29 December 2011

New Year Revellers Cautioned against Air Pollution from Firecrackers and Fireworks

An organization of environmental health advocates has teamed up with the country’s pulmonary experts in advising the public about the health risks associated with firecrackers and fireworks as the New Year’s eve revelry approaches.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network addressing waste, chemical and climate issues, and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP), a recognized authority in pulmonary medicine, jointly urged the public to shun pyrotechnics for health and safety.

According to the groups, the air pollution resulting from the massive detonation of firecrackers and fireworks represents a real health risk for all people, especially the most vulnerable population groups.

To emphasize the toxicity of emissions from the blasting of firecrackers and fireworks, EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol from Buklod Tao and other groups gathered outside the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City wearing gas masks and holding “right to clean air” placards.

“The toxic smoke and dust resulting from pyrotechnics explosion contain many nasty pollutants, including suspended particulate matters, that can easily enter the lungs and put people’s health at risk,” said pulmonologist Dr. Maria Encarnita Blanco-Limpin, President of PCCP.

“These pollutants pose great risk to infants and young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with existing heart, neurological and respiratory problems,” she pointed out.

Aside from particulate matters, pyrotechnics-related pollutants include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, metal, nitrous and sulfuric oxides.

Limpin added that these toxic chemicals are also found in cigarettes that people, especially the vulnerable groups, are constantly exposed to every moment of their lives.

“We would like to remind our people to be vigilant about the dreaded diseases caused by these chemicals every day of the year. These are preventable ailments if people will be more aware and decisive, and with active government intervention," Limpin explained.

For her part, Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition’s Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner, pointed out that “from all indications, the wild use of firecrackers and fireworks goes against our basic right to breathe safe air as protected under the Clean Air Act.”

“Our communities practically become huge gas chambers exposing all of us to a cocktail of chemical contaminants, the combined effects of which can be drastically toxic to health,” she lamented.

“We suggest that we honestly re-examine this toxic tradition, which is totally not in sync with ongoing local and global efforts to cut pollution, improve environmental quality and lessen the impacts of the climate crisis. Please heed P-Noy's timely call for a safe celebration,” Lucero added.

President Benigno S. Aquino III had earlier said that "it is time for new thinking, let us all welcome the New Year safely with regard for life and the environment.”

Respiratory problems that can be activated or aggravated by pyrotechnics include allergic or chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, laryngitis, pneumonia, rhinitis and sinusitis, according to the Department of Health (DOH) Memorandum 2011-0301.

“People in the cities already inhale significant amounts of contaminant particles stemming from industrial, traffic and cigarette emissions, and the dense smoke caused by fireworks may aggravate their health conditions,” the health advisory pointed out.

According to the advisory, studies have shown that the levels of suspended particulate matter or fine dust and other pollutants increase to an unprecedented levels in air during fireworks displays.

SPM levels can cause throat, nose, eye related problems and can lead to headaches and reduced mental acuity.

The effects will be much more severe in people with heart, respiratory or nervous system disorders, the DOH warned.

SPM can also aggravate problem for people suffering from cold allergies or coughs and can also cause congestion of throat and chest, the DOH added.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had recently warned that pollution from pyrotechnics would set back the gains in improving the air quality, particularly in Metro Manila, where the level of total suspended particulates (TSPs) declined during the first three quarters of 2011.

Based on DENR’s monitoring, TSPs decreased from 130 ug/ncm to 120 ug/ncm in the third quarter of 2011 compared to the same period of 2010.




28 December 2011

"Dogs" and "Cats" Rally vs Firecrackers and Fireworks, Lament "Acoustical Torture"

“Dogs” and “cats”, along with their human friends, peaceably assembled outside the Manila Zoo to send their message loud and clear: firecrackers and fireworks are hazardous to animal health.

Since real dogs and cats cannot speak for themselves, EcoWaste Coalition’s volunteers donning animal-like headgears drew attention to the cruel ordeal that pet and stray animals have to endure due to the massive pyrotechnics explosion to hail the New Year.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network working on waste, climate and chemical issues, is campaigning for a non-toxic New Year’s gaiety that is safe not only for humans, but for other animals and rest of the ecosystems.

Before marching through the streets of Barangay 721, Zone 78 in Malate, Manila, youth performers belonging to the Cavite-based Malikhaing Landas na Magpapayabong sa Sining at Kultura (Malaya) acted out the anguish and pain that animals such as dogs, supposedly man’s best friend, put up with during the warlike revelry.

Through dance, mime and movement, they showed how frightened animals flee in panic and go into hiding for fear of the loud bangs combined with noxious gases.

“Our New Year’s revelry is like a terrifying battlefield for cats, dogs and other animals whose ears are far more sensitive than humans. It’s like being subjected to ear-splitting acoustical torture for them,” lamented Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We can stop this cruel aggression against our animal friends by saying no to firecrackers and fireworks,” she pleaded.

According to veterinarians, exposure to firecracker explosions can cause acoustic trauma for animals, especially for dogs and cats, because their sense of hearing is no less than 10 times more delicate than that of humans.

They can also get poisoned from eating firecracker wrappers and residues laced with harmful chemicals.

Panic resulting from firecracker explosions can cause stomach upsets or discourage animals from taking their meals.

Among those who came to express their solidarity with animals were the representatives of the Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Malaya, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Piglas Kabataan and the Rotaract Club of Rotary Club North Bay East.

To help animals cope with the unbearably loud noises from firecrackers and fireworks, the groups recommended the following tips for pet owners and other concerned citizens:

1. Appeal to family members and neighbors not to burst firecrackers.

2. Create a safe and comfortable place where your pet can hide from fumes and noises.

3. Observe where your pet goes when she is frightened and give her access to that place such as under the sofa or bed. Let your pet come and go freely to her “comfort zone.”

4. Encourage your pet to engage in an activity that diverts her attention away from startling noises and from behaving fearfully.

5. Refrain from soothing or giving treats to your pet when she is behaving frightfully as she may interpret this as a reward for her anxious behavior.

6. Don’t punish your pet for being terrified of firecrackers as this will only make her more scared.

7. Don’t try to force your dog to experience or be close to her source of fear as this can make her aggressive in her desire to escape from the situation.

8. Keep your gate closed and your perimeter secure to prevent your pet from wandering off due to panic.

To prevent pets’ exposure to toxins and other hazardous substances, the groups further suggested the following:

1. Keep hazardous materials out of reach of your pet, including plastic bags and wrappings, tobacco products, cleaning solutions, and phosphorous-containing items such as pyrotechnic devices, incense, matches and mosquito coils.

2. Keep common holiday food treats such as chocolate, grapes, macadamia nuts, popcorn, fruit cake, raisin bread and alcoholic beverages, away from your pet as these may cause stomach, kidney and liver ailments as well as choking hazard.


27 December 2011

Global Study Detects Harmful Chemicals in Bedroom Dust that can Harm Human Health

As you spruce up your home, particularly your bedroom, in preparation for the New Year, have you ever asked what is on your household dust?

A global study has determined the presence of environmental toxicants in dust samples that can enter and harm the human body, the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog reported.

“Home Sweet Home: Dusty Surprises Under the Bed,” a report prepared by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) and 11 partner organizations, including the EcoWaste Coalition, provided a snapshot on the assortment of chemicals that humans can be exposed to through household dust.

The bedroom dust samples were obtained from six European, four African and two Asian countries, including the Philippines - from a home in Malabon City – and subsequently tested in reputable laboratories in Germany and Sweden.

Among the toxicants found in bedroom dust from 12 countries were alkylphenols, bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants, perflourinated chemicals, phthalates and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury.

“Not even when we are sleeping, are we safe from environmental toxicants. Indoor dust globally contains hazardous chemicals, which can endanger our health. Children are extra sensitive and more exposed to toxicants in dust, especially to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Rendering everyday life free from toxicants must accelerate,”said Mikael Karlsson, Chairman of SSNC, Sweden’s biggest and oldest environmental organization.

Polluted dust can be inhaled, ingested as it is deposited on foods, and when children put dusty objects in their mouths, or be deposited on the skin, through which fat-soluble chemicals from the dust may be absorbed, the report said.

For her part Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect said: “The results underscore the need for stronger chemicals regulations to ensure that hazardous chemicals in common products are phased out and substituted with alternatives to reduce health risks, especially when these chemicals interact producing toxic cocktail effect.”

“Cocktail effect” refers to the “combination effect” of chemicals in a mixture that contribute to the properties of the mixture, including its toxicity, where it is known that the total toxicity of a mixture can surpass the toxicity of its most toxic component.

Information from the “Chemical Body Burden” website says that "no one is ever exposed to a single chemical, but to a chemical soup, the ingredients of which may interact to cause unpredictable health effects."

The dust sample from the Philippines, which does not claim to be a representative sample for the entire country, ranked highest among the 12-country dust samples in terms of BPA, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) flame retardants and phthalates (particularly, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate or DEHP, a suspected human carcinogen).

For BPA, the daily exposure level for the dust sample from the Philippines corresponds to the concentrations that have been found to create effects in animal experiments.

For PBDE flame retardants, the cumulative concentration of the Philippine sample was found to be over 10,000 times greater than the Malaysian sample, which has the lowest cumulative concentration.

For phthalates, the greatest deviations from other studies were from developing countries, particularly the Philippines.


To read the report, please log on to:


Additional information culled from the “Home Sweet Home” report:

1. BPA: "Accumulate in organisms due to chronic exposure and disrupt the body’s endocrine system. Impairments of fertility and cancer are effects that have been seen in animal studies.”

2. PBDE flame retardants: “Very persistent in nature. Accumulate in organisms, and many of them are capable, or are suspected of being capable, of disrupting the body's endocrine system, and consequently, among other things, affecting fertility and causing cancer.”

3. Phthalates: “Break down easily in nature, but at least some of them can disrupt the body’s endocrine system and consequently affect fertility. Some are classified as toxic to reproduction, and are suspected of being carcinogenic.”

26 December 2011

Malate Kids March for Safe New Year's Eve Festivities

Less than a week before an eventful year comes to an end, a band of cheerful children today went out on the streets of Malate in the city of Manila to promote a kid-safe celebration of the New Year.

Members of the Children’s Ministry of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish wowed commuters and residents as they happily flaunted alternatives to hazardous firecrackers during the event dubbed as “Ligtas Salubong 2012.”

The annual collaboration between the Care for the Earth Ministry and the EcoWaste Coalition since 2008 showcased the use of creative noisemakers to welcome the New Year in a safe way, complementing the earnest efforts by the Department of Health and other agencies.

“New Year revelers should take their cue from these smart kids and refrain from buying and letting off firecrackers that could endanger the health and life of both users and non-users,” said Rev. Fr. John Leydon, the Parish Priest.

“With a little creativity, we can have a joyful celebration with our families and neighbors without causing toxic fumes and wastes and loud cries from children wounded in firecracker explosions,” he said.

For Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, “the money saved by not blowing up firecrackers and fireworks can aid ongoing humanitarian efforts in places ravaged by storm Sendong.”

“We can avoid headline-grabbing carnage and garbage following the revelry by simply shunning pyrotechnics,” she further said.

The group first assembled in front of the historic church and then paraded in the surrounding area enticing the public, particularly their fellow kids, not to light or even touch firecrackers to avoid injuries and exposure to harmful gases.

In lieu of firecrackers and fireworks, the children blew traditional trumpets (torotot) and created lively sounds from assorted noisemakers, including common stuff from the kitchen such as pans and pots that are generally safe for kids to use.

Citing data from the Department of Health, the group pointed out that 34 % of all firecracker-related injuries from December 21 to January 5, 2010 involved children age 1 to 10.

The victims sustained injuries from blasting without amputation (79%), eye injuries (15%), and blast injuries with amputation (6%).

Of the 1,022 total injuries during the said period, 972 were firecracker-related, 39 were from stray bullets and 11 from the ingestion of firecrackers.

The National Capital Region had the most number of recorded cases at 581, followed by the Ilocos Region (73 cases), Central Luzon and CALABARZON (66 cases each), and Western Visayas (65).

As of 6:00 am of December 25, 2011, there were 30 injuries reported involving people from 2 to 49 years old, according to the Department of Health's "Aksyon: Paputok Injury Reduction" (APIR) surveillance update.



24 December 2011

"Money is not for burning, send it south to help Sendong survivors"

On the eve of Christmas Day, an environmental health group urged Filipinos from all walks of life to celebrate the holidays without firecrackers and fireworks and to channel the money saved to support disaster relief and rehabilitation work in the Visayas and Mindanao.

The EcoWaste Coalition reiterated its call for “Iwas PapuToxic” as President Benigno S. Aquino III enjoined the people to let the thousands of grieving families affected by tropical storm Sendong “feel they are not alone.

“Let us provide the torch of concern and love and show that they belong to a bigger family,” the President said in his Christmas message to the nation.

Concerned government agencies, companies and individuals can contribute to the Sendong relief and rehabilitation funds by choosing not to blow up firecrackers and fireworks, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Money is not for burning. The ten pesos saved from buying a box of the banned Piccolo to the more costly firework shows put up by local government units and businesses can be sent to the south to help Sendong survivors,” said Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition’s Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner.

“Donations no matter how small can improve the living conditions of the disaster survivors and lighten up their heavy loads,” she said.

“It would be insensitive for us, the non-victims, to brighten up the skies with toxic-laced fireworks, while many have no roof over their heads and very little to feast on during the most festive time of the year,” she added.

“The disaster survivors as well the good-hearted donors from here and abroad will surely appreciate such a gesture of sensitivity and compassion,” she also said.

In a recent statement, Lucero, along with Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, Jr. and former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., jointly suggested the cancellation of pyrotechnic displays in deference to Sendong victims and survivors.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona followed suit saying that “the money that we have allotted for fireworks can be donated to the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of … Sendong.”

“This will ensure that that we usher in the New Year free from harm and with a deep sense of fulfillment,” Ona said.


22 December 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Raises Concern over Toxic Pollution from Firecrackers and Fireworks

Is the toxic cocktail worth the colorful and dazzling show?

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, raised this question after finding significant quantities of metallic elements in all the 11 firecrackers bought from street vendors in Divisoria, Manila.

Using a handheld device called the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the EcoWaste Coalition detected arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, manganese and zinc, which are used to create sparkles and colors in pyrotechnics.

On the average, each firecracker sample contains 3 to 6 of these metals that are added to the black powder mixture of charcoal, sulfur, potassium or sodium nitrate.

Among the samples, “Sparklers,” which sells for 20 pesos per box, was found to contain the highest levels of barium at 25,000 ppm, 2,935 ppm of zinc, 1,874 of manganese, 807 ppm of chromium and 17 ppm of arsenic.

A “Pili Cracker,” which costs 25 pesos per pack, had 5,126 of lead and 1,492 ppm of copper, while a “Christmas Tree” had 195 ppm of cadmium.

“We are very concerned about the health effects of these crackers and sparklers many of which are held by hands or lighted near users who directly breathe the toxic fumes,” said Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It’s even hard to imagine the toxic cocktail created from the simultaneous blasting of huge quantities of firecrackers and fireworks during the countdown to the New Year, especially in urban areas,” she added.

“In fact, the chemical smog can persist for hours if not days after the revelry turning the atmosphere into a virtual gas chamber. This is especially hazardous for infants and children, pregnant women and people suffering from chronic asthma,” she pointed out.

According to a recent advisory by the Department of Health, “people in the cities already inhale significant amounts of contaminant particles stemming from industrial, traffic and cigarette emissions, and the dense smoke caused by fireworks may aggravate their health conditions.”

The Department of Environment had earlier said that pollutants from firecrackers and pyrotechnics lead to the formation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje had warned that the pollution would also slow down the gains in improving the air quality, particularly in Metro Manila, where the level of total suspended particulates (TSPs) declined during the first three quarters of 2011.

Based on DENR’s monitoring, TSPs decreased from 130 ug/ncm to 120 ug/ncm in the third quarter of 2011 compared to the same period of 2010.

Knowing the adverse impacts to health, environment and climate, the EcoWaste Coalition has renewed its call for an emission-free and injury-proof New Year celebrations sans firecrackers and fireworks.

The group had earlier sought a critical review of Republic Act 7183, the law regulating firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices, to make it in full harmony with the country’s environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

21 December 2011

Green Group Calls for Simple Christmas Celebration as Sendong Survivors Grieve, Pushes Cancellation of Firework Shows

Simple Christmas: Members of the EcoWaste Coalition urge the general public to opt for simple Christmas celebrations sans lavish parties, toxic fireworks and gargantuan quantities of trash and to share the money saved to help the Sendong disaster victims and survivors in Mindanao.

EcoWaste Coalition Calls for "Simpleng Pasko" as Sendong Flashflood Deaths Soar

A citizens’ environmental watchdog today gathered in Plaza Miranda in front of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila to urge the public to celebrate Christmas sans extravagance and wastefulness in deference to the grave humanitarian crisis unfolding in Northern Mindanao.

The EcoWaste Coalition lighted candles and called for “Simpleng Pasko” (Simple Christmas) amid the heartrending devastation left by tropical storm Sendong in Mindanao that took the lives of over 1,000 people and left thousands mourning and homeless.

To dramatize their advocacy for “Simpleng Pasko,” three kids donned mock gift boxes with the words “Reduce,” “Reuse” and “Recycle” as others sung Christmas carols, while a man dressed as Santa Claus asked passersby to opt for austere celebrations and "help Sendong survivors."

“We invite the faithful to celebrate the joyful season in a way that is closer to the simplicity of the first Christmas and to find inner happiness in looking after our fellow human beings and the environment,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“By toning down our celebrations to bare essentials, we avoid falling prey to the obtuse consumerism that has veiled the genuine meaning of Christmas and literally wrapped our surroundings with trash,” he explained.

For her part, Tin Vergara, EcoWaste Coalition’s Zero Waste Campaigner said that “money saved from the lavish gifts, parties and fireworks can be used to help Sendong survivors rebuild their homes and their lives.”

“We’re not asking people to junk Christmas, but to embrace a ‘Simpleng Pasko’ and find abundant joy in responding to the call for humanitarian help from the disaster survivors,” she added.

The group exhorted the public to give generously to disaster relief and rehabilitation programs initiated by various church, civil society, media and government organizations to help the flood-ravaged communities, especially in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

Specifically, the group urged the public and private sectors to cancel planned firework shows and divert the funds to aid grief-stricken families in reconstructing their houses and in coping with their psychological and economic losses.

A “Simpleng Pasko,” according to the group, would require a conscious effort to cut down holiday expenses and wastes and rejoice in an austere and eco-friendly celebration of the Redeemer’s birth.

Unrestrained celebrations eat up huge amounts of raw materials and energy, and generate voluminous wastes and pollutants, including greenhouse gases that cause the planet to heat up, the group pointed out.

The discarded plastic bags, disposable containers, packaging materials and party leftovers from Christmas bazaars and parties usually end up in marginalized communities where these are either buried or burned, posing health and environmental hazards to residents.

“We therefore urge the public to be environmentally responsible and remember the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) as Christmas is observed,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.


20 December 2011

Cancellation of Firework Shows Pushed as Sendong Disaster Death Toll Rises

(Photco courtesy of AFP)

A religious leader, a political statesman and a chemical safety activist have proposed a commonsensical way of raising funds to help the Sendong tragedy survivors in Mindanao: cancel the firework shows.

In a joint statement, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr., former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. and EcoWaste Coalition’s “Iwas PapuToxic” campaigner Aileen Lucero recommended the cancellation of pricey firework displays to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.

The call was made as the death toll from the tropical storm sharply rose to over 900 as more bodies were recovered by rescuers.

“I appeal to the sense of compassion of those planning to put up firework shows to drop your plans and contribute the unspent funds to help the Sendong flood victims,” suggested Bishop Iñiguez who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“Such a merciful gesture will surely get heavenly rewards as this is beneficial for both the people and the environment,” he said.

For her part, Lucero stressed “it truly makes sense for every Filipino not to burn money for short-lived entertainment from dazzling firecrackers and fireworks knowing the scope and extent of the destruction caused by Sendong.”

“Cancelling the numerous pyrotechnic shows will generate substantial funds that can be put to good use, including the provision of shelter and livelihood assistance for the survivors, while at the same time preventing dangerous toxicants from aggravating the air quality,” she pointed out.

“I support without equivocation the call of the EcoWaste Colaition for the cancellation of firework shows and use the money saved for Sendong disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts,” stated ex-Senator Pimentel, a former mayor of Cagayan de Oro City that was hit hardest by ravaging flashfloods.

The EcoWaste Coalition last week launched its “Iwas PapuToxic” drive to prevent physical injuries as well as toxic pollutants associated with the use of firecrackers and fireworks to greet the New Year.

Last Friday, 17 spectators were injured when a pyrotechnic device misfired at the annual Lantern Parade in the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus, resulting to burns and wounds.

Following the Sendong tragedy, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it has scaled down the AFP Day celebration on December 21 and has canceled the use of fireworks, saving the AFP some P3 million that will be used for rescue and relief operations in affected areas.

"We hope government agencies, corporate firms and even households will take their cue from the AFP, cut down on party expenses and cancel firework shows in deference to Sendong victims and survivors," Lucero stated.


19 December 2011

Beware of Chemical Toxins in Glasses, Mugs and Plates

A waste and pollution watchdog that has played a key role in exposing hazardous chemicals in children’s products today bared another potential source of toxic exposure: the glasses, mugs and plates on your table.

The EcoWaste Coalition today reported that it has detected sky-high levels of toxic elements on several beverage and food containers purchased from popular retail outlets in Metro Manila.

The samples were obtained from Landmark Department Store in Quezon City; Puregold Supermarket in Cubao, Quezon City; Robinsons Supermarket in Mandaluyong City; Shopwise in Vito Cruz, Makati City and Savemore in Santa Ana, Manila City. All purchases had receipts.

The EcoWaste Coalition has notified the retail outlets about the test results and requested the management to remove the tainted products off the store shelves.

Twelve of the 18 samples, or 67%, were found to contain antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead above levels of concern, particularly on the decorative enamel designs.

50% of the samples had lead above the 90 ppm threshold for children’s products, with the highest reading at 87,500 ppm. Lead is particularly used as ingredient in paints and in ceramic glazes.

Cadmium, which is considered carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, was present in 89% of the samples.

“We are deeply concerned about the test results as there really is no safe amount of exposure for lead, cadmium and other toxic elements. These potent toxins should not be present in food contact materials,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“It’s high time that food contact materials are confirmed safe from harmful chemicals and duly labeled before being sold in the market,” she added.

The US National Safety Council has warned that lead can leach from glasses, mugs and plates into beverage and food and thus advised the public to “be wary of using or of storing food or beverages in highly decorated or metallic-coated tableware.”

A glass tumbler with red strawberry design obtained from Robinsons ranked number one for lead at 87,500 ppm and also for arsenic at 10,800 ppm, cadmium at 8,888 ppm and antimony at 1,408 ppm.

"Sex Cup" glasses, also bought from Robinsons, tested with elevated levels of toxic metals: 31,600 ppm of lead, 4,696 ppm of arsenic, 3,571 of cadmium, 3,336 of chromium and 592 ppm of antimony,

Another glass tumbler with floral design from Shopwise had 64,000 ppm of lead, 8,879 of arsenic, 8,481 of cadmium and 1,433 of antimony.

An orange and black ceramic drinking glass from Landmark topped the samples with the highest amount of chromium at 33,800.

Mugs painted with popular comics characters, all procured from Puregold, had lead in the range of 4,321 ppm and 23,500 ppm.

A “Dora the Explorer” frosted mug had 23,500 ppm of lead, while a “Spider Man” mug had 17,200 ppm and a “Winnie the Pooh” mug had 8,649 ppm.

A “Bella” coffee mug from Savemore contained 5,410 ppm of lead and shed significant quantities of arsenic, cadmium and chromium.

According to toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio, the long term effects of lead exposure in children can include learning disabilities, decreased intelligence, poor language and reading skills, impaired motor and visual functions, hearing loss, attention deficit disorder, memory and behavioral problems and even stunted growth, while lead exposure in adults can bring about hypertension, reproductive disorders and cancer.

“Lead, absorbed through eating, breathing and skin contact, builds up in the body, particularly in the bones. Even small amounts can affect neurobehavioral performance and result to other health issues over a longer period of time,” said Antonio who is also the President of the Philippine Society of Occupational and Clinical Toxicology,


17 December 2011

Christmas Plea: Recycle, It's Not Waste Until It's Wasted

A waste and pollution watchdog reminded Filipinos to temper their trash as the shopping frenzy peaks in the lead up to Christmas.

The EcoWaste Coalition pushed for the purposeful reduction of holiday trash (holitrash), saying that every kilo of garbage that is disposed of has to go somewhere.

According to government data, Metro Manila generates up to 8,600 tons of waste daily or about 25% of the national waste production of some 35,000 tons per day, 30 to 50 percent of which get collected and disposed of in 643 open dumpsites, 384 controlled dumpsites and 38 landfills.

“We generate more trash during the yuletide season given the blast of activities that eat up huge amounts of resources and yield volumes of discards,” observed Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“People shop, dine and socialize a lot during the extended holidays producing extra tons of holitrash, which, if not reused or recycled, will turn into garbage and get buried or burned somewhere,” he said.

“It’s not waste until it’s wasted, so we advise our kababayan to exert every effort to segregate your discards and creatively reuse or recycle them,” he added.

“Of course, you will have less discards to worry about if you tone down your consumption and disposal habits during the holidays,” he further said.

Recycling, the EcoWaste Coalition said, diverts waste away from disposal facilities such as landfills and incinerators by finding new uses for used, broken or old materials.

The group’s call for greater recycling is shared by Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr., head of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“Recycling is a practical gift that we all can give our Mother Earth during this joyful season of love and hope. I therefore encourage all families to shed consumerism and the ensuing throw-away culture and to waste less by recycling more. A family that recycles together builds a healthy home together,” said Bishop Iñiguez,

To trim down the holitrash, the EcoWaste Coalition exhorted the public to shop in moderation with the welfare of Mother Earth in mind, avoiding plastic bags, disposables and products that are excessively wrapped.

The group also urged the public to diligently sort their discards, turn the organics into compost to enrich depleted soils and to reuse or recycle non-biodegradables such as can, glass, metal, paper and plastic.

Christmas boxes, wrappers, ribbons, cards and decorations should not be thrown away, but stored for future uses, the group pointed out.

The group specifically asked the public to reduce food waste and to ensure that excess foods are shared with friends and neighbors, including the homeless, in the true spirit of Christmas.

Recycling is good for all Filipino households and communities, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, citing commonsense reasons why everybody should recycle during the holidays and beyond:

- Recycling reduces the volume of garbage to be disposed of.

- Recycling avoids disposal costs that can be used to meet basic needs.

- Recycling conserves the Earth’s limited resources.

- Recycling prevents land clearing, tree cutting and mining activites.

- Recycling saves a lot of energy.

- Recycling creates job and income.

- Recycling builds eco-conscious families and communities.


Reference for waste disposal data:

15 December 2011

Group Launches "Iwas PapuToxic" for Reduced Pollution and Injury, Proposes "Barangay Tsibugan Kapalit ng Putukan"

Are a few minutes of noxious entertainment really worth losing your fingers and eyesight, while defiling the surroundings and wasting your parents’ hard-earned income?

Environmental and health advocates led by actor Roy Alvarez posed this question before an attentive crowd of some 1,300 pupils at the Pinyahan Elementary School in Quezon City.

In response, the Grade 1 to Grade VI pupils, along with their parents and teachers, gleefully shouted “no” in unison to blasting firecrackers to ring in the New Year.

This was the lively scene at the annual “Iwas PapuToxic” event organized by the EcoWaste Coalition that has “Action for Paputok Pollution and Injury Reduction” (APPIR) as its theme, complementing the Department of Health-led firecracker safety drive this year.

The young participants excitedly showed off their eco-friendly noisemakers made from materials commonly found in many households such pot lids, tin cans and plastic bottles, which instantly filled the air with energetic sounds.

“These safety-conscious kids have shown that we can greet the New Year with sounds from recycled noisemakers instead of the customary firecrackers and fireworks,” said Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“By opting for emission-free and injury-proof New Year’s revelry, we save lives and limbs and prevent poisonous chemicals from causing air, water and land pollution,” she added.

Joining the Pinyahan students in the lively "Iwas PapuToxic" event were Department of Health Spokesperson Dr. Eric Tayag, Quezon City District IV Councilor Edcel Lagman, Jr. and school and barangay leaders.

Apart from causing grave if not deadly injuries, exploding firecrackers and fireworks causes toxic pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

“Assigning common areas for blasting firecrackers and fireworks will not trim down the huge amounts of toxic fumes, metallic elements and particulate matters associated with the dirty and violent rites,” observed Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“In lieu of designating common pollution spots, local authorities should identify and enforce ‘paputok-free zone,’ particularly in fire-prone neighborhoods and in areas near hospitals, schools, playgrounds, zoos and churches,” he said.

“Funds allocated for firework shows from public or private sources are better spent to meet basic human needs such as food for the hungry. Barangay tsibugan na lang kapalit ng putukan,” Alvarez added.

During the “Iwas-PapuToxic” launch, environmentalists called attention to the pressing need to stop extensive pollution from firecrackers and fireworks amid the unfolding climate crisis.

Air pollution, they said, is exacerbated by the dispersal of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere triggering allergies, heart disturbances, asthma attack and respiratory ailments, including bronchitis, laryngitis, emphysema and pneumonia.

Water pollution is worsened by fallouts and residues from firecrackers and fireworks that go down to storm drains, rivers and seas contaminating the marine ecosystems, they noted.

They lamented that land pollution is aggravated too by the non-recyclable and non-reusable paputok waste, including cellophane, plastic and paper scraps, as well as used PVC pipes from “boga” (mock cannon).

Also, massive noise pollution is created by the loud bangs and tremors that can disturb, upset and scare humans as well as animals, and even damage the sense of hearing, they pointed out.


EcoWaste Coalition's Top 15 Eco-Friendly Noisemakers to Welcome 2012:

1. Blow Pinoy-style trumphets (torotot).

2. Clank improvised cymbals such as pot covers or pans.

3. Jangle some maracas from used tin cans.

4. Rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle crowns.

5. Jiggle "piggy banks" or "shakers" from paper box or plastic bottles with seeds, pebbles or coins.

6. Play homemade drum made of big water bottles, biscuit cans or buckets.

7. Create whistling sound or get a whistle and blow it.

8. Strike the batya or palanggana (washbasin) with a ladle or stick.

9. Bang empty coconut shells.

10. Play your favourite music or musical instruments or just turn on the radio.

11. Set the alarm clock at 12:00 midnight or play ringtones altogether.

12. Beep the bicycle or car horns.

13. Clap your hands and stump your feet.

14. Laugh at the top of your lungs.

15. Do the latest dance craze, twist and shout “Happy New Year!”

14 December 2011

Toxics Watchdog Asks Authorities to Halt Sale of "Dirty" Counterfeits

Fourteen of 17 products marked with popular images of “Angry Birds,” or 82% of the samples, tested positive with toxic metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead above levels of concern.

The EcoWaste Coalition divulged its most recent discovery about "dirty" products as bargain hunters flock to tiangge markets to buy inexpensive Christmas giveaways during the yuletide season.

As part of its drive to urge consumers to be on the lookout for hazardous chemicals in products, the EcoWaste Coalition over the weekend bought 17 gift items in Quiapo and Santa Cruz, Manila and had them analyzed for toxic metals.

“We looked around for easy-on-the-pocket and trendy children’s products and settled for items bearing images of wingless 'Angry Birds.' We presume these are imitation products tapping into the popularity of 'Angry Birds' game,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The "Angry Birds" products, costing P5 to P80, were bought from informal vendors in Carriedo St. and Lacson Underpass, Quiapo and in Rizal Ave., Santa Cruz.

The items were tested for lead and other metals on December 13 using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer conducted by representatives of QES (Manila), Inc.

Extreme quantities of lead, a neurotoxin that has no safe level for childhood exposure, were found in 12 samples with one item packed with 17,000 ppm of lead in excess of the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm.

"As a precautionary measure, we urge the authorities to stop the sale of these dirty products before the notorious poison wrecks havoc in children’s growing brains,” he said.

All three samples of "Angry Birds" mugs were "dirty" with the "dirtiest" sample containing 17,000 ppm of lead, 3,351 of cadmium, 3,068 ppm of chromium, 2,769 ppm of arsenic and 713 ppm of antimony.

All four samples of "Angry Birds" children's PVC-made bags were found "dirty" with a pink backpack having 5,336 ppm of lead, 6,661 ppm of chromium and 886 ppm of arsenic.

All three samples of "Angry Birds" kids' footwear had lead with the strap of one sample filled with 3,841 ppm of lead.

A petite eraser with "Angry Birds" design was found loaded with 177 ppm of cadmium.

According to Dr. Bessie Antonio, President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology: “Exposure to lead could cause a host of health issues such as decreased bone and muscle growth, hearing loss, speech and language disorders, behavioral problems, learning disabilities and decreased intelligence. Even low level exposure can have a lifetime effect on a young child.”

“Lead in paint maybe swallowed, inhaled or absorbed by the skin. Because of their hand-to-mouth activities, children are more vulnerable to lead exposure,” she pointed out.

The EcoWaste Coalition has asked Rovio Entertainment Ltd., the Finland-based licensee of "Angry Birds" merchandise, to confirm or deny if any of the tainted samples were on their authorized product lines.

The company has yet to respond to the group's e-mail query.

"Angry Birds," a puzzle video game created by Rovio Mobile, is highly popular and has exceeded half a billion downloads worlwide, according to www.rovio.com.

Due to its immense popularity, "Angry Birds" can now be seen in various licensed as well as counterfeit products such as accessories, bags, comics, costumes, footwear, jewelry, pillows, posters , shirts and, of course, toys.


08 December 2011

Toxic Watchdog Finds Loads of Ugly Chemicals in Beauty Products

A toxics watchdog has found extremely toxic ingredients and impurities in some of the most purchased products during the Christmas season: cosmetics.

In its latest toxic exposé, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed the presence of toxic metals in a variety of beauty and personal care merchandise such as eyeshadow, face makeup, lipstick, mascara, nail polish and skin whitening cream.

The items were bought from sidewalk vendors, cosmetics stalls and drug stores in Binondo, Divisoria, Quiapo and Santa Cruz, Manila between December 1 to 4 and screened for heavy metals on December 5 using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

The heavy metals detected in 23 out of 44 samples (52%) include arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, mercury and nickel.

Mengdu Paris No. 6, a lipstick that costs P30, contained five of these elements and registered with the highest levels of chromium and lead at 281 and 2,277 parts per million (ppm), respectively, while a Beauty Girl Ginseng and Green Cucumber skin lightening cream had 43,400 ppm of mercury as well as traces of arsenic, cadmium and cobalt.

“These toxic metals must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products under the ASEAN as well as the European Union cosmetics directives," said Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Some of the metals found were way above the ASEAN’s reference values for post-market surveillance of 1 ppm for mercury, 5 ppm for arsenic and 20 ppm for lead, Lucero pointed out.

Toxic metals, the group pointed out, are associated with a host of serious health ailments, including reproductive defects, developmental disorders, neurological and behavioral problems, and cancer.

These metals can readily pass into the body system through the highly permeable skin, and in the case of lipstick even swallowed, so normal use of such tainted products results in exposure.

“Samples with non-detectable levels of heavy metals are not necessarily safe as we were not able to test them for added chemicals of concern such phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals,” clarified Lucero.

Out of the 10 skin whitening creams tested, eight had mercury, a neurotoxin, up to 43,400 ppm, which is astronomically beyond the ASEAN threshold of 1 ppm. On average, the eight samples had 10,479 ppm of mercury. Three of these samples were already banned by the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines, but are still blatantly sold (Beauty Girl Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Double Whitening Speckles Removed, Berglotus Spot Removing Series and Jiaoli Miraculous Cream).

Mercury above 1 ppm was also detected in 15 other cosmetics such as in six samples of lipstick, five eyeshadow, three nail polish and one mascara.

Out of the 16 lipsticks tested, two had lead, a chemical that can damage the brain even at low concentrations. One had 113 ppm of lead and the other had 2,277 ppm, exceeding the ASEAN limit of 20 ppm, and the 0.1 ppm limit set by the US Food and Drug Administration for candy to protect children from directly ingesting lead.

Lead was also detected in three eyeshadow samples, and in one nail polish sample.

The highest values found for the other metals were 1,960 ppm of cobalt in a Qianyu eyeshadow; 417 ppm of arsenic in a Yaxi nail polish; 281 ppm of chromium in a Mengdu Paris lipstick; 190 ppm of cadmium in a Chinese Lipstick No. 217; and 94 ppm of nickel in an Ads Fashion blush-on.

The EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that none of the toxic metals found in the samples were listed as ingredients in the product labels,and only a few had warning labels.

For the health and safety of consumers of beauty and personal care products, the EcoWaste Coalition has put forward some suggestions,specifically for the multi-million cosmetics industry:

1. Remove all heavy metals and manufacture only toxic-free goods.
2. Replace other chemicals of concern with non-hazardous substitutes.
3. Disclose all chemical ingredients, including impurities,on the product labels and online.
4. Provide hazard labeling for products containing ingredients linked to cancer and other major health issues.

The EcoWaste Coalition has forwarded the test results to the FDA Philippines for their appropriate action, including the necessary recall of contaminated products.



European UnionCosmetics Directive including Annex II (list of substances which must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products):

ASEAN Cosmetics Directive Annex II (list of substances which must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products):

Heavy metals limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive:

07 December 2011

Tondo Ban against Hazardous Recycling of Busted Lamps Takes Effect Today

An unprecedented ban against the breaking of busted fluorescent lamps will take effect today, December 7, in a recycling community in Tondo, Manila.

By virtue of Resolution 11-25 adopted by the Barangay Council on November 7, informal recyclers in Barangay 105, Zone 8, District 1 are now forbidden from manually breaking lamp waste to retrieve recyclable components, a process that releases mercury vapor into the surroundings.

Barangay Chairman Luisito Reyes sought full public cooperation to curb mercury pollution from the informal recycling of lamp waste in the area.

“We appeal to our constituents to fully observe the ban against the unsafe recycling of mercury-containing lamp waste,” said Reyes.

“Mercury vapors that escape from the breaking of busted lamps is hazardous to community health,” he reminded.

Kagawad Marlene Tumbokon, who chairs the health committee, pointed out that the barangay policy hopes to prevent occupational and community exposure to mercury.

“By avoiding improper disposal and recycling of mercury-containing lamp waste, we avoid our recyclers and the larger community from being exposed to this dangerous chemical,” she said.

In cooperation with the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, the Barangay Council put up posters enjoining community members to follow the said public health policy.

The posters were distributed widely at Sitio Damayang Lagi and other recycling sites in the area
“We support this timely initiative by the Barangay Council and call upon our government and business leaders to recognize and assist their effort to cut back mercury pollution,” stated Thony Dizon,Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Dizon reiterated the need for ecological collection and recycling of broken or spent mercury-containing lamps, including the introduction of extended producer responsibility or EPR to ensure the environmentally-sound management of lamp products throughout their life cycle.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, mercury, a potent neurotoxin, can interfere with the brain and the nervous system and can be most dangerous for pregnant women and young kids.

Mercury vapor, in particular, can have damaging effects to the central and peripheral nervous systems, lungs, kidneys, eyes and skin.

Exposure to mercury can cause a variety of ailments among children such as mental retardation and other developmental disorders, cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness.


EcoGroups Warns Cebu LGUs on the Hazards of “Waste-to-Energy” Burn Facilities

Cebu City – Environmental and health networks EcoWaste Coalition, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), together with the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), warn the local government units and other community stakeholders about pending proposals to put up waste incinerators masquerading as waste-to-energy facilities in the province and the hazards posed by such toxic facilities.

“Waste incinerators continue to spread behind disguises such as 'waste-to-energy', ‘pyrolysis’, ‘gasification’, ‘plasma arc’, or any combination of state-of-the-art sounding names despite the ban on waste incineration. These facilities emit toxic chemicals into the environment and undermine efforts of communities implementing genuine solutions such as waste minimization, segregation-at-source, and barangay-based ecological solid waste management,” bared Rei Panaligan, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.

In a workshop on waste-to-energy held yesterday at University of Cebu, the groups revealed that the provincial government of Cebu, headed by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, is entertaining proposals from incinerator companies to manage the solid waste of the province. Also incinerator companies have pending proposals in the province’s major cities such as Cebu City, Mandaue City and Toledo Ctiy.

But according to the EcoWaste Coalition, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and European Union (EU) declared these technologies as incinerators. The Philippine Clean Air Act prohibits the use of incinerators for municipal and medical waste.

The groups urged the local government units not to be wooed by coated promises of corporations paddling dirty technologies and for the public to remain vigilant against the proliferation of these toxic facilities.

"What we don’t realize is that we are squandering valuable resources by sending our discards to wasteful, hingly-pollutive facilities such as landfills and incinerators when most of them can be re-used, recycled, or composted. We are already suffering from the disastrous environmental impacts of coal plants aside from the non-implementation of the environmental laws. We do not need additional toxic facilities in Cebu that will aggravate our situation!” said Atty Gloria Estenzo Ramos, co-founder of the PEJC.

According to the 2007 report of the US EPA, carbon-dioxide emissions per energy produced from incinerators are more significant than coal-fired power plants.

For her part, Sonia Astudillo of HCWH emphasized the environmental health impacts of burning municipal and medical wastes. “Incinerators inevitably emit carcinogenic dioxins – the most toxic man-made compound – and neuro-toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc. Just imagine the poisons we expose our communities and ourselves to when we say yes to waste incinerators,” she said.

“The good news, however, is that environmentally-sound waste management alternatives like discards segregation, re-use, recycling and composting are easier to do and are much cheaper. For medical wastes, alternatives like autoclave and microwave are very much available in the country and hospitals have successfully managed their waste without burning it,” emphasized Astudillo.

The said workshop was attended by local officials from Cebu City, Mandaue City, Toledo City and representatives from the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region VII and University of San Carlos. Civil society groups such as Action for Nurturing Children and Environment, Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates (AYNLA), Freedom from Debt Coalition, Junior Tourism Executives, Sanlakas, and Teachers Dignity Coalition also joined the said event.


06 December 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Steps Up Drive vs Toxic Toys in Baclaran ("Toy Check-Up" Held to Gauge Safety of Christmas Toys)

A toxics watchdog has intensified its campaign to inform and warn consumers about the chemical hazards in some toys being sold in the market amid the pre-Christmas shopping spree.

In a bid to reach out to grassroots consumers, the EcoWaste Coalition organized today the first ever free-of-charge “Toy Check-Up Tent” outside the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran, Parañaque City.

The event coincided with the Feast of Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus or “Father Christmas”, the generous gift-giver, on December 6.

“We have come here to draw consumers’ attention to the problem with buying and giving untested, unregistered and unlabeled toy gifts that could contain toxic substances and cause adverse health effects among children,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Toys tainted with lead, mercury and other toxic chemicals present a clear and present danger to young children who often put their hands and playthings into their mouths,” he emphasized.

For her part, Dr. Bessie Antonio, President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, stressed that "efforts must be made to prevent and reduce children's exposure to heavy metals, many of which are dangerous for a child's developing brain and body even at low levels."

The group employed a hand-held device called the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer to identify and measure chemical elements in toy products bought by participating consumers.

The XRF, a screening technology routinely used by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, allows the rapid identification and measurement of up to 20 elements in a product without destroying the sample.

Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. conducted the XRF “toy check-up” with assistance from the EcoWaste Coalition’s “AlerToxic Patrol.”

The group also distributed leaflets reminding consumers to exercise their rights to product information and safety to avoid purchasing toys that can expose children to harmful chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition last July 2011 analyzed 435 children’s products bought from various retail outlets in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City and found 124 samples (29%) containing at least one toxic metal above levels of concern.

Antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury were among the toxic metals found in children’s accessories, cosmetics, toys and school supplies.

None of the tainted products contained warning labels to inform consumers about their toxic ingredients.

To avoid buying unsafe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to habitually read product labels and to demand information about chemical ingredients.

The Department of Health through Administrative Order 2007-32 requires all locally produced and imported toys to state the following on their labels: a duly registered name and trademark, a model reference number, the name of the manufacturer or distributor, and the place, country and year of manufacture, as well as warnings and precautionary indications.

Consumers are also advised to look for the manufacturer’s License to Operate (LTO) number, an indicator that the toy has complied with the DOH’s documentary requirements.