. For instance, the study found two preparatory schools with dust lead levels above the 40 μg/ft2 dust lead limit in floors in housing defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a dust-lead hazard, with one prep school registering as high as 110 μg/ft2 dust lead level.

“Children are not generally exposed to lead from new paint while the paint is still in the can or when the paint is being newly applied to a previously unpainted or uncoated surface. However, as paint on household surfaces chips, wears and deteriorates over time, lead present in the deteriorating paint is released and contaminates surrounding surfaces. In this way, lead in the paint will end up in the household dust and soil surrounding the house,” the report said.

The report concluded with a set of recommendations addressed to various stakeholders. In particular, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to:

             Ensure strict compliance and enforcement of the Chemical Control Order on Lead and Lead Compounds, issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which prohibits the use of lead in all types of paint beyond 90 ppm (dry weight).
             Establish strong enforcement measures, including periodic monitoring, to ensure paint companies are in compliance with the lead in paint limit and the specific phase-out periods for leaded decorative and industrial paints.
             Provide incentives to paint companies to swiftly transition from lead to non-lead paint production.
             Require paint can labels with sufficient information indicating the lead content and provide a warning of possible lead dust hazards when disturbing painted surfaces.
             Source only lead safe paints for interiors and exteriors of public buildings and amenities (e.g., parks and playgrounds), government-sponsored housing, schools, day-care centers, medical and sports facilities among others.
             Facilitate training on lead-safe working practices when applying paint to previously painted surfaces.

Given the high lead dust levels found in some preparatory schools, the report further recommended that the Department of Education, along with the DENR, the Department of Health and public interest stakeholders, to embark on an investigative study on lead paint hazards in the public educational system.

The EcoWaste Coalition-led campaign in the Philippines is part of a seven-country 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.

The European Union has provided a grant of PHP75 million to IPEN for its three-year project that is concurrently being carried out in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines.



17 October 2014

EcoWaste Coalition testing reveals toxic toys remain in the market

Chemical safety and children’s health advocacy network EcoWaste Coalition found more than half of the 100 toys it sampled from Baclaran positive for lead and other heavy metals.

In the screening, employing x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, 56 of the 100 toy samples (56%) had at least one toxic metal above levels of concern, 48 of which had lead exceeding the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in paints and surface coatings.

“Even at much lower doses, lead, a potent neurotoxin, can harm children, the toy manufacturers’ target consumers,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Children are usually curious  and playful, and would try doing anything with their toys including putting the latter in their mouths, making them a lot more vulnerable to the toxic substances in the toys,” noted Dizon.

The following lists the top 10 lead-contaminated samples, mostly kiddie watches:

1. Yellow strap snow white kiddie watch, 5,425 ppm

2. Yellow strap spiderman kiddie watch, 4,952 ppm

3. Green strap snow white kiddie watch, 4,410 ppm

4. Light Blue strap snow white kiddie watch, 4,250 ppm

5. Pink strap dora kiddie watch, 3,850 ppm

6. Orange dora kiddie watch, 2,893 ppm

7. Yellow smile laser light, 2619 ppm

8. Yellow strap snow white kiddie watch, 3,055 ppm

9. Red strap spongebob kiddie watch, 2,770 ppm

10. Solid fluff art and gold powder picture frame, 2,621 ppm

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, lead can affect almost any organ and system in the body, with the nervous system as its main target.

The World Health Organization has listed “lead-caused mental retardation” as a recognized disease in the face of evidence of reduced intelligence caused by childhood lead exposure.

“It is worrisome that all the 100 samples either have incomplete or no product labels at all, which prevent consumers from making informed choice,” Dizon emphasized.

“Close scrutiny of the samples further reveal that they also have no ‘license to operate’ number printed on their labels, signifying that most samples were not duly registered and noncompliant with the Philippine National Standards (PNS) for Safety of Toys,” Dizon added.

Of the 56 samples that show high lead levels beyond standard, 30 also contain one or more of other heavy metals, namely antimony, chromium, and arsenic, indicating a risk of multiple exposure to different chemicals of concern.

The Coalition maintained that all these heavy metals pose serious adverse health impacts to those exposed to them, such as mainly through ingestion and inhalation, and in minimal cases through dermal absorption.

The items were purchased by the EcoWaste Coalition on October 7 from various toy stores in Sto. Nino Street and J. Gabrielle Street; and from ambulant vendors near Pasay LRT Station, and Terminal Mall 1, Pasay City. They vary in cost from P25 - P150.

As the countdown for the Christmas season continues, the EcoWaste Coalition has stepped up its “Kid Safe Toys for Zero Harm and Zero Waste” Campaign, reiterating its call to consumers, as well as to authorities, to be vigilant against potentially harmful toys and other children’s products in the market.