31 January 2009

Health and Environment Advocates Push for Chemical Safety

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog pressed for stronger curbs on harmful chemicals to ensure the safety of consumers amid brewing concern over the presence of toxic substances in products that can damage human health and the environment.

The EcoWaste Coalition called for stringent policy and regulation of chemicals at the conclusion of their workshop on chemical safety at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City that gathered 150 public health and environmental advocates from Metro Manila and from other parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

“By calling for tighter rules on chemicals, we want to halt the unwanted intrusion of harmful chemicals into our bodies as we also seek to protect our vital life support systems from being poisoned. Chemical trespassing has to stop,” Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives said.

“We urge the government, particularly the health, environment and trade agencies, to act with urgency to stop chemical pollution that is already jeopardizing the health of our people, especially the pregnant women, developing fetus, infants, children, elderly, and the agricultural,
industrial, healthcare and waste workers,” Calonzo added.

The “Citizens’ Statement for the Protection of Consumers against Toxic Chemicals” adopted by the participants outlined the basic principles that should guide the formulation of a holistic chemicals regulatory regime that will promote human and ecological health and safety.

Foremost among these is the precautionary principle, which refers to the application of precautionary measures to prevent or minimize potential adverse effects to people’s health and the environment of an activity even if cause and effect relationships are not fully established
scientifically.

Participants, mostly from grassroots communities, also expressed their commitment to contribute to the United Nation’s goal of promoting chemical safety as detailed in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

SAICM seeks “the sound management of chemicals throughout their life-cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment."

The “Citizens’ Statement” stressed the need of consumers to have access to vital chemical data, including information on their health effects and disposal, to facilitate informed choices on what to consume and what to reject.

Consumers, the EcoWaste Coalition said, should insist on their personal and collective “right to know” and demand that only safe and toxics-free products are sold in the market.

By asserting our purchasing power and making the smart choice of not buying goods whose production, sale, use and disposal may damage our bodies and the ecosystems can hasten industry shifts to safer substitutes, including non-chemical alternatives,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

Towards a toxics-free future, the participants agreed to pursue Zero Waste that will cut not only the volume but also the toxicity of discards and pressed for a ban on toxic substances such as lead, mercury, phthalates and bisphenol A in toys, children’s products, medical devices and other
consumer items.

The participants expressed their support for ongoing campaigns to ban the aerial spraying of pesticide, to enact picture-based health warnings on cigarette packs, and to defend breastmilk, “the first Zero Waste food,” from industry attacks and chemical pollution.

Specific recommendations were also made to the Departments of Health, Environment and Natural Resources, and Trade and Industry as well as to the academe, church, industry and civil society.

Companies were particularly asked to embrace the principle of sustainability, design for the environment, and be liable for the whole cost of pollution and injury from the production, sale, use and disposal of toxic chemicals in their products.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376
ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

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