19 August 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Launches New Project on Consumer Safety vs Toxic Chemicals

Quezon City. A public health and environmental coalition today launched a timely initiative to empower and protect consumers and communities against threats of chemical pollution.

At a simple gathering held in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition announced that its latest effort to advance chemical safety is being undertaken in partnership with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), the oldest and largest environmental organization in Sweden.

“We are launching ‘Project PROTECT’ amid growing concerns over toxic chemical trespass and exposure in our daily lives that could badly affect the health of our people and the ecosystems,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

In recent times, Filipino consumers have borne witness to a string of chemical contamination issues that saw products being recalled, seized or destroyed such as formaldehyde-containing candies, melamine-tainted milk, lead-stained slippers and cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaners.

“With this project, we hope to see informed consumers asserting their ‘right to ask and right to know,’ citizens’ groups seeking steps to cut and eliminate exposures to harmful chemicals, and government agencies strengthening and enforcing policies on chemical safety,” Calonzo explained.

With support from the 100-year old SSNC, ‘Project PROTECT’ (or “People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats”) intends to contribute to increased public awareness and action on chemical safety issues in the next two and a half years.

"SSNC has successfully been collaborating with and supporting EcoWaste during the last year, and finds its work most relevant and important. SSNC works for a strengthened civil society and improved chemicals management on a global level, and we look forward to continuously working on these issues with EcoWaste for the upcoming years," said Mikael Karlsson, President of the SSNC.

‘Project PROTECT’ will involve the implementation of relevant activities following the five subsidiary objectives of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) on 1) risk reduction, 2) knowledge and information, 3) governance, 4) capacity building and technical cooperation, and 5) illegal international traffic.

For example, the lineup of risk reduction activities being planned include conducting tests on chemicals of concern in consumer products, promoting the use of safe and effective alternatives, and advocating the sound management of toxics-containing product wastes such as spent mercury-laced compact fluorescent lamps.

While the general target will be the Filipino consumers, special emphasis will be given to poor consumers, women consumers and children consumers who will benefit a lot from having information and knowledge on chemical safety.

Among the more vulnerable social groups, ‘Project PROTECT’ will work with informal recyclers, including waste pickers and junk shop operators, who will be informed about the risks and dangers of handling toxic chemicals in the waste stream.

The EcoWaste Coalition expressed hopes that “Project PROTECT” will enhance its capacity to participate and contribute to ongoing public and private initiatives on chemical safety, especially those being implemented by government departments.

The Environment Department, for instance, is implementing a chemical accident prevention and preparedness program, while the Health Department is embarking on a national chemical safety program towards chemical poisoning prevention and control.

At the legislature, there are several resolutions and bills pending at the Senate and the House of Representatives that the EcoWaste Coalition would like to pursue, including measures that will phase out lead in paints and ban phthalates in toys and children’s products.

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