Quezon City. A toxic watchdog has sought the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to stop the illegal sale of silver jewelry cleaner, a lethal potion, that has killed at least seven Filipinos from December 2010 to February 2011.
In a letter sent today to PNP Director General Raul Bacalzo, the EcoWaste Coalition urged police authorities to take urgent action “to stop the string of disheartening deaths due to the unintended or intended ingestion of toxic silver cleaners.”
“We recommend immediate police operations against unscrupulous silver jewelry shops and vendors to send a strong and unequivocal message that the government means business when it comes to protecting human lives against deadly silver cleaning agents,” wrote Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
The group also suggested that such operations be undertaken by the PNP in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), other concerned national and local agencies, and the mass media.
At a meeting convened today by the EMB to address the lingering issue of silver cleaner poisoning, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed to the need for effective communication of the government policy banning unregistered and/or unlabelled silver cleaning products, as well as for ensuring public access to counselling and other psychological support services to thwart suicide attempts.
Based on its monitoring, seven Filipinos with age ranging from 2 to 47 have died from December 2010 to February 2011 due to the accidental or suicidal intake of silver cleaning agents containing cyanide and other harmful chemicals.
Of the seven fatalities, five were reported as suicide cases. The other two cases involved accidental drinking of the lethal solution by a boy and a girl who were both two-year old at the time of their death.
Among the victims as documented by the EcoWaste Coalition were Rea Patricio, 14-year old of Navotas City who died on December 8, 2010; Manny Bacani, 2, Muntinlupa City, December 16, 2010; Marissa Ruega, 19, Caloocan City, December 19, 2010; Armando Fabon, 47, Caloocan City, January 11, 2011; Christine Gomez, 2, Santiago City, Isabela, February 2011; Jenny Rose Aspe, 17, Tondo, Manila, February 2, 2011; and Jade Dinero, 39, Caloocan City, February 3, 2011.
The Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last year issued a joint advisory banning silver jewelry cleaning solution with cyanide and other toxic substances as ingredients.
Signed by Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona and Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, the Joint DOH-DENR Advisory 2010-001 strictly prohibits the sale of silver cleaning agents not duly registered with the FDA and not properly labelled, saying that such products pose a “threat to health and safety."
According to the DOH and DENR, “laboratory analysis of samples of these silver cleaners solution show elevated levels of cyanide, clearly posing imminent danger or even death to humans, particularly when accidentally or deliberately ingested.”
However, test buys conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol in December 2010 and in January 2011 showed rampant sale of unregistered and unlabelled silver cleaning products in Metro Manila despite the supposed ban.
Such a situation led to Health Undersecretary Mario C. Villaverde issuing Memorandum Circular 2011-004 last January 3 to restate the ban as directed by the said Joint DOH-DENR Advisory.
Violators of the ban shall be penalized under the provisions of the FDA Administrative Order 312 (P.D. 881) on Household Hazardous Substances, and DENR Administrative Order 97-39 of Republic Act 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act.
I. References to the silver cleaner poisoning fatalities from December 2010 to February 2011:
Rea Patricio, 14, Navotas City (suicidal intake), 8 December 2010
Manny Bacani, 2, Muntinlupa City/Tondo, Manila (accidental intake), 16 December 2010
Marissa Ruega, 19, Caloocan City (suicidal intake), 19 December 2010
Armando Fabon, 47, Caloocan City (suicidal intake), 11 January 2011
Christine Gomez, 2, Santiago City, Isabela (accidental intake), 2 February 2011
Jenny Rose Aspe, 17, Tondo, Manila (suicidal intake), 2 February 2011
Jade Dinero, 39, Caloocan City (suicidal intake), 3 February 2011
II. Joint DOH-DENR Advisory on Silver Jewelry Cleaner: