07 March 2010

Presidential bets should champion maternal and child health, address toxic chemical threats




Quezon City. In observance of the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day, the EcoWaste Coalition dared presidential candidates for the 2010 elections to commit to protecting maternal and child health from harmful chemicals.

With barely two months before voters troop to poll precincts, the waste and pollution watchdog urged those aspiring to become the next Chief Executive to save “women (who) hold up half the sky,” as an old Chinese saying goes, from toxic chemical threats.

The EcoWaste Coalition, together with the Save Babies Coalition and almost 150 groups and individuals, affirmed that, in this era of widespread pollution from chemicals, the Philippines badly needs a “Pangulong PATOK” (“Pangulong Ayaw sa Toksik” or “President Against Toxics”).

“We need a new leader who will keep toxic chemicals under tight control to safeguard women’s health and their ability to bear, nurture and uphold life,” said Ines Fernandez of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition.

“These chemicals are so invasive that even a mother’s belly, which we thought should be a safe place for the fetus to grow and develop, is contaminated with chemicals of concern, including many used in common consumer products such as cosmetics and personal care products,” she added.

Actor-environmentalist Roy Alvarez, the newly-elected President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “Let us protect our women from toxic chemicals in cosmetics and other products. The spate of government-issued recall and seizure directives on mercury-tainted cosmetics is a clarion call for chemicals policy reforms that our political leaders should genuinely heed.”

To drive their point, women members of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition in colorful “pregnant belly” outfit and wearing headgears of mock cosmetics paraded from Binondo Church to Sta. Cruz Church in Manila, while volunteers in purple shirts distribute leaflets advising retailers and consumers not to sell, buy or use beauty products containing mercury and other harmful chemicals.

Representatives of Alaga LAHAT, Angkan ng Mandirigma, Ang NARS, Arugaan, Buklod Tao, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Kupkop Kita Kabayan Foundation, and Zero Waste Philippines were among those who took part in the event.

The Food and Drug Administration on February 9 and 18 this year ordered the recall and seizure of 12 China-imported facial creams and skin whitening products that were found to contain high levels of mercury, an extremely toxic metal.

Dermal absorption is deemed the most significant route of mercury exposure in cosmetics since most cosmetics are applied to the skin. Mercury is then absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, causing allergic reactions, skin irritation, or adverse effects on the nervous system.

To illustrate how chemicals affect women, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the report “Earliest Exposures,” a biomonitoring study by the US-based Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) of nine pregnant women, which shows that chemicals found in a wide variety of consumer products contaminate mothers’ bodies, and babies enter the world already exposed to known toxics.

Released in November 2009 by the WTC, Commonweal and the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, the report detected 13 foreign chemicals in the blood and urine of pregnant women who participated in the study.

Specifically, the pregnant women tested positive with mercury, bisphenol A, phthalates and “Teflon chemicals,” which can cause birth and reproductive disorders, cancer, disrupt hormonal functions and damage brain development.

A “Pangulong PATOK” can make a huge difference in pushing Congress as well as the industry in ensuring that only the safest chemicals are used in products and sold in the country, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition said.

The next President can initiate policies that will keep toxic substances away from pregnant women and the developing fetus, which is most vulnerable, the groups said.

These policies, according to the groups, can include:

a. A national chemical safety policy framework and action plan based on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) to improve public health and the environment, particularly maternal and child health.

b. A ban on toxic chemicals of concern as well as a ban on products containing these chemicals, particularly those that can cause cancer and reproductive harm, or lead to learning disabilities.

c. Mandatory product information labeling that will disclose all the chemical contents of products and their potential health and environmental effects as well as provide guidance on handling and
waste management.

-end-

Additional information for the media:

1. Bisphenol A is a hormone disrupting chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic and is linked to cancer, early puberty, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems.

2. Phthalates are plasticizers and fragrance carriers found in consumer products from shower curtains to shampoo and are linked to reproductive problems and asthma.

3. “Teflon chemicals,” or perfluorinated compounds, are chemicals used to create stain-protection products and non-stick cookware and are linked to low birth weight, obesity, and cancer.

4. To read the Executive Summary of “Earliest Exposures,” please log on to: http://watoxics.org/files/EE_ExecSummary_Embargoed_WTC.pdf

5. To learn more about chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products, please visit the Skin Deep Database of the Environmental Working Group at:
http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=308

6. To read the FDA circulars banning mercury-containing cosmetics from China, please see:
http://www.bfad.gov.ph/cfc/pdf.cfm?pdfid=1311
http://www.bfad.gov.ph/cfc/pdf.cfm?pdfid=1279

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