29 September 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Aspiring Barangay and Youth Leaders to Campaign “Clean and Green” and Avoid "Major, Major" Environmental Lapses

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog today asked candidates to minimize the environmental costs of the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on October 25 by campaigning with the welfare of Mother Earth in mind.

The EcoWaste Coalition exhorted all citizens seeking elective posts in the country’s over 42,000 barangays not to repeat the environmental lapses of the May 10 elections as they court community voters.

“We appeal to all aspiring public servants to restrain from wasting too much resources and creating too much garbage as they woo the electorate in their respective constituencies,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Let us not forget the wastefulness of the May 2010 local and national elections and together aim for an environmentally-responsible exercise of our right to suffrage,” he emphasized.

“As potential leaders in the frontline of public service, we expect all the candidates to demonstrate their commitment to protect and preserve the community environment by campaigning 'clean and green’,” he added.

Some of the "major, major" environmental lapses of the May 2010 polls, the EcoWaste Coalition said, included the nailing of campaign materials on trees and other places prohibited by the Commission on Elections, wasting too much campaign funds and materials, driving smoke-belching campaign vehicles, blasting extremely loud political jingles and speeches, leaving trash in campaign sorties and not removing campaign items after the polls.

"Another major, major shortcoming that we have observed was the failure on the part of most politicians to integrate the environmental agenda into their campaign platforms and pledges," the EcoWaste Coalition added.

To assist the candidates in campaigning in a non-wasteful way, the EcoWaste Coalition re-issued its practical guidelines for a ‘clean and green’ campaign.

To get started, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes that all those running for the October 2010 polls should assign a person or team in the campaign structure who will be responsible for greening the campaign strategies and activities.

Candidates should refrain from using excessive campaign materials such as leaflets, pamphlets, posters, stickers, decals, cloth and tarpaulin streamers, and other campaign paraphernalia.

As much as possible, propaganda materials should be in post-consumer recycled paper and carry a friendly reminder that says “para sa ating kalusugan at kalikasan, huwag pong ikalat, itambak o sunugin” or its equivalent in local languages.

Candidates should refrain from using campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled such as confetti, buntings and balloons, which often get burned or discarded in waterways, seas and dumpsites.

Politicos should spare the trees of propaganda materials that can harm and even kill them, and reject graffiti or vandalism to popularize themselves.

For litter-free campaign meetings, sorties and related activities, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following:

• Shun throwing confetti, exploding firecrackers or releasing balloons in campaign events.

• Refrain from using Styrofoam, plastic bags and other single-use containers for volunteers’ meals and drinks.

• Set up segregated waste bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards in campaign assemblies.

• Designate “eco-volunteers” to look after the bins and guide the public in the proper separation of their discards.

• Clean up right after the campaign event.

• Hire eco-aides to handle the segregated wastes for recycling and composting.

“We hope that all candidates will heed this urgent call for environmental leadership and action by campaigning ‘clean and green’ and by putting environmental conservation and protection at the core of their platforms to serve," the EcoWaste Coalition said.

-end-

27 September 2010

Green advocates push for a strong law to put an end to plastic pollution

(Photo by Gigie Cruz)
Pasay City/Quezon City. A day after the first anniversary of typhoon Ondoy, environmental health and justice advocates today went to the Senate to ask the lawmakers to enact a robust law to bring the reckless use and disposal of plastic bags under control.


To draw the Senators’ attention, members of the EcoWaste Coalition put "LeOndoy," a plastic garbage monster made of used grocery bags, at the Senate gate to greet and remind legislators of the need to “tame the plastic monster.”


The event coincided with the joint hearing called by the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce, chaired by Sen. Manny Villar, and the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, to discuss bills filed by Senators Loren Legarda, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Manny Villar on plastic bags.


“We hope that our lawmakers will prioritize such a critical environmental legislation and ensure its approval during the 15th Congress for the sake of Mother Earth. It will surely help if P-Noy will certify the bill as priority legislative measure,” added Gigie Cruz, another member of the Task Force on Plastics, who noted the failure of past Congresses to adopt essential regulations on plastics.


A text survey conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition among its partner groups revealed a range of proposals on what an effective law should stipulate to effectively prevent and reduce waste and pollution from plastic bags.


Among those who responded were Buklod Tao, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Kinaiyahan Foundation, Miss Earth Foundation, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Earth Justice Center and Zero Waste Philippines.

The top 12 ideas that the groups would like to see in the envisioned plastic law are as follows:


1. Ban the practice of giving free plastic bags to consumers in all commercial establishments.

2. Impose plastic bag environmental tax or levy.

3. Prohibit the use of plastic bags (i.e., thin film single-use plastic bags) as “banderitas”.

4. Phase out and eventually ban plastic sando bags.


5. Bar the importation of plastic bags and other single-use disposables such as polystyrene food and beverage containers.

6. Require commercial establishments to offer reusable alternatives to plastic bags.


7. Direct supermarkets and other retail and wholesale shops to allow their customers to bring and use “bayong” and other substitute containers for goods purchased.


8. Stipulate producer responsibility and accountability, including a mandatory take back for used bags.

9. Reinforce the prohibition against the littering, dumping and burning plastic waste.


10. Put up livelihood programs in the countryside to support the production of bayong and other reusable bags from native materials.


11. Provide continuing public education on the health, environmental and climate impacts of plastic bags.

12.Observe and participate in the “International Plastic Bag Free Day” every 3rd of July.


The push for a robust legislation on plastic bags, the groups said, is totally justified given the widespread contamination of the environment from the unabated production, use and disposal of plastic bags.


According to the groups, plastic bags end up mostly in the seas and dumpsites where they take a long period of time to break into miniscule bits of toxic chemicals, polluting the soil and water as well as the food chain when animals mistake them for food.


As explained by Sen. Villar in Senate Bill 1103, “plastics are essentially non-biodegradable, take more than 100 years to dissolve, pollute the air and water and damage natural habitat.”


Citing information from the UN report “ Marine Litter – trash that kills,” the EcoWaste Coalition said that plastics comprise 90% of floating marine debris worldwide. In the Philippines, a plastic discards survey organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace in 2006 showed that 76% of garbage found drifting in the historic Manila Bay were plastic materials, 51% of which were plastic bags.


Sen. Santiago in her explanatory note for Senate Bill 1543 said that “somewhere between 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year and millions end up in the litter stream outside of landfills.”


In introducing Senate Bill 1368, Senate Legarda said that “in all instances plastic bags are easily moved from place to place, clogging drainages in streets, polluting waterways and even endangering fish and ecosystems,” adding that “the production of these bags requires considerable amounts of crude oil and natural gas.”


"We ask our lawmakers to heed the admonition from Mother Earth and support the envisaged 'Ondoy Act' to stop further plastic pollution of our communities," the EcoWaste Coalition said.


-end-

References:

Sen. Loren Legarda’s Senate Bill 1368:
http://www.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=15&q=SBN-1368

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s Senate Bill 1543:
http://www.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=15&q=SBN-1543

Sen. Manny Villar’s Senate Bill 1103:
http://www.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=15&q=SBN-1103

UNEP Report “Marine Litter, trash that kills”
http://www.unep.org/regionalseas/marinelitter/publications/docs/trash_that_kills.pdf

24 September 2010

Green Groups Back Proposal to Proclaim September 26 as “Save Sierra Madre Day”

Quezon City. As the nation commemorates the fury of last year’s typhoon Ondoy this Sunday, two major green networks have thrown their support behind a growing campaign to declare September 26 of every year as “Save Sierra Madre Day.”

The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and EcoWaste Coalition in a press release expressed their unity with the Save Sierra Madre Network (SSMN), the lead group pushing for the “Save Sierra Madre Day.”

The ATM, which has over 80 members nationwide, and the EcoWaste Coalition, which has over 100 members, both strongly support SSMN’s proposal to the government to officially observe September 26 as “Save Sierra Madre Day.”

According to the SSMN, the Office of the President received their letter proposing “Save Sierra Madre Day” last July 30, which was subsequently transmitted to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for action on August 13. The draft proclamation on “Save Sierra Madre Day” is reportedly in the desk of Undersecretary Manuel Gerochi since September 16.

At the House of Representatives, Congressmen Maximo B. Dalog (Mountain Province), Carlos M. Padilla (Nueva Vizcaya) and Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr. (Ifugao) filed last September 21 House Resolution No. 00438 declaring September 26 of each year as “Save Sierra Madre Day.”

Fr. Pete Montallana, one of the convenors of the SSMN, announced last Wednesday their plan to mark Ondoy’s first anniversary as “Save Sierra Madre Day” to call attention to the urgency of protecting the 1.5 million hectare mountain range from widespread illegal logging and other “developmental intrusions.”

“Forested mountains are our best natural defenses against the twin scourges of ‘too much water’ on one hand, and ‘too little water’ on the other. Ondoy and the recent drought brought by El Nino could not have done their worst on the island of Luzon if its once-majestic protector, the Sierra Madre, had not been so degraded by unabated logging and other “developmental” intrusions,” the Aurora-based Franciscan priest said.

“Alyansa Tigil Mina believes that another Ondoy can be prevented if our remaining forests are completely protected. One way to ensure this is to stop the entry and expansion of large-scale mining operations.

The President and the Environment Secretary must declare certain areas as ‘no-go zones’ for mining, such as Sierra Madre,” stated Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator.

For its part, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the authorities to halt landfill and other “dirty” waste disposal projects that are making Sierra Madre “a graveyard of garbage.”

“Open dumpsites, ‘sanitary’ landfills and other waste disposal facilities like used tire pyrolysis plants and cement kilns firing solid and hazardous waste pose toxic threats to Sierra Madre and her capacity to sustain life amid the climate crisis,” said Rei Panaligan, EcoWaste Coalition Coordinator.

Storm Ondoy was just one of a series of storms and typhoons that devastated different parts of the country last year, snuffing lives and destroying homes, property, crops and livelihoods, the groups observed. Yet it has come to symbolize our country’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, the groups noted.

“The lesson of Ondoy is as elementary as it is clear: the more trees we have standing, the better our chances of surviving another typhoon’s onslaught – and, if we are to rely on sound scientific projections, more onslaughts are coming. The climate has changed and it is not for the better. It will continue to change and we will continue to feel it – unless we re-learn the virtue of nurturing back our environment – which ultimately is not for its sake but for ours,” the groups said.

-end-

22 September 2010

Green Groups Ask DENR Secretary to Enforce His No Landfill Commitment

22 September 2010, Quezon City, Philippines – The pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje to put into writing his commitment to suspend the issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECC) to applications for sanitary landfills.


In a letter sent today by the EcoWaste Coalition, the group also urged Secretary Paje to launch, with public participation, a review and evaluation of the operation of all existing waste disposal facilities to determine their compliance with required health, environmental and other standards.


Secretary Paje declared his commitment to suspend the ECC issuance for landfill applications during the Green SONA or State of the Nature Address organized by Green Convergence last September 16, 2010 at Miriam College, Quezon City.


“Sanitary landfills are nothing but glorified dumps, polluting our environment and endangering public health. We hope that the good secretary will fulfill his commitment by issuing an appropriate administrative order within 15 days,” said Joey Papa of Bangon Kalikasan, a member of the Task Force Dumps of the EcoWaste Coalition.


Papa mentioned the so-called "sanitary" landfills in Barangays San Isidro and Minuyan Proper in the City of San Jose del Monte, both in the province of Bulacan, as examples of waste disposal facilities which were approved by the DENR but whose operations continue as hauling and dumping of mixed wastes and releasing toxic leachate to the water systems and polluting the environment.


“There is no such thing as a ‘sanitary’ landfill. Secretary Paje must immediately stop the operations of these toxic facilities,” said Papa.


As of the last quarter of 2009, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) recorded 30 landfills already operating and 42 under construction.


“Landfills are very expensive so landfill owners and operators will encourage more mixed wastes to be dumped into their facilities. Landfills undermine the implementation of our environmental laws and the efforts of many communities to sort and segregate waste at source, compost, and recycle” said Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition.


According to the Coalition, most of the existing landfills are located in environmentally-critical areas such as protected areas, watershed, mountain ranges and foreshore lands.


Last July 2010, various green groups wrote to the DENR and the NSWMC asking them to "develop and adopt a policy that will establish a Zero Waste goal for the entire country and define essential strategies and actions towards a people-centered ecological resource management as a vehicle for environmental, economic and social renewal."
In an open letter sent to the DENR and the NSWMC, the groups proposed the adopption of a “National Solid Waste Management Strategy anchored on waste prevention, volume and toxicity reduction, segregation at source, reusing, recycling and composting, and not on costly and polluting landfills and incinerators.”


They specifically urged the NSWMC to prioritize the adoption of
long-delayed policy that will curb pollution from plastic bags and other non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging materials.


Another policy concern that the NSWMC should prioritize, the groups emphasized, is on composting, which has the huge potential of ecologically addressing the country’s biodegradable waste.


To ensure that funds will be available for the monitoring, maintenance and post-closure care of waste disposal facilities such as “sanitary” landfills, the groups proposed the imposition of commensurate bonds by the contractor that will be sufficient to pay for the necessary expenditures such as for site cleanup and rehabilitation.


Among the groups who signed the EcoWaste Coalition's letter to the DENR and the NSWMC were Ang Nars, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Citizen’s Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Environmental Studies Institute, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Interface Development Interventions and the Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives.



Reference:
Open Letter to the DENR and NWSMC re Landfills:

http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com/2010/07/open-letter-to-denr-and-nswmc-regarding.html



EcoWaste CoalitionUnit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.Quezon City, Philippines+63 2 441-1846ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

19 September 2010

Groups renew drive vs plastic bags as Ondoy’s first anniversary looms

Quezon City. As the first anniversary of typhoon Ondoy nears, waste and climate advocates called upon the Filipino consumers to give “throw away” culture the boot to restore ecological balance and health.

The EcoWaste Coalition and allied groups specifically proposed concerted action to curb crass consumerism as manifested in the thoughtless use and disposal of plastic bags and other single-use packaging materials.

“Typhoon Ondoy taught us in a deeply painful and costly way that practices which defile and destroy the ecosystems have no place in our fragile planet and should stop,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our addiction to plastic bags and to everything that is disposable has exacerbated the effects of the epic flood and made the post-Ondoy cleanup most difficult,” he said.

“By switching from disposable plastic bags to reusable bags and containers, we will dramatically cut our waste size, and clean out our waterways and dumpsites, which are bursting at the seams,” he stressed.

In lieu of plastic bags, green advocates recommend the use of practical reusable alternatives to plastic bags, including the “bayong” and other baskets made of biodegradable plant materials such as anahaw, bamboo, buri, coconut, isay, kalagimay, nipa, rattan and water lily.

In addition, consumers can buy or even design and sew their own reusable bags from used materials such as rice sacks, flour bags, old curtains and worn out clothes, they added.

“In remembrance of all the people who perished and suffered from the onslaught of Ondoy, we appeal to all Filipinos, consumers and retailers alike, to break the plastic habit and embrace a plastic bag-free and Zero Waste lifestyle,” said Gigie Cruz of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastic.

“We further ask the authorities to act now on our petition to forbid single-use plastic bags and not wait for the next Ondoy to strike,” she added.

In June 2009, over 100 groups and individuals signed a petition asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to declare a unilateral phase out of “thin film single use plastic bags to stop the plastic invasion of the environment.”

The petition initiated by the EcoWaste Coalition followed the plea by Dr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme, to phase out or ban “thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life.”

The much-sought action versus plastic bags, the petitioners said, will have direct and meaningful environmental, climate, economic and cultural benefits.

These benefits will include the: 1) protection of the coral reefs and all marine animals from plastic litter, 2) reduction in the release of greenhouse gases, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other harmful chemicals associated with the production, consumption and disposal of plastic bags, and 3) reversal of the “plasticization” of our lifestyle with the increased promotion and adoption of eco-friendly and non-toxic choices.

A survey jointly conducted by EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace volunteers in 2006 revealed that plastic bags and other synthetic packaging materials comprised 76 percent of the four cubic meters of garbage retrieved from Manila Bay.

Out of the 76 percent, 51 percent were plastic carry bags, 19 percent junk food wrappers and sachets, 5 percent styrofoams and one percent hard plastics. The rest of the recovered trash were rubber at 10 percent and biodegradable wastes 13 percent.

15 September 2010

Davao groups invoke the precautionary principle to thwart toxic menace

Davao City. Some 70 Davaoeños from the public and private sectors backed the application of the precautionary principle to safeguard the public health and the environment amid threats from toxic chemicals and processes.

At yesterday’s workshop organized by the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition and Davao-based Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), participants from educational and healthcare institutions, governmental offices and civil society groups found the precautionary principle indispensable to protect the common good.

“This is the last leg of our nationwide promotion of the precautionary principle that is integral to achieving chemical safety, especially for the most vulnerable sectors,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

At hand to impart his deep understanding of the precautionary principle was toxicologist Dr. Romy Quijano who also teaches at UP Manila College of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

"Essentially, the precautionary approach puts the protection of health and the environment over and above business interests. It should replace the current system of decision making that demands generation of extensive scientific data and requires exhaustive analysis of risks as pre-conditions to policy formulation and action,” explained Dr. Quijano.

“With the precautionary principle, there is recognition that long-term impacts of toxic chemicals are difficult to predict and often impossible to prove. It puts the burden of proof of safety on the polluter, affected communities need not carry the burden of proof of harm,” he emphasized.

The workshop heard examples of how the precautionary principle is promoted in various citizens’ campaigns and related initiatives such as in the movement against genetically modified eggplant and the aerial spraying of agrochemicals in Mindanao.

“Despite what banana plantations may say, the precautionary principle is a valid reason to stop aerial spraying as it has been adopted by other countries. The national government should take it as a primary consideration. It is the most apt way to bring social justice to countless poor small farmers in our nation," said Lia Jasmin Esquillo, IDIS Executive Director.

“This workshop is relevant to concerned groups and communities who can justly invoke the precautionary principle to push for preventive action and policies and resist the corporate push for hazardous chemicals. Pollution prevention is the only logical option,” she stated.

Visiting climate campaigner cautions against investments in “hi-tech” disposal technologies


(Photos by Leo Sabangan)

Quezon City. Investments in the waste sector should not go towards costly high-tech end-of-pipe technologies but towards Zero Waste that will dramatically reduce the amount of trash sent for disposal.

US-based Neil Tangri, a waste and climate campaigner of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), pointed this out today before a gathering of over 50 waste activists in Quezon City that GAIA co-organized with the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Investments in waste reduction, source separation, extended producer responsibility, informal recycling sector and other initiatives will lead to a progressive reduction on the volume and toxicity of waste sent for disposal,” he said.

“By now, there is general agreement around the world on the best way to manage municipal waste. This is codified in the waste hierarchy and the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” indicating a preferential order for handling waste: source reduction is the highest priority, followed by finding the “highest and best use” for each discard,” Tangri said.

He drew attention to the important role that the informal recycling sector plays in developing countries like the Philippines.

“Wastepickers are the de facto recycling system in much of the world; if not for their work, the waste problem would be much worse than it already is. But they can do much more if they are given investment, opportunities, and above all, respect,” he said.

To lower the amount of waste going to dumps, reduce greenhouse gas and toxic air emissions and provide additional employment, local authorities should seek cooperative arrangements with wastepickers to implement source separation and treatment of organics, Tangri suggested.

He explained that the apparent fixation on disposal technologies are “in part, because these are the most profitable aspects of waste management, and in part, because so many open dumps and garbage mountains persist around the world, with their attendant health and environmental hazards.”
“Almost anything appears to be an improvement over open dumps and open burning, but we should not fall prey to ‘second worst’ technologies, of which there are many: engineered landfills with gas collection, incinerators, refuse-derived fuel and staged incinerators are all expensive technologies which fail to solve the garbage problem,” he said.
Echoing what local activists have been saying, Tangri argued that end-of-pipe disposal technologies undermine resources for Zero Waste while creating new problems such as toxic emissions, hazardous solid waste, increased greenhouse gas production, and reduced employment in recycling.

“Even as engineered landfills attempt to capture methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – they are managed in such a way to increase methane production, much of which escapes to the atmosphere despite the engineers’ best efforts,” Tangri said. “Landfills also produce large quantities of toxic leachate which contaminates ground and surface waters.”

During the forum, waste and climate activists rejected mass burn incinerators as major sources of toxic air emissions and solid hazardous waste in the form of incinerator ash.

Also, by destroying resources, these incinerators increase the demand for virgin wood, plastic, paper and other materials and causing rising environmental destruction in raw material extraction.

Contrary to their billing, incinerators are also major sources of greenhouse gases, the activists said.

Tangri also rebuffed refuse derived fuel (RDF) and other “incinerators in disguise.”

“Refuse derived fuel, whether burned in a purpose-built incinerator or a cement kiln, is nothing more than dried mixed waste, with all the attendant dangers of waste incinerators,” he said.

“Staged incineration processes such as plasma, pyrolysis and gasification, use large quantities of energy to break the waste down into a gas before burning it. They are an immature technology, prone to leaks, high emissions releases, and even explosions. And they generally end up using more energy to break the waste down than they can recover from burning it,” he added.

Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act prohibits the “burning of municipal, bio-medical and hazardous wastes, which process emits toxic and poisonous fumes.”

A related law, Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, reinforces the prohibition against waste burning with the “adoption of best environmental practices in ecological solid waste management excluding incineration.”
-end-

13 September 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Government to Act against Cancer-Causing Cadmium in Children’s Jewelry

Quezon City. A group campaigning for children’s safety from harmful chemicals has called attention to the latest toxic scare sweeping across the US today: cadmium, a known carcinogen, in children’s jewelry.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which recently asked the Aquino government, to test toys for toxic chemicals as the Christmas season looms, revealed that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has so far issued five recall orders for cadmium-tainted children’s jewelry from China, prompting policymakers to seek stringent standards.

The California State Senate, for instance, approved a law last August banning the manufacture, shipment or sale of children's jewelry containing more than 0.03 percent cadmium by weight beginning in 2012.

“We’re concerned that the government has yet to respond to this newly recognized threat of cadmium exposure to the health and wellness of children who are most vulnerable to toxic poisoning,” said Manny Calonzo, former president of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The government should conduct toxicological tests on children’s jewelry samples and immediately recall and dispose in an environmentally-sound manner those laced with cadmium and other chemicals of equivalent concern,” he said.

“We need to be on a 'red alert' to ensure that rejected children’s jewelry as well as toys containing elevated amounts of cadmium, lead and other toxic substances are not dumped into the Philippine market,” he pointed out.

Government action against cadmium in children’s jewelry, the EcoWaste Coalition said, is in line with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) that seeks to
"prevent the adverse effects of chemicals on the health of children and other vulnerable groups and susceptible environments."

From January to July this year, the CPSC has issued recall orders targeting more than 200,000 “made in China” children’s jewelry due to their high levels of cadmium, warning that “cadmium is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects.”

Among the items recalled were children’s metal necklaces, pendants, rings, bracelets, earrings and trinkets that were imported from China and sold in various retail outlets in the US.

The CPSC further instructed consumers to stop using the recalled products immediately, while making it illegal to resell or attempt to resell the recalled products.

While cadmium is listed in the revised Priority Chemical List comprised of 48 chemicals, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has yet to issue a chemical control order (CCO) that will regulate the use of cadmium and cadmium compounds.

The DENR has so far issued only four CCOs for asbestos, cyanide, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls. CCOs are issued to prevent and reduce serious risks to public health, workplace and the environment from the “priority chemicals.”

According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, breathing high levels of cadmium can severely damage the lungs. Eating food or drinking water with very high levels severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Long-term exposure to lower levels of cadmium in air, food, or water leads to a buildup of cadmium in the kidneys and possible kidney disease. Other long-term effects are lung damage and fragile bones.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that cadmium and cadmium compounds are known human carcinogens.

According to the Europe-based Safe Toys Coalition, which includes the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives as members, children are much more sensitive to exposure to toxic chemicals than adults.

"Their body systems are still premature and developing. Due to their different behavior they have different patterns of exposure, like putting things in the mouth. They are unaware of risks and unable to protect their health," a statement by the Safe Toys Coalition said.

“Even the smallest amounts of hazardous chemicals are sufficient to harm the development of a child – sometimes with lifelong consequences. The increasing allergy and cancer rates demonstrate this,” the Safe Toys Coalition warned.


References:

CPSC Infant/Child Product Recalls:
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/child.html

ToxFAQs for Cadmium:
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/TF.asp?id=47&tid=15

Safe Toys Coalition:
http://safetoyscoalition.org/statement/

Philippine Priority Chemical List
http://www.google.com.ph/#hl=en&source=hp&q=Philippine+Priority+Chemicals+List&aq=f&aqi=g7g-s1g2&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=84411640a447d95b

10 September 2010

Government Urged to Test Toys for Dangerous Chemicals with the Onset of “Ber’ Months

Quezon City. With the start of the “ber” months, a toxic watchdog has called on the authorities to test toys for harmful chemicals to ensure that only safe toys are offered for sale in the build-up towards Christmas gift-giving.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a network campaigning for children’s health and safety from toxic chemicals, made the plea as the countdown to Christmas begins.

“To make the holidays merry and safe, especially for kids, we ask the government to guarantee that only truly non-toxic toys are placed on store shelves and sold to consumers,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Over the next few months, stores will be stocking up heaps of alluring toys in anticipation of the increased demand during the season of gift-giving,” he noted.

“We all owe it to the Filipino children that toys laced with chemicals linked to mental retardation, brain damage, behavioral disorders and the like are strictly banned and kept out of children's hands,” he emphasized.

The group recently went “shop browsing” in Divisoria that many considered as a bargain hunters’ paradise for toys and all other consumer products.

The recent toxic toys scare in Singapore prompted the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlertToxic Patrol to visit the popular 168 Mall, Divisoria Mall, New Divisoria Center and the many toy stores in the vicinity.

“We’re amazed to see many toy vendors enjoying a brisk sale ahead of the Christmas shopping spree,” Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“At the same time, we’re upset to see many toys without adequate labels that could guide consumers on whether these toys are suitable and pose no potential health and safety risks to kids,” he added.

‘But, what really stunned us was seeing two of the toys that failed chemical toxicological tests commissioned by a consumer group in Singapore,” he said.

Last August 16, the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) released the results of the test it conducted involving 50 toys that found 23 of them (or 46%) containing higher than permitted levels of phthalates, lead or both.

CASE bought the toys, all China-made, from local shops and sent them to an accredited laboratory. The toys selected for the test included:

1) Brightly and/or colorfully painted toys (indication of possible presence of excessive lead contents)

2) Soft and pliable plastic toys (indication of possible presence of excessive phthalates)

Out of the 23 toys that failed chemical tests, 16 exceeded the limit for phthalates, 3 exceeded the limit for lead, while 4 exceeded the limit for both phthalates and lead.

According to CASE, the permissible limit for phthalates based on US regulatory standards is 0.1% weight/weight, while that for lead in accessible substrate materials is 300 parts per million (ppm).

International regulatory standards, CASE said, specify that the limit for lead in paint/similar surface coating materials is 90 ppm.

Phthalates are industrial chemicals used as plastic softener that have been linked to damage to the human reproductive systems, as well as liver, kidney, and lung damage in animals, while lead is a neurotoxin that attacks the brain and the nervous system, and is especially hazardous to infants and young children.

The same toys were also subject to physical, mechanical and labelling tests conducted using the American Society of Testing and Materials Standards (ASTM) F963-08 for toy safety, CASE reported.

According to CASE, 5 of the toys failed physical or mechanical tests. Out of these, 2 toys posed a potential choking hazard to young children because the components of the toy could easily be detached. 2 toys failed the design requirements for a toy gun, in which special toy gun markings are required to ensure the toy is not mistaken for a real firearm. The other toy failed physical tests as its packaging did not meet the minimum thickness required by the standards.

-end-

Reference:

CASE Report on Phthalates and Lead in Toys:
http://www.case.org.sg/downloads/central/Nearly%20half%20of%20toys%20tested%20by%20CASE%20harmful.pdf

08 September 2010

Church and Environmental Leaders Push for Ban on Cyanide-Laced Silver Cleaners to Save Lives

Quezon City. To mark the World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) on September 10, church and the civil society leaders have joined forces in urging the government to move fast in purging the market of unregistered and unlabeled silver jewelry cleaners laced with cyanide, a fast-acting poison.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. and EcoWaste Coalition’s Secretary Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, in a joint press release, exhorted the Aquino administration to act against the rising incidents of suicide cases through the deliberate intake of cyanide-mixed silver cleaners.

“We now know that the intentional ingestion of cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaners is a major cause of premature death among Filipino adolescents and adults facing life crisis,” said Bishop Iñiguez, who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“The government has to act decisively to cut the immoral sale of this deadly concoction. Ban cyanide-laced silver cleaners now to reduce suicide rates and save lives,” the leader of the Diocese of Caloocan pointed out.

According to police sources, the Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela (CAMANAVA) area has the most number of suicide cases, 68 in 2008, with victims reportedly drinking silver cleaners, hanging or shooting themselves.

For her part, Dr. Paquiz affirmed the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” as she requested the authorities to ban market access for illegal silver cleaning products.

“Prohibiting the manufacture, distribution and sale of silver cleaners that are not duly registered, properly labelled and certified free of cyanide is essential to preventing both accidental and non-accidental poisoning cases beforehand,” she said.

According to the UP National Poison Management and Control Center (UPNPMCC), the non-accidental ingestion of silver cleaners has dramatically risen from 7% in 2005 to 86% in 2009.

Data from the UPNPMCC also show that in 2009 alone, 11 Filipinos (three in the adult age group and eight in the pediatric age group) died out of 235 cases of silver cleaner poisoning handled by or referred to the Center. From January to June 2010, nine have already died (four adults and five children).

The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says that exposure to high levels of cyanide harms the brain and heart, and may cause coma and death. Exposure to lower levels may result in breathing difficulties, heart pains, vomiting, blood changes, headaches, and enlargement of the thyroid gland.

A project of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the WSPD promotes global commitment and action to prevent suicides.

Governments, according to the WHO, need to develop policy frameworks for national suicide prevention strategies. At the local level, policy statements and research outcomes need to be translated into prevention programmes and activities in communities.

“The Philippine government can show its solidarity with the IASP and the WHO by launching a strong policy and action plan to combat poisoning from cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaners and through other effective prevention activities,” Bishop Iñiguez and Dr. Paquiz said.

Banning cyanide-laden cleaners, they further said, will promote the Filipino’s people right to health as well as advance the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global strategy to protect human and ecological health from the damaging effects of toxic substances, including chemicals in products and wastes.

-end-

Reference:
WHO World Suicide Prevention Day:
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/annual/world_suicide_prevention_day/en/index.html

06 September 2010

Group Uncovers Illegal Sale of Banned Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics in Baclaran



The illegal sale of imported skin whitening products previously recalled by the government for containing elevated amounts of mercury, a highly toxic chemical, has not ceased.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxic watchdog, made this conclusion after being able to buy seven of the forbidden cosmetics at various shops inside the Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall in Pasay City.

“Several months have already passed since these mercury-laced skin lightening products were banned for posing imminent danger or injury to consumers and we can still purchase them like ordinary personal care products,” an exasperated Aileen Lucero, project staff of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT, said.

“We urge consumers to seek out mercury-free cosmetics to safeguard their own health, and we beg the government to intensify their action against recalcitrant vendors,” she added.

Last Sunday, September 5, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol bought samples of the proscribed items in Good Year Chinese Drug Store in Pasilio K and in three beauty product shops located in Pasilio B-55, C-39 and D-04 of the popular shopping center adjacent to the Light Rail Transit (LRT) terminal in Baclaran.

This is the fifth time this year that the AlerToxic Patrol conducted test buys in Metro Manila to check business compliance to the directives issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banning mercury-tainted skin whitening creams and lotions.

Among the banned products still on sale in Baclaran include 1) Gemli Glutathione Grapeseed Extract Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 2) Jiaoli Huichusu Whitening Speckles Remover Cream, 3) Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 4) Jiao Yan Specific Miraculous Cream, 5) JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 6) S’Zitang 10-day Whitening and Spot Day/Night Set, and 7) Yinni Green Tea Quick Acting Whitener and Speckle Remover Package.

The FDA issued three Circulars this year banning various skin lightening products, mostly imported from China, for containing excessive levels of mercury in direct violation of R.A. 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009.

In response to the EcoWaste Coalition’s market surveillance last July, FDA Director Nazarita Tacandong told the group in her letter dated August 27, 2010 that “as part of quality check, we conduct regular monitoring of cosmetic products in the market and recently we have confiscated banned products as cited in our Circulars 2010-002, 2010-004 and 2010-011.”

“Other suspicious cosmetics products have been collected for laboratory analysis to check for the presence of heavy metals in accordance to the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive,” she added.

Mercury use in cosmetics products, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), can have adverse effects including skin rashes, discolouring and scarring and can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin disorders.

The UNEP publication “Mercury in Products and Wastes” also warned that direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys.

The safest protection, UNEP advised, is not to use such products.

If you do use skin lightening products, only use those with labels that you understand and that do not contain mercury or mercury compounds, UNEP further said.

-end-

References:

FDA Circulars 2010-002, 2010-004 and 2010-011:
http://www.bfad.gov.ph/default.cfm

UNEP Mercury in Product and Wastes:
http://www.chem.unep.ch/mercury/awareness_raising_package/C_01-24_BD.pdf

02 September 2010

EcoWaste Coalition Advises Candidates to Stick to No Frills, Garbage-Free Campaign

Quezon City. As candidates gear up for the synchronized barangay and youth elections on October 25, environmentalists advised aspiring community leaders to wage a no frills and garbage-free campaign.

Leaders of the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, exhorted all aspirants to campaign "green" as the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) announced last Tuesday the calendar of activities in connection with the upcoming polls.

As per COMELEC Resolution No. 9019, candidates may file their certificates of candidacy from October 1 to 13, and may start to campaign beginning October 14 to 23.

‘As frontline leaders in building clean and healthy neighborhoods, we expect those seeking barangay and youth council positions to set a good example in green leadership and governance by campaigning simply and ecologically,” said Roy Alvanrez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Instead of wasting resources for excessive campaign leaflets, posters and banners that will likely end up as trash, why not mount a more personal campaign that will foster better connection between the candidates and the grassroots?,” Alvarez suggested.

“A no frills house-to-house calls, street corner chats, ‘palengke’ and 'barbero' visits and meetings with different neighborhood associations are effective means for reaching out and informing voters about the candidates’ credentials and plans,”he said.

Community members, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, will be searching for would-be leaders who can offer hopes as well as deliver real solutions to typical barangay concerns such as ecological waste management, disaster preparedness, drug abuse prevention, public safety and order, conflict resolution, jobs and livelihoods.

“Given the state of the climate and the environment, voters will keep their eyes open for potential leaders who can enforce the basic elements of community-based Zero Waste resource management, a key strategy to foster clean and healthy communities,” stated Eileen Sison, NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

“We therefore suggest to candidates to commit clearly how they intend to implement R.A. 9003 locally. Of course, they will have more credibility if they walk their talk and adhere to garbage-free campaigning,” added Sison, another leader of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the barangay is tasked to develop an ecological solid waste management program, promote waste separation at source, enforce a segregated collection for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, and establish Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) in every barangay or cluster of barangays.

The MRF, also known as Ecology Center, is a basic mechanism for the systematic management and recovery of useful discards, which would otherwise end up in waterways, dumpsites or landfills and result to pollution.

Data from the website of the National Solid Waste Management Commission show that there are 6,141 MRFs serving 6,744 barangays as of the last quarter of 2009, which is only 16% of the 42,000 barangays across the archipelago.

The EcoWaste Coalition also stressed the need for barangay leaders to recognize, integrate and partner with the informal recycling sector, including the waste pickers, in the community implementation of R.A. 9003.

Garbage disposal through open dumping, open burning or through “sanitary” landfills and incinerators can lead to the formation and release of toxic leachate, greenhouse gases, persistent organic pollutants and other chemical threats to the community health and environment, the EcoWaste Coalition explained.

-end-

References:
COMELEC Resolution No. 9019:
http://www.comelec.gov.ph/2010%20Barangay_SK/resolutions/res_9019.html


Data on Barangay MRFs:
http://emb.gov.ph/nswmc/eswm%20facilities/MRFs.PDF