30 June 2009

New superhero for chemical safety bared, cheered

Quezon City . A new chemical safety superhero, clad in yellow and black and carrying a shield that bears the slogan “Dump Not! Burn Not!” has joined toxic prevention advocates in a bid to rid the country’s stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

At a forum held in Quezon City to conclude the June environment month, the masked hero who calls himself “The PCB Eliminator” vowed to protect the Filipino people from PCBs, a class of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) commonly used as dielectric fluids in electrical transformers and capacitors.

“The ‘PCB Eliminator’ is the latest addition to our own league of green heroes with a special mission of protecting our people and the ecosystems from harm caused by exposure to these harmful substances,” said Rey Palacio of EcoWaste Coalition.

“The ‘PCB Eliminator’ will enlist public and private support for the non-incineration treatment of PCBs in the country that will ensure public and environmental health and safety,” he added.
The new green crusader joins the other heroes of the waste and pollution watchdog, namely “Boy Bayong,” an advocate against single use plastic bags, and “Super WA” (for “Walang Aksaya”) a champion for Zero Waste.

To the delight of forum participants, Environmental Management Bureau’s (EMB) Engr. Edwin Navaluna, the National Project Coordinator for the Non-Combustion POPs Project, announced that “the construction of the treatment facility employing a robust technology for the safe and non-burn elimination of PCBs and PCB-contaminated equipment, should be underway this August.”

Navaluna, who gave a brief talk about the project before the more than fifty attendees of the forum themed Working Together for a PCBs-free Philippines said that “the project fits very well with the policy objectives of the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for PCBs.”

The CCO for PCBs was issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to reduce and eliminate the use of PCBs, and regulate their transport, treatment and disposal to protect the human health and environment.

In support of the project, the participating NGOs adopted a statement expressing “full support, commitment, unity and action to contribute to the nation’s efforts toward the phase out and total elimination of PCBs by the year 2014 as targeted in the CCO for PCBs.”

“The pioneering Non-Com POPs Project will demonstrate the efficacy of environmentally-sound and safe non-burn approach for managing PCBs, and will surely contribute to both local and global push to eliminate PCBs and advance chemical safety,” Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) said.

“Its successful implementation has the potential of setting a precedent among developing countries in the sound management of POPs involving all stakeholders, including public interest groups,” he stated.

PCBs, which are targeted for elimination in the country years ahead of the Stockholm Convention goal, belong to so-called “dirty dozen” POPs that includes pesticides, industrial chemicals and unintentional byproducts of industrial and combustion processes.

With an estimated quantity of five million tons of PCBs oil and contaminated equipment worldwide, PCBs are reportedly among those that are widely distributed globally.

Preliminary inventories undertaken by the EMB yield some 6,879 tons of PCB containing equipment and wastes, comprising about 2,400 tons of PCBs oil. These are mostly found in electrical utilities and cooperatives, industrial establishments and manufacturing plants, servicing facilities, military camps and hospitals.

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