27 October 2016

Watch Group Welcomes Kiddie Chair Manufacturer's Shift to Lead Safe Paint (Toxic Children's Chairs Now Lead-Free)

Children's chairs with dangerous levels of lead as per laboratory tests conducted in 2013 are now found to be lead-free.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit watch group tracking toxic chemicals in products and wastes, made this pleasant discovery after screening new metal framed kiddie chairs with SpongeBob SquarePants and Winnie the Pooh designs.

As part of the group’s observance of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action,  the group bought chairs costing P125 to P180 each from general merchandise stores located in Monumento, Caloocan City, Quiapo, Manila City and Libertad, Pasay City.  

The chairs were subsequently screened for lead, a toxic substance used as pigment, drier or anti-corrosive agent in paint formulations, using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XFF) device.

“We are delighted to find out that these erstwhile lead-tainted kiddie chairs are now decorated with lead-safe paint.  It’s a clear proof that manufacturers of toys and childcare articles are in a position to switch to paint with no added lead that is safe for kids,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“But these children’s chairs still lack labeling information and the required certificate of product notification for toys and childcare articles from the health authorities,” he clarified. 

Laboratory tests commissioned by the EcoWaste Coalition in 2013 showed that seven of the nine samples of kiddie chairs had lead above 90 parts per million (ppm), the regulatory limit for lead in paint under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24.

The top two samples with dangerous concentrations of lead were the chair with SpongeBob SquarePants design with 20,680 ppm, followed by the one with a Winnie the Pooh design with 18,831 ppm.

Based on XRF screening conducted yesterday, identical samples of the said kiddie chairs had no detectable lead.

However, a third sample - a folding kiddie chair with a flower-like character design – was found to contain 8,782 ppm of lead.

“As this lead painted chair is used, damaged or chip with time, the lead can be released in dust that children can swallow or breathe in.  Kids tend to put their hands as well as objects in their mouths, which raises their chances of ingesting lead-containing dust and even paint chips that may  have higher lead content,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As lead is most harmful to young children even at low levels of exposures, we urge manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers of toys and other childcare articles to use lead-safe paint at all times,” he said.

Lead-containing paints for architectural, decorative and household uses are to be phase-out from the market by December 31, 2016 as per DENR A.O. 2013-24.

“While the ban will only take effect after December 31, we ask all business establishments, especially those that cater to budget-conscious consumers, not to offer their customers with lead-contaminated toys and related products,” appealed Dizon.

“We need not wait for the regulation to take effect before we do something that will protect our children from the health-damaging effects of lead exposure.  Nothing will justify poisoning innocent children with lead,” Dizon said.

Lead, a hazardous substance, can harm the brain and the central nervous, as well as the blood systems, the kidneys and the bones.  Lead exposure is associated with reduced intelligence, poorer school performance, inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsive and violent behavior, juvenile delinquency and incarceration

“Toys and related products,” as clarified in the Environmental Management Bureau’s Memorandum Circular 2016-10 issued on August 28, 2016, include home furnishings and fixtures such as cribs, chairs, tables, shelves, walkers, strollers, beds, decorative materials and embellishments for children’s use.  

Also included in this product category are indoor and outdoor playground equipment, board games intended for children, art materials, science kits and crafts, children’s books and reference materials, children’s accessories, electronic gadgets and other children’s products.



25 October 2016

Environmental Watch Group Says: “Respect the Cemetery. It’s Not Your Trash Can”

A waste and pollution watch group today appealed to all Filipinos going to the cemeteries not to turn the hallowed resting places of their deceased relatives and friends into garbage dumps.

At a public information and cleanup drive for a litter-free “Undas” at the Manila North Cemetery, the EcoWaste Coalition urged cemetery goers to show genuine respect for the dead by keeping the cemetery grounds clean.

Joining the EcoWaste Coalition were the representatives of the Manila North Cemetery Administration, Manila's Department of Public Services , Ecology Ministry of the Parish of San Roque de Manila, Metro Manila Development Authority and Tzu Chi Foundation.

“Year in and year out, people visiting the graves of their dearly departed ones leave tons of garbage in both public and private cemeteries as if this is part of the tradition of remembering those who have passed on,” said Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Visitors simply throw leftover meals, food wrappers, drinking cups, soiled papers, cigarette butts and other discards anywhere they please,” she noted.

“Littering disrespects the dead as well as the living.  This bad habit must stop,” she said.

To drive home the message that littering in cemeteries and elsewhere is unacceptable, members of the group unfurled a white banner at the entrance of Manila North Cemetery that reads: “Kung hindi mo kayang linisin ang kapaligiran,huwag mo na lang dumihan.” 

They also held placards that say: “Respect the cemetery.  It’s not your trash can.”
To emphasize their anti-littering plea,  the Malaya youth theater group presented a dance skit inspired by the song “Basura.”

They likewise performed the viral hit “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen" song, changing its lyrics to promote the use of reusable bags instead of plastic bags, and the use of lead safe paint in refurbishing tombs.

Afterwards, the group went to a gravesite and spruced up the place without burning trash and without using lead-containing paint.

To prevent a repeat of the annual trashing of cemeteries during “Undas,” the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged visitors to observe the following dos and don’ts:

1.  Do put your “baon” in reusable containers and bring them home after use.
2.  Do bring your own water to avoid buying bottled water or drinks in disposable cups and plastics.
3.  Do use reusable carry bags instead of single-use plastic bags.
4.  Do not bring too much food and drinks more than what you can consume.
5.  Do not leave leftovers, used containers and other discards in the cemetery.
6.  Do not burn discards; bring them with you for recycling or proper disposal.

“As abandoned food, water and flower containers can serve as breeding ground for chikugunya, dengue and zika carrying mosquitoes, we strongly urge visitors not to leave them in cemeteries ,” Tolentino said.

Health authorities have identified larval habitats for these disease carrying mosquitoes, including flower pots, plates under potted plants, cemetery vases, tin cans and other artificial or natural water containers.

“As cemeteries, especially on November 1, are filled with smoke from candle burning, we appeal to smokers not to add to the pollution by smoking,  Please be considerate to young children, old people, pregnant women and others around you,” Tolentino further said.

The group also urged enterprising vendors to mind their garbage and to help in maintaining the cleanliness within and outside the cemetery premises.


23 October 2016

Philippines Marks Impending Phase-Out of Lead-Containing Paints on December 31, 2016 with Zombie Run

Kids and adults for a lead-safe future today assembled in Quezon City for a “Zombie Run” to mark the 10-week countdown to the December 31 phase-out deadline for lead-containing architectural, decorative and household (ADH) paints in the Philippines.

The activity was part of the worldwide commemoration of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (ILPPWA), October 23 -29, 2016, co-led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“With the deadline for the removal of lead-added ADH paints just 10 weeks away, we call upon all stakeholders, particularly paint manufacturers, distributors, sellers and consumers, to rally behind this historic target that will remove a common source of lead exposure in our children’s environment,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“After a three-year phase-out period that began in 2013, paint companies should have completed or nearly completed by now their switch to non-lead  production for the ADH segment of their product line,” she added.

“The paint industry represented by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers and the government led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are one with the civil society in guaranteeing that the phase-out deadline is faithfully enforced,” she acknowledged.  

As the mandatory phase-out for lead-containing ADH paints has entered crunch time, the EcoWaste Coalition held the “Zombie Run” at the Quezon Memorial Circle to emphasize the urgency of abiding by the fast-approaching deadline.

Inspired by the “Walking Dead” TV series, youths dressed up as toxic Zombies performed a “Walking Lead” number to the tune of the all-time hit “Thriller” as kids and their parents ran for their health and safety.

At the finish line, the toxic lead Zombies dropped dead to signify that the production, distribution, sale and use of ADH paints in the Philippines is over as spectators clapped in jubilation.

Among the groups who took part were the Check Skill Crew, Piglas Kababaihan at Kabataan, Malaya, ROTCHNA Day Care Center and other EcoWaste partners.

Sara Brosche, Global Lead Paint Elimination Project Manager of IPEN, an international civil society network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices that includes the EcoWaste Coalition, noted  that “children – especially those under 6 years of age – ingest or inhale lead through exposure to dust or soil contaminated with lead-based paint and normal hand-to-mouth behavior or when they chew on toys, household furniture or other articles painted with lead paint.  It is therefore important to remove sources of lead in children’s environment such as ADH paints.”  

The drive to ensure industrial compliance to eliminate lead paints as directed by the DENR Administrative Order 2013-24 has garnered support from some of the nation’s influential leaders.

Through separate messages sent to the EcoWaste Coalition, Vice-President Leni Robredo, Senator Risa Hontiveros and Representative Angelina Tan expressed support for the concerted effort towards non-lead paints for children’s health.

Vice President Leni Robredo through a message sent to the group said: “We trust that as this event progresses, more will be made aware of the perils of lead-containing paint and the industry leaders will make effort to stay away from such hazardous material.”

Sen. Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, urged paint companies to make certain that lead-containing ADH paints are taken off store shelves on or before the phase-out deadline.  “This will require paint companies to roll out a well-communicated and systematic system for retrieving such products to ensure that these are not sold at bargain prices, donated to homes, schools and marginalized sectors or unsafely disposed of.”

“Also, I appeal to paint manufacturers to have their paint products independently certifies as lead-safe via a third party certification body to help consumers distinguish between compliant and non-compliant products and avoid lead paint hazards,” the senator added.

Rep. Tan, who chairs the Committee on Health of the House of Representatives, said “endeavors to heighten public awareness on the health hazards of lead need to be sustained and scaled up to prevent causing further damage to health of the next generation.”

In a  statement prepared for this year’s ILPPWA, Dr Maria Neira Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health for the World Health Organization (WHO) said: “Exposure to lead poses a significant hazard to human health, especially for children. . . There is no need to add lead to paint - safer alternative chemicals can be used.”

“The best way to ensure the availability of lead-safe paint is for countries to put in place laws, regulations or mandatory standards that prohibit the manufacture, import, export, sale or use of lead paint,” the WHO official said.


22 October 2016

Government and Non-Government Organizations to Mark Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Government and non-government organizations are observing this year’s International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action with activities geared at minimizing, if not eliminating, preventable sources of human exposure to toxic lead.

First held in 2013, the Week of Action, spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organization, is supported by partners in the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, including the US Environmental Protection Agency and IPEN (a civil society network for a toxics-free future).

The observance of the Week of Action in the Philippines began yesterday, October 21, at the “Kamayan para sa Kalikasan” Forum organized by the Green Convergence  at Kamayan Restaurant in Mandaluyong City that highlighted the concerted efforts to phase out lead-containing architectural, decorative and household (ADH) paints by December 31, 2016 in line with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24.

Comprising the panelists were government, industry and civil society leaders representing the key sectors behind the country’s ongoing drive to eliminate lead paint, including Emmanuelita Mendoza of  the DENR - Environmental Management Bureau, Vergel Dyoco o f the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers and Manny Calonzo of the toxics watch group EcoWaste Coalition. 

Tomorrow, October 23, the EcoWaste Coalition and its partner community and youth groups will hold a “Zombie Run” at Quezon Memorial Circle to dramatize the need to protect vulnerable groups, particularly children, from lead paint hazards, as well as to press of industry compliance to the looming phase-out deadline for leaded ADH paints.

On October 28, the DENR-EMB through its Environmental Education and Information Division  will conduct an orientation seminar on Lead Poisoning Prevention that is expected to draw attendees from the academe, non-government organizations and civil society groups.

The said seminar will discuss the dangers of lead and lead compounds, which are still prevalent in many paint products today, and the steps being undertaken by the government to address such threats to safeguard public health and the environment.

“Exposure to lead poses a significant hazard to human health, especially for children. The health effects can have a lifelong impact and include damage to body organs, behavioural problems, and impairment to mental and physical development.  WHO lists lead among the top ten chemicals of public health concern, and all countries should take initiatives to control its use,” said Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, WHO.

“Lead paint, particularly when used in the home, in schools and on toys, is an important source of lead exposure for children. We know that lead poisoning is entirely preventable,” the WHO official said in a special statement released for the Week of Action.

The International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action this year will be commemorated from October 23 to 29.


21 October 2016

Toy Safety Watch Group Cautions Children vs. Hazards in Some Halloween Items

A non-profit health and safety advocacy group has cautioned the public against potential hazards in some Halloween items as kids and adults get ready for spooky fun.

As part of its toy safety campaign, the EcoWaste Coalition today warned consumers that some popular play things may pose chemical, choking, fire and laceration hazards that can spoil the Halloween fun.

“As the Halloween fad catches on in urban neighborhoods, party and event goers, especially young children, need to exercise precaution in choosing their costumes and toys as many of them have not passed through the required verification procedures by the health authorities,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Companies are required to apply for license to operate and product notification before placing toys and childcare articles (TCCA) in the market.  Unfortunately, many Halloween toys being sold in discount shops where many consumers go have no valid TCCA product notification,” he said.

"With the proliferation of toys in the market, parents need to pay equal attention to both the price and quality of the toys they buy for their kids. As not all toys have undergone and passed safety tests, parents should always be on the lookout for hidden dangers in some toys, such as choking and chemical hazards, that can jeopardize the health and well-being of their children," said Dr. Erle Castillo, a consultant of UP-Philippine General Hospital on Family Medicine and UP-College of Medicine on Emergency Medicine.

Among the items purchased were scary masks, devil headbands, pumpkin and skull pails, imitation weapons, and various gory Halloween accessories from fake blood to “knife thru head.”

Out of the 115 items bought, 35 have zero product labeling information.  Of the 80 items that provided varying degrees of labeling information, only one (a “Glow in the Dark” devil sickle) indicated the name and contact details of the manufacturer or distributor and its license to operate (LTO) number, the product’s model number, age grade and usage instruction, and relevant cautionary statements.

Based on the group’s assessment, some of the Halloween toys it procured are not safe for children to play with.  

Here are some examples of Halloween  toys found by the group and why such toys may present chemical, choking, fire and laceration hazards to young users:

1.  CHEMICAL HAZARD: Creepy insect toys may be coated with lead-containing paint and pose chemical risk to their young users.  For instance, the EcoWaste Coalition detected  toxic lead in the range of 139 to 481 parts per million (ppm) in 11 out of 32 toy insects screened using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence device. 

2.  CHOKING HAZARD: Some Halloween costume accessories contain small parts that kids may ingest and cause choking and suffocation.  For example, button batteries in devil headbands and other light up toys can come loose and get swallowed by a child.

3.  FIRE HAZARD.  Witch hats and horrific masks with hair are a fire risk because of their high flammability.  None of the six hats and masks with hair provided fire hazard warning.

4.  LACERATION HAZARD.  Toy axes, knives and swords can have sharp edges that can damage or injure a child’s sensitive skin.

The group also expressed concern about fake blood as the liquid may contain harmful bacteria or substances, may burn the skin and maybe mistaken as foodstuff.

The group likewise conveyed its concern over the sale of unregistered face paints in the market, which may be contaminated with lead, cadmium and other chemicals of concern.

As per RA 3720 or the Food, Drugs and Devices and Cosmetics Act, as amended by RA 9711 or the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Act, companies intending to manufacture, import, export, distribute, sell, offer for sale, transfer, promote and advertise TCCA products must apply and secure from the FDA an LTO and 2. TCCA product notifications.



Latest FDA advisory on toys: