22 January 2017

Groups Laud DepEd's Latest Policy Requiring Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints in Schools


 

Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor M. Briones was commended by groups promoting a healthy and safe children’s environment for issuing a directive entitled “Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints in Schools.” 

The EcoWaste Coalition (a local environmental group) and IPEN (a global civil society network for safe chemical policies and practices) lauded the recent issuance of Department Order 4, Series of 2017, stating that “the use of only lead-safe coatings or paints shall be mandatory to all pre-school, elementary and secondary schools.”


The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier requested Secretary Briones last September 2016  to strengthen Memorandum 85, s.2016 on the use of lead-free paints issued by former Secretary Armin Luistro, stressing that “an enhanced (policy) will advance DepEd’s mission of promoting a child-friendly school environment where students can obtain quality basic education they deserve.”

“We laud Secretary Briones for the timely issuance of DO 4, s. 2017 following the three-year phase-out deadline for lead-containing architectural, decorative and household paints last December 31, 2016.  Her order will ensure that paints and products laden with lead, a brain-damaging chemical, will not find their way into the school system and pose lead exposure risks for our children,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Use of lead-safe paints shall reduce children’s exposure to toxic lead via lead-containing paint and dust, thus, avoiding health impacts including learning disabilities, anemia and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial, and language skills,” the DO 4 explained.  

“The DepEd’s directive provides a good example as to what other agencies can do to boost the enforcement of the country’s trailblazing policy to phase out lead paints and prevent children’s and workers’ exposures from such paints.  We hope that other agencies will follow suit, particularly by requiring the procurement and use of certified lead-safe paints for all publicly-funded buildings and facilities,” said Manny Calonzo, Adviser, IPEN Lead Paint Elimination Campaign.       

DO 4 corresponds to  the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2013-24 (or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds), the 15-point human rights agenda for chemical safety by the Commission on Human Rights and DepEd Memorandum  85, s. 2016 on the use of lead-free paint for the Brigada Eskwela school repair and maintenance activities.

The order provides for the mandatory use of independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings in painting and/or repainting school facilities, amenities and  other structures such as gate and fence, as well as furniture such as tables, chairs and cabinets, fixtures such as blackboards, learning materials such as teaching aids, school supplies, and toys, and tools and equipment.

In case of renovation of school buildings and other facilities and the restoration of school furniture and fixtures, the order requires the use of the guidelines on proper removal and disposal of lead paints as set by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers to prevent the generation and dispersal of lead-containing dust that children may ingest or inhale.  

DO 4 shall also apply to paint-coated goods or products directly procured by the school as well as those sourced by other means such as through individual, group, corporate or local government donations.  For example, products donated or sold to schools such as, but not limited to, paints, bags, school supplies and furnishings shall be compliant with DENR AO 2013-24 and other relevant lead-related regulations.

The Education Facilities Division–DepEd Central Office; the Education Support Service Division (ESSD) Education Facilities Section–Regional Offices; and the School Governance and Operations Division (SGOD)–Education Facilities Section–Schools Division Offices shall be responsible for the implementation of this latest DepEd order on lead paint.

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Reference:

http://www.deped.gov.ph/node/587930

PH Ratification of Mercury Treaty Will Mean a Feather in Pres. Duterte’s Cap – EcoWaste



Toxic pollution prevention advocates believed that President Rodrigo Duterte's ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a multilateral environmental agreement, will mean a feather in his cap.

Thony Dizon of the toxics watch group EcoWaste Coalition made this observation after discussing this morning the progress of the treaty's ratification with Emmanuelita Mendoza, Officer in Chairge, Chemical Management Section, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).  Also joining the meeting were visiting Japanese nationals Hideo Ikoma and Yoichi Tani from the Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society.

“We note that the Department of Health and the Bureau of Customs have already submitted their respective Certificates of Concurrence, which are required from concerned agencies to get the process moving,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We hope other agencies would be able to reaffirm their agreement with the treaty ratification by President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of the first Conference of Parties slated in Geneva in September 2017,” he added.

“As Chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2017, the Philippine ratification of the Minamata Convention this year will be a feather in President Duterte’s cap that can hopefully influence other member states to do the same,” he said.

To date, none of the ASEAN member governments have ratified the treaty.  Thirty-five countries have so far ratified it, including China, Japan and USA.  Fifty ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.

As reported by the DENR, the DOH submitted their Certificate of Concurrence on December 28, 2016 and the BOC submitted theirs on January 5, 2017. 

Other government offices have yet to re-submit the required certificates signed by their new department secretaries or agency heads, including the Departments of Energy,  Science and Technology and Trade and Industry, the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority and the Occupational Safety and Health Center

As per Executive Order 459, Series of 1997, the Department of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to the endorsement by the concerned agency, shall transmit the treaty to the President of the Philippines for his ratification.  The DFA shall then submit the treaty to the Senate of the Philippines for concurrence in the ratification by the President.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau with the assistance from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the Swiss Confederation has already prepared a “Ratification Dossier,” which, among other things, includes a concise plan of priority areas and actions related to mercury management in the Philippines.

According to the Ratification Dossier, “an annual estimate of 300 tons of mercury is released to the environment in the Philippines.  By implementing restrictions on the importation and use of mercury and mercury-containing products, the Convention will reduce the amount of mercury consumption in the country, and therefore, minimize their subsequent release and adverse effects to the environment.”

“Despite the economic cost to comply with the provisions of the Convention, the long-term benefits of becoming a Party far outweigh the disadvantages,” the Dossier pointed out.

Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

DENR Administrative Order 1997-38, or the Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds, is undergoing amendment to make it in sync with the Minamata Convention, particularly on the phase-down of dental amalgam and other treaty requirements.

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http://www.gov.ph/downloads/1997/11nov/19971125-EO-0459-FVR.pdf
http://www.mercuryconvention.org/

http://intl.denr.gov.ph/images/FileUploads/Minamata%20Final%20Ratification%20Dossier.pdf

20 January 2017

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Miss U Candidates to Lend Their Voices to Save the Oceans from Plastic Microbeads

http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/

As the 65th Miss Universe beauty pageant slated in the Philippines nears, a local environmental group urged candidates from around the world not to use or endorse personal care and cosmetic products (PCCPs) containing plastic microbeads, a global ocean pollutant.

Through a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, asked pageant contenders to lend their voices to amplify the mounting demand to protect the oceans and aquatic life from the adverse effects of microplastic pollution.

Plastic microbeads and other plastic ingredients are used in varying proportions in a variety of  PCCPs such as exfoliating scrub, facial cleanser, shower gel and toothpaste, to name a few. 

“Today’s beauty queens are known advocates for environmental, health, humanitarian and cultural causes.  As known consumers and promoters of PCCPs, we call upon them to add the removal of microplastics in PCCPs in their list of advocacy issues for a healthier planet,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator,  EcoWaste Coalition.           

“By taking a stance in favor of plastic microbead-free PCCPs, beauty queens could sway manufacturers to voluntarily replace microplastics with biodegradable exfoliating agents that will pose no risk to ocean health,” she said.

“A wide array of people speaking out against plastic microbeads could also motivate regulators to act,” she added.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “for the last 50 years, microparticles of plastic, called microplastics, have been used in PCCPs, replacing natural options in a large number of cosmetic and personal care formulations.”


“Washed down the drain, those particles cannot be collected for recycling, nor do they decompose in wastewater treatment facilities, inevitably ending up in the global ocean, where it fragments and remains,” UNEP said.

Last year, researchers from RMIT University in Australia and Hainan University in China revealed “that up to 12.5 percent of the chemical pollutants on the microbeads can pass into the fish that eat them.”

“These extremely tiny plastic particles from PCCPs can act like sponge, absorbing toxic pollutants in the oceans, which are ultimately ingested by fish and other aquatic animals who mistake microbeads for food,” Lucero said.

“Plastic microbeads from PCCPs are aggravating the alarming ‘plasticization’ of our oceans,” she pointed out.

According to UNEP, over 299 million tonnes of plastic were produced worldwide in 2013 some of which made its way to our oceans, costing approximately US$13 billion per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems.

“Once in the ocean, plastic does not go away: it fragments, eventually breaking down into smaller pieces known as secondary microplastics,” UNEP said.

“Taking action now against plastic microbeads in PCCPs,  reducing plastic bag use and preventing the spillage of plastic waste into the oceans are essential steps that must be undertaken to stem the tide of microplastic pollution, which could have a devastating impact to ocean health and food security, especially in fish-eating nations like the Philippines,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.  

On Monday, the EcoWaste Coalition, in observance of the Zero Waste Month, will submit a letter to the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration urging the government to prohibit the production, importation, distribution and sale of PCCPs containing plastic microbeads within a reasonable timeframe.


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Reference:

http://unep.org/gpa/documents/publications/PlasticinCosmetics2015Factsheet.pdf

http://www.unep.org/NewsCentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=26827&ArticleID=35180


http://www.rmit.edu.au/news/all-news/2016/august/microbeads-contaminate-fish-toxic-chemicals

18 January 2017

Minamata@60: Groups Recall Minamata Tragedy, Back PH Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury






Civil society groups have reiterated their support for actions that will prevent mercury contamination of the ecosystems and the resulting human exposures to this potent neurotoxin.

At a seminar held today to commemorate the 60th anniversary since the official identification in 1956 of the Minamata disease, a neurological problem linked to the consumption of seafood contaminated with methylmercury, the EcoWaste Coalition and other public interest groups rallied all sectors to back measures aimed at curbing mercury emissions, releases and exposures.

They particularly appealed to the Duterte administration to hasten the country’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty that seeks to safeguard public health and the environment from the harmful effects of mercury.  The government has yet to ratify the treaty three years after it was signed in 2013.  

“We have come together to learn about the serious health and environmental effects of mercury pollution as experienced by the people of Minamata and the need for vigilance to ensure that the Minamata disease and other forms of mercury poisoning are prevented, controlled or totally obliterated,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Minamata disease is named after Minamata Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture where the first outbreak of this disease occurred in the early 1950s.  People living around Minamata Bay were stricken with the disease after eating fish and other seafood that were highly contaminated with methylmercury attributed to the industrial wastewater discharges of a plant owned by Chisso Corporation.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision, and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, paralysis,coma and death can occur. A congenital form of mercury poisoning can also affect fetuses in the womb.

Speaking at the seminar, Yoichi Tani, Director of the Collaboration Centre for Minamata Disease Victims and Secretary-General of the Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society, which co-organized the event with EcoWaste, spoke about the bitter facts of the Minamata tragedy and the victims’ continuing fight for justice.

“More than 400,000 people were living along the coast of the Shiranui (Yatsushiro) Sea in Kyushu in the 1950s when methyl mercury contamination was at its peak. The population of the area where mercury-tainted seafood was sold exceeds two million. In the past few years, more than 60,000 victims have filed claims for relief, complaining of headache, numbness in their extremities, spasms, tremors, and other neurological symptoms,” he said.

“Over 60 years have passed since the Minamata disease was officially identified but major questions still linger about its effects, the mechanism of the disease and the full extent of the disaster.   Minamata disease, the worst pollution disaster in Japanese history, shows no signs of going away,” he added.

Despite a speech problem linked to the Minamata disease,  Hideo Ikoma, 73, gave an emotional account of what he and other sufferers of crippling disabilities due to methylmercury poisoning are going through.  “I ate many crabs and fishes caught from Minamata Bay in 1958, exposing me to mercury and causing my admission to the Kumamoto Fujisakidai Hospital.   I was then in junior high school.  Since then, every day has been a struggle between life and death because of the Minamata disease that I and many other victims have to endure.”

Minamata disease victims like Hideo Ikoma demand recognition and compensation for all victims, the establishment of an adequate health and life support system for the victims and their families, and a comprehensive health study of people in the impacted areas.  Furthermore, the victims want the “Polluter  Pays Principle” to be fully and properly enforced, and the contaminated  sites such as the Hachiman sedimentation pool to be restored.

At the seminar, neurologist and clinical toxicologist Dr. Carissa Paz Dioquino-Maligaso talked about the “Faces of Mercury Neurotoxicity” where she, among other issues, cited incidents that occurred in the Philippines to demonstrate the exhibition of mercury toxicity depending on the form of mercury and the route exposure.  Maligaso heads the  National Poison Management and Control Center at the UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital

For example, she mentioned the metal fume fever experienced by some high school students in Paranaque in 2006 due to exposure to elementary mercury;   gingivitis and neurobehavioral changes among miners who are chronically exposed to mercury; cerebral palsy among those exposed to mercury in utero; and renal disease and soft tissue inflammation among those who injected elemental mercury into their veins for various reasons.

Engr. Geri Geronimo Sañez, Chief,  Hazardous Waste Section, Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau, also spoke about the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the ongoing efforts to get the ratified by the present government, including the “Ratification Dossier” that was completed with the assistance of the Swiss Confederation and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

According to the Ratification Dossier, “an annual estimate of 300 tons of mercury is released to the environment in the Philippines.  By implementing restrictions on the importation and use of mercury and mercury-containing products, the Convention will reduce the amount of mercury consumption in the country, and therefore, minimize their subsequent release and adverse effects to the environment.”

“Despite the economic cost to comply with the provisions of the Convention, the long-term benefits of becoming a Party far outweigh the disadvantages,” the Dossier pointed out.

Towards the end of the seminar, the EcoWaste Coalition presented a symbolic banner to Hideo Ikoma and Yoichi Tani that says in English and Japanese: “Justice for Minamata Disease Victims.”

In return, Hideo Ikoma and Yoichi Tani handed out roses to government officials present at the seminar to thank and encourage them to secure the ratification of the treaty before the First Conference of Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.


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Reference:

http://ipen.org/honoring-minamata

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/


http://intl.denr.gov.ph/images/FileUploads/Minamata%20Final%20Ratification%20Dossier.pdf

15 January 2017

Environmental Health and Justice Groups to Mark 60th Year Since Minamata Disease is Recognized


Takak Isayama, a 12-year old victim of congenital Minamata disease, with her mother.
https://www.haikudeck.com/minamata-disease-uncategorized-presentation-q43Tz7rkPx#slide0
Hideo Ikoma, Minamata disease victim
http://bunkaseminar.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html

Over a 100 people will gather in Quezon City this coming Wednesday for a seminar to commemorate the 60th year since the official identification in 1956 of the Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning.

The seminar is organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, and the Japan-based Collaboration Centre for Minamata Disease Victims and Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society.

Visiting Japanese Hideo Ikoma, a Minamata disease victim, and Yoichi Tani, Director of the Collaboration Centre for Minamata Disease Victims and Secretary-General of the Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society, will speak at the seminar to shed light on the most dreadful mercury poisoning tragedy the world has ever known.

“The EcoWaste Coalition is honored to co-organize the seminar about the  Minamata disease and the victims’ resolute struggles not only against the debilitating illness but also against cold-heartedness, discrimination and injustice,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the group’s Project Protect.

“Learning from the lessons of the Minamata tragedy, we hope, will strengthen the efforts of the Filipino government and people to prevent mercury pollution from damaging the environment and harming human health,” said Yoichi Tani who has been involved in obtaining justice for the Minamata disease victims since 1970.  
 
Minamata disease is a serious and often deadly illness caused by exposure to methylmercury. It is named after Minamata Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture where the first outbreak of this disease occurred in the early 1950′s.

People living around Minamata Bay were stricken with the disease after eating fish and other seafood that were highly contaminated with methylmercury attributed to the mercury-laden wastewater discharges of a plant owned by Chisso Corporation.

Hideo Ikoma, 73, will provide a personal testimony on how he was exposed  to mercury as a teenage boy and his life as a Minamata disease sufferer, while Yoichi Tani, 68, will discuss the impacts of the Minamata tragedy to people’s lives and the continuing quest of the victims and their families for the elusive justice. 

At the seminar, Dr. Carissa Paz Dioquino-Maligaso will discuss the “Health Issues Related to Mercury Exposure in the Philippines.” Maligaso is the Head of the  National Poison Management and Control Center at the UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital. 

Engr. Geri Geronimo Sañez, Chief,  Hazardous Waste Section, Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau, will talk about the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. 

Through the seminar, the organizers hope to impart the lessons of the Minamata tragedy, raise local awareness on the need for effective measures to prevent and control mercury pollution, and promote the country’s ratification of Minamata Convention on Mercury.




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