26 May 2016

Watchdog Urges Schools to Take DepEd’s Directive on Lead-Free Paints to Heart

Photo Courtesy of Boy Santos

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, today lauded the Department of Education (DepEd) for acting on its request to ensure that only lead-safe paints will be used in all schools during the Brigada Eskwela next week and beyond.

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Armin Luistro issued DepEd Memorandum No. 85, series of 2016 stating “the use of lead-free paints in schools must be observed at all times, especially during the conduct of activities related to Brigada Eskwela and other preparations for the opening of classes.”

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier requested Luistro to issue a directive that will make it mandatory for schools to use only lead-safe coatings for painting school facilities and amenities.

“We urge school principals, teachers and all Brigada Eskwela supporters to take DepEd’s directive to heart as this will help in preventing childhood lead exposure through the ingestion and inhalation of lead-containing paint, dust and soil,” stated Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Please specify to your benefactors to donate paints with no added lead that are safe to use for school interiors, exteriors, chairs and tables,” she suggested.

“It is our shared responsibility to remove preventable sources of lead exposure in our children’s surroundings such as lead-containing paints,” she added, stressing “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe” as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The group likewise cautioned Brigada Eskwela participants against disturbing old paints that might contain lead, emphasizing that dry sanding or scraping can generate huge quantities of lead dust that is detrimental to human health.

Citing information from the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP), the DepEd directive warned  that “childhood lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts, including learning disabilities, anemia and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial and language skills.”

GAELP, a cooperative venture of the WHO and the United Nations Environment Programme, includes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the EcoWaste Coalition and the Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc. among its partners.

The EcoWaste Coalition is the civil society partner of the DENR and the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) in promoting effective compliance to the country’s phase-out deadlines for leaded-decorative paints by January 2017 and leaded-industrial paints by January 2019.

On Monday, members of the EcoWaste Coalition will participate in the Brigada Eskwela activities at Sto. Cristo Elementary School in Bago Bantay, Quezon City to help with the school repair and maintenance, as well as to drum up support for a lead-safe school environment.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition thanked Senators Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda and Grace Poe and incoming Senators Risa Hontiveros and Migz Zubiri who, along with over 100 health professionals, educators, environmentalists, religious leaders and  trade unionists, have supported the group’s call for Luistro “to declare the entire educational system as a lead-free zone by adopting a lead-safe paint procurement policy and by carefully addressing lead paint hazards.”

In her letter to Luistro, Legarda pointed out that “various studies have shown that lead exposure is highly detrimental to the health and early development of young children and could possibly result in permanent and irreversible effects.”

“In this regard, I join the EcoWaste Coalition’s call to adopt a lead-free procurement policy for all materials to be used in the construction and maintenance of educational institutions,” she said.
DENR Assistant Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna, who is concurrent Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, also wrote to Luistro conveying the same message.

Some of the country’s foremost health organizations have likewise backed the call for a lead-safe school environment, including the Philippine Medical Association – Committee on Environmental Health and Ecology, Child Neurology Society of the Philippines, Philippine Academy of Family Physicians,  Philippine Pediatric Society,  Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.  




24 May 2016

EcoWaste Coalition: Probable Human Carcinogen Found in Some PVC Plastic School Supplies

A waste and pollution watchdog group advised the public to steer clear of school supplies containing cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals as consumers take advantage of “back-to-school” promotional sales.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the suggestion at a press briefing held today to announce the test results of some items that the group bought and sent to SGS, an international testing company, for phthalate analysis.  Toxicologist Dr. Erle Castillo was on hand to shed light on potential health effects of phthalates to children's health.

The group specifically told consumers to avoid school supplies made of polyvinyl chloride plastic, or those marked “PVC,” “V” or “3”, which may contain elevated concentrations of toxic phthalates (pronounced as THAL-ates).

Phthalates, a class of plasticizers added to PVC to render it soft and flexible, are known to disrupt the body’s hormonal systems.  DEHP, one of the two types of phthalates found in the samples, is classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Phthalates are absorbed by the human body through ingestion, inhalation and skin absorption.
Out of five samples of seemingly harmless school supplies obtained from retail outlets in Divisoria, Quiapo and Cubao, four were found positive for toxic phthalates DEHP and/or DINP, namely:

1. A Cat Man ballpen with yellow PVC accessory, with 31.80 % DEHP 
2. A yellow PVC raincoat with tiger design, with 17.10 % DEHP and 0.13 % DINP
3. A PVC plastic envelope with penguin design, with 13.10 % DEHP and 0.12 % DINP
4. A PVC Princess Mica shoulder bag, with 1.87 % DEHP and 0.16 % DINP

The fifth item, a plastic ID holder with Minion design, passed the laboratory test.

According to the  Department of Health Administrative Order 2009-0005-A as amended in 2011, phthalates DEHP, DBP and BBP in concentrations exceeding 0.1%  are banned in the manufacturing of toys.  On the other hand, phthalates DINP, DIDP and DNOP above 0.1% are banned in toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth.

“DEHP and DINP are restricted in children’s toys not only in the Philippines, but also in Europe and the US.  So why are we finding them in very high concentrations in school supplies, which, like toys, are directly handled and used by children?,” asked Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Last year, the group reported finding high levels of DEHP and/or DINP in two backpacks, two raingears and one lunch bag, as well as in two kiddie boxing gloves and two swimming toys. 
"The unregulated use of PVC-based children’s products is not only a public health issue, but an environmental one as well.  Burning PVC products at the end of their useful lives will generate extremely toxic pollutants known as dioxins,” Dizon warned.

“For the health of our kids and the ecosystems, we ask our parents to buy PVC-free school supplies.  At the same time, we ask the government to extend the ban on toxic phthalates in toys to all children’s products, including childcare articles and school supplies,” he added.

According to a booklet published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN, “phthalate exposure is linked to genital abnormalities in boys, reduced sperm counts, decreased ‘male typical’ play in boys, endometriosis and elements of metabolic disruption, including obesity.”   

Information from the US EPA stated, “children have been reported as having the highest exposures to phthalates, and that their exposures are often greater than those in adults…due to increased intakes of food, water and air on a bodyweight basis, as well as children’s unique exposure pathways such as mouthing of objects and ingestion of non-food items.”

To prevent exposures to phthalates via school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to heed the following “Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies”:

1.  Avoid school supplies made vinyl plastic or PVC plastic, or those marked “3,” “V” or”PVC.” 
2.  Avoid backpacks with shiny plastic designs as they often contain PVC and may contain lead.
3.  Avoid modelling clays made of PVC.
4.  Avoid notebooks containing metal spirals with colored plastic coating that may contain PVC. 
5.  Avoid metal paper clips coated with PVC plastic.

The EcoWaste Coalition also appealed to all manufacturers of school supplies and other children’s products to switch to non-PVC materials and to disclose the chemical ingredients of their products, as well as to provide health and safety instructions and warnings for the guidance of consumers.


Places of purchase and prices of the items:
1. Cat Man ballpen, SM Department Store, Quiapo, Manila, P29.75
2. Yellow raincoat with tiger design,  Taliba Marketing, Juan Luna St., Divisoria, Manila, P200.00
3. Plastic envelope with penguin design, National Book Store, Lucky Chinatown Mall, P134.00
4. Princess Mica shoulder bag, National Book Store, Alimall, Cubao, Quezon City, P135.00



23 May 2016

Lead Exposure Costs the Philippines Over US$15 Billion Annually - NYU Researchers

A new interactive map shows that lead exposure costs the Philippines more than US$ 15 billion (almost PHP 700 billion) annually. This cost exceeds the over US$ 675 million the Philippines received in net official development assistance (ODA) in 2014.  

The interactive map “Economic Costs of Childhood Lead Exposure in Low-and Middle-Income Countries” was developed by New York University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics (NYU) and released today at the United Nations Environment Assembly meeting being held in Nairobi, Kenya. It can be accessed at: nyulmc.org/pediatricleadexposure.

“Children’s developing brains are permanently harmed by exposure to lead. One key impact is reduction in IQ score, which is correlated with decreases in lifetime earning potential. For the nation as a whole population-wide reductions in IQ means greater social costs and reduced intellectual capital, and other factors that adversely impact the Philippine economy, as the NYU map clearly shows,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. 

According to the World Health Organization, "There is no known safe blood lead concentration.”  When a young child is exposed to lead, the harm to her or his nervous system makes it more likely that the child will have difficulties in school and engage in impulsive and violent behavior. Lead exposure in young children is also linked to increased rates of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, failure to graduate from high school, conduct disorder, juvenile delinquency, drug use, and incarceration.

According to the NYU researchers: “One of the most important things we can do to decrease children's exposure to lead in  low- and middle-income countries is to ensure lead is no longer used in household paint and other paints to which children may be exposed (such as paints on playground equipment).”

EcoWaste Coalition is a partner organization in IPEN’s Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign (http://ipen.org/projects/eliminating-lead-paint).  

In 2015, the EcoWaste Coalition released  the report “Lead in New Enamel Household Paints in the Philippines,” which analyzed the lead content in paints sold in the local market.   That study found 97 out of 140 enamel decorative paints (69 percent of the samples) contained lead concentrations above the regulatory standard of 90 parts per million (ppm), which may render young children and pregnant women at risk of lead poisoning.  Sixty-three of these samples contained dangerously high lead concentrations greater than 10,000 ppm, with one yellow quick-dry enamel paint containing the highest total lead content at 153,000 ppm.

DENR Administrative Order 2013-24 establishes a 90 ppm limit for lead in paint and provides for a phaseout deadline for leaded decorative paints by December 2016 and leaded industrial paints by December 2019.

“The research and the map released today clearly demonstrate that lead exposure greatly erodes the gains from development aid and that sustainable development will be severely hindered as long as childhood exposure to lead continues,” Lucero said.

Worldwide the cost of lead exposure, according to the NYU research, is $977 billion international dollars with economic losses equal to:

·         $134.7 billion in Africa (4.03% of gross domestic product (GDP) in that region),
·         $142.3 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean (2.04% of GDP in that region), and
·         $699.9 billion in Asia (1.88% of GDP in that region).

To prepare the interactive map, researchers assessed the neurodevelopmental impacts of lead, assessed as decrements (or reductions) in intelligence quotient (IQ) points caused by lead and how those reductions translated into decreases in lifetime earning potential, assessed as lost lifetime economic productivity (LEP) in each country examined. 

Additional comparison information to developed countries and to ODA dollars is also provided, along with links to the full report and supplemental information.

The EcoWaste Coalition is an environmental organization pursuing socially just and sustainable solutions to waste, chemical and climate issues in the Philippines, and is a member of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP).  

IPEN is a network of non-government organizations working in more than 100 countries to reduce and eliminate the harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals. IPEN is a member of the Advisory Group of GAELP, which seeks the elimination of lead in paint by 2020. 



Link to the interactive map:


Link to the World Bank data on net official development assistance:


Link to civil society campaign to eliminate lead paint:


18 May 2016

Watchdog Proposes Action Agenda on Wastes and Toxics for Duterte’s First 100 Days in Office

IDIS representatives submit "Sustainable Davao City Movement's 8-Point Environmental Agenda" and the EcoWaste Coalition's "13-Point Agenda on Wastes and Toxics" to Mr. Peter Tiu Laviña, spokesperson and member of the Duterte Transition Committee

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental organization working towards a zero waste and toxic-free Philippines, has propounded the following 13-point action plan to ease the country’s uphill battle against wastes and toxics under the administration of presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte. 
The EcoWaste Coalition through its Davao City-based affiliate Interface for Development Interventions (IDIS) will submit today its proposed “Action Agenda on Wastes and Toxics” to Peter Tiu Laviña, spokesperson and member of the Duterte Transition Committee.

1.  Appoint a genuine pro-environment and pro-people Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary with an exemplary track record in environmental protection. 

2.  Announce the government’s program to determinedly combat waste and pollution through Zero Waste strategies and practices sans incineration at his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

3. Convene and chair the first meeting of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) and set a comprehensive Zero Waste agenda to reduce the volume and toxicity of the country’s waste. 

4.  Instruct the DENR  Secretary to take full leadership and responsibility in ensuring that the Zero Waste agenda is put into operation by the entire government machinery. 

5.  Order a participatory review and analysis of where the public funds for managing wastes go and recommend priority use of taxpayers’ money to support and advance the Zero Waste agenda. 

6.  Ensure the proper release and use of the allocated budget from the General Appropriations Act of 2016 for capacity building programs towards the effective implementation of Republic Act  9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

7.  Make the NSWMC and all its members accountable for the performance of their responsibilities towards the effective enforcement of R.A. 9003, including providing quarterly submission of accomplishment reports that should be publicly available.

8.  Stop all undertakings that are in breach of the incineration ban under R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003, including the ongoing formulation of “waste-to-energy” guidelines by the NSWMC.  

9.   Suspend  the development and implementation of  proposed coal power plants in the pipeline and so-called waste-to-energy facilities. Instead, prioritize the development and mainstreaming of  clean and renewable energy projects to meet the country’s projected energy requirements.

10.  Order the NSWMC to fast track the implementation of the “National Framework and Strategy on the Role of the Informal Sector in Waste Management,” including ensuring the safety of workers handling electronic wastes.

11.  Draw up the government's legislative agenda for the environment, which should, among others,  include the passage of laws a) banning plastic bags, b) restricting toxic chemicals in packaging,  c) establishing extended producer responsibility for electrical and electronic equipment, and for packaging, and d) ensuring public’s right to know through the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register.

12.  Ensure early ratification and implementation of major multilateral environmental and chemical agreements such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Basel Convention Ban Amendment.   

13.  Order the re-export of Canadian garbage back to its origin and initiate policy reforms to effectively block foreign waste dumping in the country, including ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment.


17 May 2016

Watch Group to Consumers: Be Cautious of Lead-Laden School Supplies (Group Hopes Toxic Children’s Products to Vanish under Duterte Presidency)

A non-profit watch group for toxic chemicals in products and wastes has again alerted consumers against buying school supplies laced with lead, a brain-damaging chemical.

For the fifth year in a row, the EcoWaste Coalition warned against toxic lead in school supplies as part of its annual back-to-school campaign for children’s health and safety.

For this year’s campaign, the group released its findings today in front of children and their parents at a day care center in Tatalon, Quezon City with a lecturette on childhood lead poisoning and prevention by Dr. Erle Castillo, a toxicologist.

Lead, a hazardous substance linked to learning and behavioral problems, is prohibited in the production of school supplies as per DENR Administrative Order 2013-24, or the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds,” which the group pushed to prevent and control childhood lead exposure.   

“Forty-three percent of the 75 items that we screened for toxic lead had lead levels that should make parents, who care for their children’s health and well-being, worried,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“On the other hand, 57 percent of the samples were found to be lead-free, indicating the availability of alternative products that are safe to use by children,” he pointed out.

As Rodrigo Duterte, the presumptive president, is about to take over the reins of the government by June 30, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed the need for the next administration to do more to curb the sale of school supplies and other children’s products laden with lead and other harmful chemicals.

At the event, participants brandished small tri-color placards of blue, red and yellow suggestive of Duterte’s campaign colors with the text: “School supplies dapat ligtas sa lead.”

“We hope, in the next six years of the Duterte presidency, consumers will no longer worry that they are buying poison products for their children and that they are not sending hazardous substances to school with their kids,” Dizon said. 

“As a doting grandfather, we believe that Duterte will make it sure that only non-toxic school supplies, toys and other children’s products are offered for sale by manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers,” he added.  

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition detected lead in 32 out of 75 school supplies -purchased from formal and informal retailers in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila, Monumento, Caloocan City and Cubao, Quezon City - in the scale of 201 to 87,000 parts per million (ppm), way above the regulatory limit of 90 ppm.

Topping this year’s “dirty dozen” school supplies with lead above 5,000 ppm were:

1.  A plastic envelope with yellow handle, 87,000 ppm.
2.  A yellow thumb tack, 78,700 ppm
3.  An “Artex Fine Water Colors” set, 62,600 ppm
4.  A plastic envelope with red handle, 36,800 ppm
5.  An orange metal water jug with “Car” design, 28,200 ppm

6.  A “Rubber Duck” pencil pouch, 27,800 ppm

7.  A yellow “Despicable Me” pencil pouch, 22,000 ppm

8.  A PVC keychain with ice cream design, 13,100 ppm

9.  A “Ronron” school bag, 7,081 ppm

10.  A yellow vinyl coated paper clip, 6,015 ppm

11.  A “Minghao” school bag, 5,862 ppm

12.  A “Snoopy” school bag, 5,777 ppm

The group noted that the Food and Drugs Administration in 2014 banned “Artex Fine Water Colors” for containing high lead content as reported to the agency by the EcoWaste Coalition.

While the four samples of crayons tested negative for lead, the group pointed out that their packaging carried no toxicity warning and “non-toxic” label as required by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” contributing to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year with the highest burden in developing regions.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels 
of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” the WHO said.

Lead, the WHO further said, is “a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

“There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” the WHO warned.