27 February 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Cautions the Public against Inhaling Toxic Smoke During Fires

With the onset of the annual “Fire Prevention Month,” an environmental watchdog promoting chemical safety and zero waste alerted the public about the danger of being exposed to fire smoke.

“Smoke from fires, which is made up of chemicals and particles from burning materials, is hazardous to health and should be avoided,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Depending on what is burning, which is often a combination of mixed combustible materials, the smoke can cause or even worsen health problems, particularly for young children, the elderly and persons with heart and respiratory conditions and those with chemical sensitivities,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition aired the warning in support of the fire safety campaign being undertaken by the Department of Interior and Local Government – Bureau of Fire Protection (DILG-BFP).

“Besides reminding our communities to prevent fire at home or workplace through good housekeeping, we find it necessary for the public to be informed about the need to avoid exposure to smoke when there is a fire,” Lucero observed. 

“Oftentimes, we see victims and spectators standing close to the fire scene and directly breathing in the toxic smoke,” she added.

Aside from carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and dust particles or soot, smoke may contain a variety of air pollutants, including
acid gases, benzene, heavy metals, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins, which are formed when materials containing chlorine are burned, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

According to the World Health Organization, “air pollutants have been linked to a range of adverse health effects, including respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.”

Exposure to smoke can have immediate effects such as coughing, a harsh throat, irritated sinuses, headaches, nausea, runny nose and tearing eyes, while those with heart conditions may experience chest pain, fatigue, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath.

n a bid to reduce the negative health consequences of exposure to smoke, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to consider the following health and safety suggestions:

1.  Stay away from the fire source, take precautions and avoid exposure to intense and even to low or moderate  smoke.

2.  If you are within a safe distance from a burning building, factory or residence requiring no evacuation, stay indoors and shut the doors and windows to prevent smoke from entering your place.

3.  Switch off the air conditioner until the air quality outside has improved.

4.  If you need to go outside, find a suitable respiratory protection to minimize exposure to harmful gases and particles, bearing in mind that bandannas, handkerchiefs or dust masks may not be effective in filtering out very fine particles.

5.  Refrain from cigarette smoking, which can only exacerbate pollution in the fire area.

“We hope that our fire fighters as well as rescue volunteers are properly supported with tools to keep them safe from pollution hazards inherent in their life-saving job,” Lucero said.

“It’s also important for the public to follow the instructions from the crowd control authorities and keep the streets and alleys accessible to the fire respondents,” she added.


24 February 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Finds More Unregistered Household Insecticides in the Market, Cautions Public from Using Insect Killers from China with Cypermethrin

The EcoWaste Coalition, a chemical safety and zero waste advocacy group, has cautioned the public against  using unregistered insect killers after finding six brands of household insecticides with cypermethrin as an active ingredient.

Taking its cue from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) which recently ordered the seizure of cypermethrin-containing Baolilai, Big Bie Pai and Tianshi aerosol insecticides, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol went to Divisoria and Santa Cruz, Manila last Friday and Saturday to look for similar insecticides imported from China that are illegally sold without authorization from the FDA.

“Apart from finding aerosol insect killers already forbidden by the FDA, we found six other brands of cypermethrin-containing insecticides that should be banned and taken off store shelves without delay,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

These six brands of imported household insecticides, sold for P75 to P90 each and packaged in tall colorful aerosol cans with net weight of 750 ml and with cypermethrin content ranging from 0.05% to 0.15% as stated on the labels, include Angel Insecticide Aerosol, Boclliai Aerosol Insecticide, Kingever Aerosol Insecticide, Kingever Insect Killer,  Power Boss Aerosol Insecticide and Txaksi Insect Killer.

In addition, the EcoWaste Coalition also found three variants of Brother Powerful Insecticide with no cypermethrin content, but like the above-mentioned insecticides had no FDA market authorization.

The group yesterday alerted the FDA of its findings through an e-mail.

“The public should know that these insecticides are dangerous to human and environmental health and should desist  from bringing them into their homes where these products can present real hazard, especially to young children,” Dizon said.

Dizon sought the cooperation of the Bureau of Customs to prevent the entry of such dangerous insecticides into the country’s ports as he called upon importers and retailers to abide by the law and discontinue the illicit trade.

Cypermethrin, according to the FDA advisory, “is a broad spectrum insecticide which kills target and non-target beneficial insects as well as susceptible animals, especially aquatic organisms.”

“Effects on test animals include, but are not limited to, reduced fertility and reproductive rate, carcinogenic and co-carcinogenic effects through topical route, and systemic genotoxicity in mammals as it causes DNA damage in vital organs,” the FDA said.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has classified cypermethrin as a possible human carcinogen.

According to a fact sheet published by the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP), cypermethrin is the "most frequent child chronic pesticide exposure in UK," "children have been poisoned in Nicaragua and Mexico"and that "death from contaminated food has occurred." 

In the Philippines, the UP National Poison Management and Control Center reported  that a three-year old boy accidentally sprayed himself in August 2014 with Big Bie Pai insecticide and experienced abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.

Symptoms of poisoning with cypermethrin include dizziness, nausea, headaches, burning skin, tingling, anorexia, muscle twitching, seizures  and coma, the PANAP said.

As for its environmental effects, cypermethrin is highly toxic to fish, algae and aquatic invertebrates, as well as to bees, beneficial insects and earthworms, the PANAP said, adding that in terms of environmental fate cypermethrin is a severe marine pollutant, is persistent in soil and has the potential for bio-accumulation.


22 February 2015

Group Alarmed by the Proliferation of Smuggled Cosmetics in Divisoria Quiapo (Watchdog Cautions Consumers on Health and Safety Hazards of Using Unregistered Cosmetics)

Consumers should exercise maximum precaution when buying unregistered cosmetics, particularly in budget shops and malls, which may contain dangerous contaminants or ingredients beyond allowable limits.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a chemical safety and zero waste watchdog, sounded the alarm over the unrestricted sale of smuggled cosmetics in Divisoria and Quiapo following a recent market investigation in Manila’s must-visit places for bargain hunters.

Prompted by a fresh advisory issued by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on three lipsticks and whitening spray with high lead content, the group’s AlerToxic Patrol last week obtained 35 samples of lipsticks costing P12.50 to P50 each from one department store and seven cosmetics retailers in the area.

“We verified through the FDA’s website if the lipsticks had the required market authorization and found out that most are not notified with the agency and therefore not authorized to be in the market,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Notified cosmetics carry the following information in English on the product label, package or leaflet: name, ingredients, net content, instruction on usage, batch number, special precautions if any, and country of manufacture and/or importer.

Among these unnotified lipsticks are Aili Kiss, Baolishi, Chanleevi, Daiyasi, Ily, Lidanxiu, Meiya, Miss Beauty, Miss Merry, Monaliza, Pure, Yan Di and one that only says “Lipstick,” the EcoWaste Coalition reported. 

In addition, the group expressed concern over the sale of the more expensive “Class A” imitations of high-end lipstick brands, particularly in Divisoria.

“The booming sale of illegal cosmetics is very alarming with the culprits enjoying virtual impunity.  This is frightening as some of these products are laden with dangerous chemicals posing serious health and environmental hazards,” she added.

“Some lipsticks are terribly toxic with astronomical amounts of lead, a potent brain and developmental toxin,” she pointed out.

For example, the group detected atrocious levels of lead, over and above the 20 parts per million (ppm) limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive, in several Baolishi and Monaliza lipsticks in the range of 2,278 to 17,100  ppm  as measured by a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer. 
Baolishi and Monaliza are among the 36 lipsticks ordered seized by the FDA in three advisories issued in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for exceeding the lead limit or for being marketed without the required authorization from the agency.  Thirty-three of these 36 lipsticks were brought to the attention of the FDA by the EcoWaste Coalition and subsequently banned.

The FDA had earlier warned that lipsticks with no market authorization “
may contain high levels of heavy metals, especially lead, a proven toxicant that accumulates in the body through constant exposure and absorption over a prolonged period.”

“ Health problems through chronic ingestion of high level of lead in lipsticks may manifest as neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal problems,” the FDA warned.

“In adults, lead toxicant has been linked with high blood pressure, joint pain, poor memory, and concentration problems. Lead easily crosses the placenta, and pregnant women should pay particular attention to the different sources of lead exposure,” the FDA said.

The EcoWaste Coalition last Friday sent 10 lipstick samples to the FDA for confirmatory laboratory analysis for toxic lead and mercury.




18 February 2015

Plastic waste generation study ranks PH 3rd: The country should wake up, says EcoWaste Coalition

“A recent study on plastic wastes generated by coastal countries and entering the oceans should serve as a wake up call to the Philippine government, the industry, and the public in general after the report ranked the country 3rd.”

Zero waste and anti-plastic bag campaign network EcoWaste Coalition released this statement to the media today in relation to a study, “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean”, which was published in the journal Science last week.

The report which placed Philippines 3rd highest plastic waste generator had China at the top followed by Indonesia.

According to the study authors, “Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris.”

“This is what we’ve been talking about for years now!,” exclaimed Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Almost fifteen years of poor implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) and unheeded calls for national ban on the undoubtedly problematic and persistent plastic bags apparently helped a lot in putting the country at the 3rd place in the study’s embarrassing list,” added Lucero.

"We are a nation of seafarers and fishers, not sea destroyers polluting the oceans with plastics and toxics," she said. 

In 2014, during the follow up to their 2006 and 2010 waste audits of the Manila Bay, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, and Mother Earth Foundation still found that plastics topped the list of the bay’s marine debris at 61.9%; of this, 23.2% are plastic bags.

The same group’s waste audits in 2006 and 2010 yielded similar results: among plastic products, plastic bags were the main garbage contributor in terms of volume, comprising 51.4 and 27.7 percent, respectively, of the debris in Manila Bay.

On a global scale, the “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean” study has calculated that plastic debris reaching the oceans from 192 coastal countries in 2010 was somewhere between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons. The amount came from what the report estimated as “275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste generated in said coastal countries that year.”

Dr. Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia, the study’s lead author, said in a news report in a more visual way that “the quantity entering the ocean is equal to about five plastic grocery bags full of plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.”

The study suggests that some 17.5 million tonnes a year, that is 155 million tonnes between now and then, could be entering the oceans by 2025 if nothing is done to check the situation.
Whether we have a clear picture of the magnitude of the frightening impact of this marine plastic pollution, Kara Lavender Law, co-author of the study, frankly said in an interview with Science: “I don’t think we can conceive of the worst-case scenario. We really don’t know what this plastic is doing.”

Another co-author of the study, Roland Geyer, said that to clean the oceans of plastic was not likely; the only solution was "turning off the tap".



Anti-Pollution Watchdog Lauds QCCBAI for Not Blasting Firecrackers to Welcome the Lunar New Year

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, commended the Quezon City Chinatown Business Association, Inc. (QCCBAI) for opting not to explode firecrackers and fireworks to welcome the Year of the Green Wooden Sheep tonight.

“We laud the QCCBAI for its decision to usher in the Lunar New Year with torotot instead of firecrackers that generate hazardous air pollutants and residual solid waste,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Blowing up firecracker can make air pollution soar to hazard levels as we have seen during the last New Year’s revelry,” she said.

Citing data released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Lucero said that particulate matter PM 10 and PM 25 rose to dangerous levels in some monitoring stations in Metro Manila.

For example,  PM 10 was measured from 12 midnight to 1:00 am of January 1, 2015 at 2,000 and 1,988 micrograms per normal cubic meter at the DENR’s monitoring stations in Las PiƱas and Marikina Cities, respectively, way above the National Ambient Guideline Value of 60 mg/ncm for PM 10.

“A greener celebration without pollution suits the Wooden Sheep who loves a beautiful and clean environment,” Lucero said.

“We hope that other business establishments and associations will follow QCCBAI’s eco-decision and do away with toxic firecrackers and fireworks,” she said.

According to Willy Coyukiat, President of QCCBAI: “The celebration does not only aim to strengthen the relationship between the Chinese and the Filipino people, but above all begin an advocacy of banning fireworks during Christmas, New Year and other special occasions to
avoid environmental degradation and pollution.”

As an alternative to firecrackers, the QCCBAI will hold a "Torotot Festival" and give  cash rewards to lucky participants with the most creative torotot.