30 August 2011

Learn from Baguio City "Garbageslide," LGUs told

The collapse of Baguio City’s monstrous garbage repository that killed at least five people prompted the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, to press anew for effective closure and rehabilitation of dumpsites nationwide.

Last Saturday, the retaining wall of the Irisan dumpsite gave way at the height of typhoon “Mina,” killing siblings Apolinario, Franco and Reviller Flores and Gefonie and Noemi Cael.

“The crumbling of the Irisan dumpsite evoked memories of the Payatas tragedy on July 10, 2000 when a mountain of trash tumbled, burying a community and killing over 300 people,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“As families grieve over their tragic losses and as the city government removes truckloads of garbage off the road, we urge LGUs to learn from this latest garbage disaster and ensure it does not happen again,” he added.
“As we all know, simply erecting a fence or wall around the dumpsite is not enough,” he noted.

Systematic rehabilitation of decommissioned dumpsites is required to reduce the continuing biological, chemical and physical threats from these disposal facilities, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

“We therefore urge concerned LGUs to carry out robust dumpsite closure and rehabilitation plans that will ensure public health and safety, especially during fierce weather disturbances,” Alvarez stated.

“As an immediate step, the Environmental Management Bureau and the LGUs should conduct honest-to-goodness compliance checks for all disposal facilities to determine if basic safety requirements are adhered to,” he added.

“Such compliance checks must involve all stakeholders, including representatives from host communities and from environmental health organizations," he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace had previously asked the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) through former Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to adopt “best practice” in dumpsite closure and rehabilitation.

The "best practice" for dumpsite closure and rehabilitation, the groups pointed out, includes: public disclosure of closing and rehabilitation plans; formation and empowerment of a multipartite monitoring team per dumpsite with strong representation from the concerned stakeholders at the start of the process; a historical assessment of the dumpsite/waste disposal facility to get a better understanding of the nature of wastes in the dump and determine appropriate measures to deal with the closure and rehabilitation properly; as well as the establishment of leachate collection systems.

Closure and rehabilitation plans, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed, should adequately address the needs of dumpsite waste pickers and their families, ensuring that they are provided with humane homes and livelihoods.

To eliminate dependence on costly garbage disposal facilities, the EcoWaste Coalition also asked LGUs to effectively implement community-driven, inclusive Zero Waste resource management, including discards separation at source, reusing, recycling, and composting.

“Zero Waste will significantly help in reducing the volume and toxicity of garbage and divert reusable, recyclable and compostable materials away from dumpsites, landfills and incinerators,” Alvarez said.

There are 790 open and 382 controlled dumpsites all over the country, according to the NSWMC website.

Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, stipulates the closure of open and controlled dumpsites by February 16, 2004 and February 16, 2006, respectively.

Among other requirements, RA 9003 directs the establishment of materials recovery facilities (MRFs), also known as ecology centers, in every barangay or cluster of barangays to promote and support waste prevention and reduction at grassroots level.


29 August 2011

Environmental Health Group Pitches More Ideas for Anti-Dengue Campaign

An environmental watchdog has put forward more ideas as public and private groups intensify grassroots-level drive versus dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which earlier pushed for “source elimination” as best strategy to combat dengue, is now proposing a “creative re-design” of school uniforms and children's clothes as another practical measure to protect kids from mosquito bites.

“There’s a place for our great pool of innovative designers in the country’s fight against dengue. We need protective clothing ideas that will safeguard our children from Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that fly and feed during daytime,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We’re calling on our civic-minded designers to rise to the occasion. Please come up with creative, color-appropriate, weather-suitable and affordable options that will lessen children’s exposure to mosquitoes, especially in communities where dengue occurs,” he added.

Alvarez addressed his appeal to the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines, Fashion Designers Council of the Philippines, Fashion Designers Alliance Manila, Young Designers Guild of the Philippines, Young Fashion Designers Group of the Philippines and other related associations.

Also, the EcoWaste Coalition has proposed a review of the safety aspects of the chemical fogging and spraying operations being carried out by local government units.

"We’ve been seeing well-meaning government personnel conducting fogging and spraying activities that have been proven ineffective in stopping the reproductive lifecycle of dengue mosquitoes,” Alvarez noted.

The Department of Health (DOH) discourages indiscriminate fogging and only recommends it “when there is an impending outbreak (in potential hotspots) as evaluated by the health officers.”

“For the safety of sanitation workers and the community members at large, we urge the authorities to disseminate safety guidelines on the fogging and spraying of chemicals into the surroundings, giving due emphasis to essential precautions and safe alternatives,” Alvarez said.

In addition to being the least effective measure versus the dengue bane, the EcoWaste Coalition is concerned over the potential harm that chemical fogging and spraying can cause to people, especially to young children and the elderly in densely populated places.

The group is likewise concerned with the potential harm that chemicals can cause to mosquito predators and other animals in the environment.

Also, it will be useful for the health authorities to provide safety guidelines on the use of mosquito-repellent coil, cream, lotion and spray, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested.

The group had earlier emphasized the importance of properly managing common household and personal trash in the fight against dengue.

Discarded glass and plastic bottles, tin cans, coconut shells, plastic bags, polystyrene containers, snack packs and sachets should not be simply thrown anywhere as these items can gather and hold water and turn into ugly breeding sites for mosquitoes, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The group further advised the recycling public to pay attention to how recyclables are stored, ensuring that they are kept dry and clean so as not to attract mosquitoes, as well as roaches and rodents.


27 August 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Blasts Illegal Sale of Banned Whitening Cosmetics in 8 Cities

A group assisting the government in weeding out mercury-laced cosmetics from the market slammed the cruel sale of skin whitening creams previously recalled for posing “imminent danger or injury” to consumers.

The EcoWaste Coalition criticized defiant retailers after obtaining 45 pieces of 12 banned skin lightening products in test buys the group carried out from August 24 to 26, 2011 in the cities of Las Piñas, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Muntinlupa, Pasay and Quezon in Metro Manila, Cebu in the Visayas and Davao in Mindanao.

“It is still business as usual for some Metro Manila cosmetic retailers who willfully sell the mercury-tainted skin whitening products, stubbornly defying the ban,” observed Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“In Davao City, a retail outlet would not even sell Jiaoli singly, but by the dozen,” she said.

“Gladly, we did not find any of the recalled products at the shops we visited in Cebu City,” she added.

"We appeal to cosmetic traders and retailers to stop the heartless sale of mercury-added cosmetics and protect users from toxic harm," she pleaded.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director Suzette Lazo last August 4, 2011 released an expanded list of banned 50 skin whitening creams containing mercury above the 1 part per million (ppm) threshold limit.

The list contains the 11 brands tested last month by the EcoWaste Coalition in partnership with IPEN that were found to contain from 1,085 to 28,600 ppm of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause allergic reactions, skin irritations and other neurotoxic effects.

Yoko Gentleman Cream by Siam Yoko Co. Ltd., Thailand (which sells from 20 to 50 pesos) and Jiaoli Miraculous Cream by Gelidai Jiaobao Cosmetics Co. Ltd., China (which sells from 80 to 120 pesos) were the top two “most available” brands in the market from among the banned products.

Other banned products that the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol procured during its latest test buys were Beauty Girl Natural Olive and Sheep Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, Berglotus Spot Removing Series, Doctor Bai Intensive White Revitalizing and Speckle Removing Set, JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, Jiaoli 10 Days Eliminating Freckle Day and Night Set, Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (two types), Pretty Model Whitening and Freckle Removing Set, Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening and Anti-Spot Cream and S'Zitang Cream.

The products were purchased from a variety of retail outlets such as Chinese drug stores, cosmetics shops, herbal health and beauty stalls and “tiangge” booths.

According to the FDA, the importation, selling, or offering for sale of the recalled products containing high levels of mercury is a violation of Republic Act 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009.

The EcoWaste Coalition has e-mailed a copy of test buys report to FDA Director Lazo. Copies of the report will be sent next week to concerned mayors of the cities where the recalled items were bought with a request for swift law enforcement action.


23 August 2011

Toxic Watchdog Alarmed by Rugby Sniffing in Metro Streets

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxic watchdog, exhorted the authorities not to turn a blind eye to the unchecked sale of toluene-based rugby glue to out-of-school youth.

“Despite the ban on over-the-counter sale of rugby glue, we still find youngsters sniffing the health-damaging stuff in full view of the public,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We are dismayed at the apparent ease of buying the addictive substance from hardware stores as if it was an ordinary product,” he observed.

“It’s time for the authorities to get tough against vendors engaged in the illegal sale of rugby, reach out to the victims and give them a new lease on life,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the government, along with other collaborators, to offer compassionate assistance to “solvent addicts” to help them get rid of the toxic habit through counseling, rehabilitation and the provision of educational, value-formation and skills-building opportunities.

The group’s appeal for governmental action was in response to the common sighting of street children and youth sniffing rugby under the MRT tracks in EDSA Cubao, at the intersection of Aurora Boulevard and Araneta Avenue and other favorite hangout spots.

The EcoWaste Coalition had previously commended the country’s drug enforcers for announcing in July 2009 that rugby and other toluene-based contact cement (TBCC) products would no longer be available over the counter.

Toluene, a clear and flammable toxic liquid obtained from coal tar or petroleum, is listed in Table II of the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, and is one of the chemicals controlled under Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Inhaling toluene can have devastating effects, including damage to the brain, the central nervous system and other vital organs, and reduction of the blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.

In a bid to make toluene-based inhalants unappealing to users, the government through a resolution by the Dangerous Drugs Board outlawed the over-the-counter sale of TBCC that does not contain at least five percent mustard oil.

The pungent smell created with the addition of mustard oil makes rugby unattractive to sniffing addicts.

To further curb solvent abuse, TBCC consumers are supposedly required to present a valid ID and a barangay clearance indicating the quantity to be purchased and its intended use.

The inclusion of barangay clearance as a requirement was meant to ensure that minors would not be able to purchase rugby and other TBCC products.


22 August 2011

Report: Dangerous Chemicals Detected in 29% of 435 Children's Products Tested

Environmental health researchers have analyzed 435 children’s products sold in the Philippines such as toys, accessories, cosmetics, and school supplies, detecting dangerous chemicals in 124 of the 435 samples tested (29%).

The report ‘Toxic Metals in Children’s Products in the Philippines” by EcoWaste Coalition and the global civil society network, IPEN, provides the only publicly available database yet of toxic metals in children’s products sold in the country.

The investigation saw the EcoWaste Coalition’s staff and partners purchasing samples from a variety of wholesale and retail outlets located in bargain centers and shopping malls, as well as in ukay-ukay shops, located in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City, three of the country’s top commercial hubs.

The products were then tested by Dr. Joe DiGangi, a scientist and IPEN’s Science and Technical Advisor, using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) that screened and measured the toxic metal contents of the samples.

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

“The results provide solid grounds for preventive policies that require disclosure of chemical content as a condition for sale. The industry should rapidly move to monitor its products and go for safer alternatives that will cause no harm to children and ecosystems,” said DiGangi.

For his part, Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition said: “The data generated out of the product tests in Manila, Cebu and Davao would inform and fortify our push to eliminate health-damaging chemicals in consumer articles, especially those intended for kids’ use. The data, we know, will help policy makers and regulators in upgrading and expanding existing rules to proactively protect children’s health and safety.”

The key findings of the study are as follows:

1. A total of 124 products (29%) contained at least one toxic metal above levels of concern such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury, which were the focus of the study.

2. 71% of the products did not contain toxic metals (or contained low levels of them) indicating the technical feasibility of manufacturing products that do not expose children to toxic metals.

3. The absence or low detection of toxic metals does not prove the safety of the products since the study did not identify or measure other substances of concern such as bisphenol A and phthalates.

4. 67 children’s products (15 %) of the samples had lead levels above the US regulatory limit of 90 parts per million.

5. Eight children’s products contained mercury and four of them were children’s cosmetic products that exceeded the 1 ppm “allowable limit” as set by the Food and Drug Administration.

6. 57 products (13%) contained more than one toxic metal which increases the potential harm due to multiple exposures.

7. Levels of concern were exceeded for antimony by 56 samples (13%); for arsenic by 36 samples (8%); for cadmium by 14 samples (3%); and for chromium by 33samples (8%).

8. None of the products containing toxic metals were labeled with information about their chemical or material content to warn consumers. Some products that carried the “non-toxic” labels were found to contain toxic metals.

To rid the market of toxic children’s products, both the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN have put forward the following initial recommendations:

-Manufactures should actively generate and disclose the chemical content of children’s products as a condition for sale in the Philippines.

-Review and upgrade the Department of Health Administrative Order No. 0032, Series of 2007 to strengthen licensing, testing, labeling, packaging and other requirements, including explicit prohibition on lead and other dangerous substances using total concentration limits.

-Consumers should urge lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate to make legislation protecting children from toxic substances in products a priority action in the 15th Congress.


19 August 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Lauds Bookstore Chain for Taking Action vs Toxic Children's Products

The EcoWaste Coalition commended the National Book Store (NBS), the country's largest bookstore chain, for taking action against children’s products laced with dangerous chemicals.

In a statement, the toxic watchdog lauded the NBS for pulling out from its store shelves certain products due to what the company described as "toxicity issue."

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier requested the NBS through Mrs. Socorro Ramos, the legendary founder of the iconic bookstore, to cause the removal of products that tested positive with toxic metals in tests conducted by the group with US-based IPEN, a global civil society network.

Responding to the appeal aired by the EcoWaste Coalition, the NBS through a letter signed by Ms. Aura Obra, Manager of the NBS Purchasing Department for Stationery and Allied Products, confirmed that they have returned such products to suppliers, and advised other vendors to comply with the requirements of the Consumer Act of the Philippines and Food and Drug Administration Act.

“We laud the NBS for acting decisively to safeguard the health of its young customers against chemical hazards,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.

“This is the type of corporate action that we expect from a respected market leader,” he emphasized.

“We urge NBS to stay true to its mission of offering its customers with ‘tools that enrich their minds’ by demanding that suppliers only put up toxic-free products for sale,” he added.

“In this regard, NBS should require its suppliers to provide complete product information, including chemical ingredients, and to certify that their products do not contain lead, mercury and other chemicals of concern,” he suggested.

According to the group, the NBS is in an excellent position to influence manufacturers to shift to clean production methods by insisting compliance to national regulatory requirements and the non-use of chemicals that can endanger children's health.

Among the products pulled out by NBS from its retail outlets nationwide were 22 wooden toys from Cebu-based Wagas Crafts.

Also recalled were two brands of water color in wooden palette from suppliers Dong Fang Hong and Jamski Marketing.

“We urge other retailers to follow the good example set by NBS that will surely help in eradicating health-damaging consumer products in the market,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.


18 August 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Condemns Death Threats to Staff/Volunteers

We, members of the public interest network EcoWaste Coalition that champions health and environmental justice, condemn the death threats to our colleague Mr. Rey Palacio, his wife Evangeline and their 11-year old daughter, who are also our volunteers, apparently in relation to their work and involvement in opposing the proposed Obando landfill in Barangay Salambao in Obando, Bulacan. The said landfill project, a project by Eco Shield Development Corporation and authorized by the local government of Obando through Mayor Orencio E. Gabriel, will be built within the Obando River and foreshore areas of Manila Bay.

Mr. Palacio first received threats after visiting the proposed landfill site on June 15, 2011. The threats have since then intensified and on August 17, 2011, he and Evangeline received graphic details about how the texter or texters would carry out their threats.

We condemn this dastardly and cowardly act of intimidation and blatant show of disrespect for human rights. We especially condemn the threats to the life of a young girl, who, at a tender age, has pledged to do her share in protecting the environment.

We urge the government and our police force to step up and stop the proliferation of fear initiated by the goons.

The EcoWaste Coalition will stand by and continue to fully support its staff, volunteers and partners. We reiterate our support for the residents of the town of Obando in opposing the proposed landfill. We will continue to take a firm stand in supporting the plight of communities threatened by toxic facilities that will endanger their health and the environment.

Green Groups Denounce Death Threats against Zero Waste Advocates

Environmental and health justice groups today condemned “in the strongest possible terms” death threats against Zero Waste advocates opposed to the operation of landfills off Manila Bay.

Groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition, an independent and nonprofit network of over 125 organizations, denounced the threats sent via text messages and mobile calls from anonymous sources to Rey Palacio and his wife Evangeline, warning the couple and their 10-year old daughter of bodily harm. Palacio is project staff of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The dastardly death threats apparently stemmed from the opposition made by the EcoWaste Coalition against the landfill construction by Eco Shield Development Corp. in the fishing village of Salambao in Obando, Bulacan.

The group had also opposed the operation of other waste disposal facilities within the Manila Bay area such as the Navotas Sanitary Landfill, which is run by the Philippine Ecology Systems Corp.

The Palacios most recently received a barrage of seven text messages on August 17, threatening them of physical harm, according to sworn statements filed at the Quezon City Police District (Quezon City Hall) and the Philippine National Police - Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (Camp Crame).

“We denounce in the strongest possible terms these devious death threats against our colleague Rey and his family, which are meant to stifle legitimate opposition against problematic landfill projects such as those situated in Obando and other critical areas off Manila Bay,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The EcoWaste Coalition stands by our principled objection against waste disposal facilities that pose hazards to health and the environment, and undermine efforts toward real solutions,” reiterated Romy Hidalgo of the EcoWaste Coalition's Task Force Dumpsites/Landfills.

"No less than the Supreme Court has ordered the clean-up of tons of refuse and garbage deposited in Manila Bay. Constructing landfills in Obando and other areas along Manila Bay directly contravenes the Supreme Court's decision and is a patent violation of Republic Act 9003 that bans landfills in environmentally-sensitive areas such as sources of water," added Atty. Amang Mejia, Legal Counsel of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste Coalition in March 2011 urged Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to intervene and order the construction of the Eco Shield landfill to stop.

The group had also asked the municipal government led by Obando Mayor Orencio Gabriel to rescind Municipal Resolution Number 102 giving Eco Shield the authority to construct a 44-hectare landfill in Barangay Salambao.

Opposition to landfill projects in Bulacan has been escalating, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

Responding to persistent complaints, Rep. Joselito “Jon-jon” Mendoza, from the 3rd District of Bulacan, has called for a congressional inquiry to determine the circumstances and safety of completed or planned sanitary landfills in Doña Remedios Trinidad , Norzagaray, Obando and San Jose del Monte City.

Early this year, 140 priests, 105 religious and 132 parish and school leaders had signed a "statement of opposition" to the construction and operation of any landfill in Bulacan province.


16 August 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Metro Residents and Transients Not to Dump Trash in Creeks

A pollution watchdog has appealed to Metro Manila’s residents and transients not to dispose of their discards into the streets, canals and creeks.

The EcoWaste Coalition repeated its never-ending plea against dumping following a recent report by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) that it collected 173 truckloads, or over 1,200 tons, of garbage and silt from eight creeks in just four days of dredging operations.

Beginning August 8, the MMDA launched an extensive cleanup drive of Metro Manila’s creeks under the agency’s “August Estero Blitz.”

“We are dismayed by the huge volume of trash dredged from some of Metro Manila’s vital waterways,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It’s a sad indicator of how some of our kababayan treat Mother Earth with brazen disrespect. The garbage data, and not to forget the costs involved in clearing the clogged creeks, should serve as an environmental wake-up call to all litterbugs,” he pointed out.

“We invite all caring citizens to take to heart our appeal for environmental ethics and social responsibility and drop the offensive habit of throwing garbage in creeks and elsewhere,” he pleaded.

“Let us keep our esteros and the entire metropolis garbage-free,” he added.

Citing information from the MMDA, the EcoWaste Coalition said that 35 truckloads of waste were dredged from Estero Tripa de Gallina and Sta. Clara
spanning the cities of Makati, Manila, and Pasay.

Some 33 truckloads of waste were removed from Estero de Quiapo/San Miguel/San Sebastian, and another 29 truckloads from Estero de Pandacan/Concordia, all in Manila.

An additional 76 truckloads of waste were retrieved from Pinagsabugan and Longos creeks in Malabon City, bringing the total to 173 truckloads.

The recurrent floods in Metro Manila, as explained by the MMDA, is caused by the limited capacity of existing esteros, diversion channels and other waterways as a result of arbitrary dumping of trash.

“The perennial flood woes we face in Metro Manila will remarkably shrivel if R.A. 9003 is effectively adhered to,” said Alvarez.

R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, explicitly bans the “littering, throwing, dumping of waste matters in public places such as roads, sidewalks, canals, esteros or parks, and establishments.”

Violators upon conviction shall be punished with a fine of not less than P300 up to P1,000, or render community service for at least one day up to a maximum of 15 days in a local government unit where the act was committed.

MMDA environmental enforcers, as of August 15, 2011, have apprehended some 54,117 violators since it re-implemented its policy against littering on September 16, 2010, according to the agency’s website.


15 August 2011

Environmental Watchdog Pushes Source Elimination to Stop Dengue Scourge

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental health network, today called on the government and the public to go all out for source elimination to beat dengue outbreaks that have afflicted thousands in several hotspots nationwide.

“We surely can reduce, if not wipe out, dengue cases by eliminating all possible breeding grounds for Aedes aegypti,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Dengue fever is caused by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that breed in clean standing water, particularly in places where water collects and where there is poor drainage and sanitation.

“Community-based mosquito surveillance and control, including the enforcement of ecological solid waste management, is a basic element in winning our battle against this health and mortality threat,” he added.

To keep the environment free of dengue vectors, the EcoWaste Coalition, echoing the advice by health authorities and local government units, urged every household to observe the following steps to remove breeding sites around the house and the neighbourhood:

-Cover water buckets, barrels and tanks with lids.
-Empty and clean water containers thoroughly once a week.
-Replace water in flower vases weekly.
-Clear rain gutters of leaves and other debris.
-Puncture or cut old rubber tires used as roof support.
-Remove trash that can collect and hold water.

The EcoWaste Coalition also emphasized the importance of proper management of common household and personal trash in the fight against dengue.

“Discarded glass and plastic bottles, tin cans, coconut shells, plastic bags, polystyrene containers, snack packs and sachets should not be simply thrown anywhere as these items can gather and hold water and turn into ugly breeding sites for mosquitoes,’ Alvarez warned.

"Dry leaves, twigs and mixed trash should not be burned as this will not kill dengue-carrying mosquitoes, but only emit health-damaging pollutants,” he added.

“Please reduce, reuse and recycle your discards instead,” he suggested.

The EcoWaste Coalition further advised the recycling public to pay attention to how recyclables are stored, ensuring that they are kept dry and clean so as not to attract mosquitoes, as well as roaches and rodents.

“Community and school storage facilities for recyclables should be spick-and-span and protected against rain and waste water as they should be,” he said.

Also, the EcoWaste Coalition called attention to proper land management to prevent water from collecting, making sure that pits are filled, drains around taps and wells are running, and canals and esteros are garbage-free and flowing.

To keep mosquitoes at bay, the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged households to cultivate natural repellents such as basil, catnip, citronella grass, garlic, lavender, lemon grass, marigolds, peppermint, rosemary and other wonder plants.

The group further urged the public to plant and nurture trees that provide homes for birds and other natural helpers in mosquito prevention and control.


12 August 2011

DepEd Chief Requested to Support "Cleansing" of Toxic School Supplies

Following its exposé on toxic chemicals lurking in popular school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the Department of Education (DepEd) to push for measures that will purge the market of unsafe children’s products.

In a letter sent today to DepEd, the toxic watchdog exhorted Secretary Armin Luistro to champion the health and welfare of children against products containing lead, a brain poison, and other chemicals of concern.

“Chemicals like lead that can jeopardize the health and future of our children should not be present at all in products that are designed and produced for their consumption,” wrote Manny Calonzo, Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“By pushing for toxic-free children's products, the DepEd, along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), can be a strong driver for industry shift to clean production and therefore clean products,” he told Secretary Luistro.

The group requested DepEd to coordinate with the FDA, the Department of Trade and Industry, the House of Representatives and the Senate for measures that can be pursued to cleanse the market of school supplies and other children's products laced with harmful substances.

“We also request your office to use your persuasive power to encourage manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers to commit to producing and selling children's products with no harmful chemicals, and to disclosing the chemical ingredients of their goods,” Calonzo added.

Recognizing the role of local authorities in upholding consumer safety, the group urged DepEd "to draw the support of local government units (for) pertinent ordinances and other stringent regulations that will prevent the sale of untested, unlabeled and unsafe children's products in their respective jurisdictions.”

Through their letter, the EcoWaste Coalition formally informed Secretary Luistro about the results of the chemical tests on 25 samples purchased by the group from various retailers of school supplies in Divisoria last July 22, and screened for toxic metals on July 23.

The tests were carried out by visiting American scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a portable device that is routinely used by regulatory agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

According to the summary of test results, 15 of the 25 samples contained elevated levels of lead from 96 parts per million (ppm) to 14,100 ppm, surpassing the 90 ppm threshold under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

“We find the results deeply disturbing knowing that lead attacks the nervous system, damages the brain and causes mental retardation, learning disorders and lower IQ marks, to cite a few lead-related health effects,” Calonzo said.

In addition to detecting lead and other toxic metals in some of the samples, the EcoWaste Coalition discovered that most of the products they tested were insufficiently labeled, and that not a single item provides information about their chemical ingredients and health effects.

“Inadequate labeling and the absence of chemical facts and figures deprive consumers of vital information to make informed choices,” he pointed out.


10 August 2011

"Toxic Beauty" Parade Held in Manila vs Mercury-Laced Skin Whitening Cosmetics

(Photos by Manny Calonzo, Yhet Garcia)

A toxic watchdog today held a unique parade in the City of Manila in a fresh bid to drum up awareness among consumers and vendors about the ban on dangerous skin whitening products with mercury, a poison that is readily absorbed through the skin.

Members of the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol, together with government food and drug inspectors, took part in what has been dubbed as a “Toxic Beauty” parade from Binondo Church to Quiapo Church.

Leading the parade were "Ms. Toxic Beauty" and her court donning umbrella hats festooned with boxes of recalled skin bleaching products as “crowns,” and holding wooden sticks with skull and cross bones as “scepters.”

The event was inspired by two important books from UK and US, both of which have "Toxic Beauty" as titles, that reveal how chemical ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products can harm consumers.

Accompanied by youth drummers, the safe cosmetics advocates hopped from one Chinese drug store to another to notify vendors about the latest government directive banning skin lightening products for containing elevated levels of mercury.

They shouted "mercury cosmetics, no, no, no" as they walked through busy Ongpin and Carriedo Streets where dozens of Chinese drug stores are located.

“We braved the hot morning sun to tell formal as well as informal dealers that selling recalled mercury-tainted skin whitening products is both illegal and unethical,” said Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We’ve also gone out of the streets to remind consumers to be extra careful with what they apply onto their skins as this may lead to serious ailments,” she explained.

“We need to know what is lurking within the cosmetics we buy and ask manufacturers to only use ingredients that have been proven safe in cosmetic formulations,” she added.

For her part, Dr. Bessie Antonio, President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT) said: "Consumers beware: skin contact with mercury-added cosmetics can cause serious dermal problems, including discoloration, inflammation, itchiness and tiny bumps."

Repeated applications of mercury-laced cosmetics, Dr. Antonio warned, "can eventually damage the brain and the kidneys."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week banned 23 more skin whitening cosmetics that “pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public,” bringing to 50 the list of recalled products that were found to contain mercury beyond the regulatory limit of 1 part per million.

During the parade, food and drug regulators handed out copies of FDA Advisory 2011-012 signed by Director Suzette Lazo, warning that the importation, selling, or offering for sale of the recalled products is a violation of Republic Act 9711, the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009.

The said advisory has received support from various groups, including the Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS), the only specialty society in dermatology recognized by the Philippine Medical Association.

In a statement, Dr. Ma. Teresita Gabriel, PDS President, said: "We laud the latest action by the FDA to notify and safeguard our consumers from sure harm resulting from mercury exposure in cosmetics. The PDS is one with the EcoWaste Coalition and FDA in promoting mercury-free cosmetics for the health and wellbeing of our people."


Toxic Beauty books:


08 August 2011

Raincoats Top Popular School Supplies with Highest Level of Lead

Raincoats meant to keep children dry during the rainy season can potentially expose them to a notorious brain-damaging chemical, according to the EcoWaste Coalition in its latest exposé.

The toxic watchdog uncovered lead, a neurological toxin, in raincoats and other popular school supplies that the group bought from Divisoria’s 168 Mall, Tutuban Mall and adjacent retail stores on July 22, and subsequently subjected to chemical tests by visiting scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi of the US-based IPEN.

The new set of 25 samples of school supplies tested was on top of the 435 children’s products from Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City that the group had also analyzed for heavy metals.

“Out of the 25 product samples we tested, lead was detected in 15 samples (60%) ranging from 96 parts per million (ppm) up to 14,100 ppm,” reported Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The US threshold limit for lead is 90 ppm under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Lead, which is also a hematologic (blood) and reproductive toxin, was detected in pencil cases, raincoats and a variety of bags such as backpacks, shoulder bags, lunch bags and carry bags.

The top five samples that registered the highest lead contents include: 1) a yellow PVC Tweety raincoat (14,100 ppm of lead), 2) a light yellow PVC Tazmanian Devil raincoat (4,741 ppm), 3) a green Spiderman backpack with lunch bag (2,852 ppm), 4) a yellow Spongebob shoulder bag (2,478 ppm) and 5) a yellow Spongebob pencil case (1,561 ppm).

Lead is particularly harmful for children because it can damage or retard brain development and cause many health problems, including learning delays and disabilities, lower IQ scores and shorter attention span.

“The low levels of lead found in few items would not mean no health effects. Health experts have confirmed that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children,” Dizon pointed out.

“Aside from lead, 13 school supplies contained other toxic metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, and chromium,” he added.

“For example, a Spiderman backpack had 1,064 ppm of antimony, a PVC raincoat with Tweety design had 278 ppm of arsenic, a pullbag had 287 ppm of cadmium and a Mickey Mouse pencil case had 4,026 ppm of chromium, all exceeding levels of concern,” he stated.

DiGangi used a portable device called X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer to screen the school supplies for toxic metals. The XRF is routinely used by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission in their regulatory functions.

“The results of our probe should compel manufacturers to step up, remove chemicals of concern from their products and switch to non-toxic ingredients that will not jeopardize the health of children who are most vulnerable to toxins,” said DiGangi, who is the Science and Technical Advisor of IPEN.

Children, are prone to toxic exposure because they breathe more air, consume more food and water, and are often exposed to harmful substances resulting from their common hand-to-mouth activities and not to forget that their vital organs and systems are still immature and developing, DiGangi explained.

As a result of the investigation, the EcoWaste Coalition has put forward these proposals to the industry to ensure that only safe school supplies are offered for sale and use by children:

1. Manufacturers should immediately phase out lead and other toxic chemicals in the production process and shift to safer ingredients.

2. Manufacturers should actively generate and disclose the chemical content of children’s products as a condition for sale in the Philippines.

3. Manufacturers should facilitate and ensure consumers’ “right to know” about chemicals in products including adequate and truthful labeling to promote consumer choice.

The EcoWaste Coalition also urged wholesalers and retailers to insist on chemical content information from manufacturers and refuse to sell the products if the information is not provided.


06 August 2011

Groups Laud FDA Ban on 50 Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Products

(Dean Jocelyn Palacpac of the UP College of Pharmacy, FDA Director Suzette Lazo and PDS President Teresita Gabriel at a recent Senate hearing on safe drugs and cosmetics.)

(Recalled skin whitening products purchased by the EcoWaste Coalition's AlerToxic Patrol from various retail outlets.)

A professional group promoting skin safety and a toxic watchdog jointly commended the country’s food and drug regulators for taking action against health-damaging skin whitening products.

The Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS), the only specialty society in dermatology recognized by the Philippine Medical Association, and the EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the latest move by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rid the market of skin lightening creams with added mercury, a heavy metal.

Mercury in cosmetics can cause serious dermal problems such as skin discoloring, itchiness and scarring, weaken skin resistance to bacterial and fungal maladies, and damage the renal and nervous systems, including the brain, from repeated applications.

“We laud the latest action by the FDA to notify and safeguard our consumers from sure harm resulting from mercury exposure in cosmetics. The PDS is one with the EcoWaste Coalition and FDA in promoting mercury-free cosmetics for the health and wellbeing of our people,” said Dr. Ma. Teresita Gabriel, President of PDS.

“FDA’s public health action against mercury in personal care products deserves the full support of all sectors. Let’s rally behind the FDA and promote toxic awareness and vigilance among consumers of cosmetics,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Given the resource limitations of the FDA, both the EcoWaste Coalition and the PDS urged the local government units and law enforcement agencies such as the Bureau of Customs, National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police to help in ensuring that recalled products are not offered for sale to unwary consumers.

"On the basis of the latest FDA advisory, law enforcers can conduct police operations similar to what they did in Baclaran and Quiapo to implement the ban on deadly cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaning solutions," Alvarez added.

The FDA last Thursday, August 4, banned 23 more skin whitening products for exceeding the national regulatory limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics, expanding the list of proscribed products to 50.

11 of these 50 were tested recently by the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN and were found to contain mercury from 1,085 ppm to 28,600 ppm.

The banned products were manufactured or imported from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and USA. Some of the products did not specify the country of origin on their labels.

According to FDA Advisory 2011-012 signed by Director Suzette Lazo, the banned items “pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public and the importation, selling, or offering for sale of such is a violation of Republic Act 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009.”


03 August 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Goes to Senate to Push for Safe Cosmetics Act

(Photos by Thony Dizon)

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxic watchdog, today trooped to the Senate to press lawmakers to enact a “comprehensive and robust” legislation toward toxic-free cosmetics.

At a public hearing convened by the Senate Committees on Trade and Commerce and on Health and Demography, the group reiterated to the senators led by committee chairs Sen. Manny Villar and Sen. Pia Cayetano about the urgency of enacting a “Safe Cosmetics Act.”

To emphasize the recurring problem with cosmetics containing hazardous chemicals, Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, presented before the senators the results of the tests the group conducted on skin whitening products.

Using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a device that is routinely used by US regulatory agencies, the EcoWaste Coalition, in collaboration with US-based International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), detected mercury in 11 out of 12 skin lightening creams purchased from Quiapo retailers.

The tests conducted by visiting IPEN scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi detected elevated quantities of mercury, ranging from 1,085 to 28,600 parts per million (ppm), far above the national regulatory limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics as defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme, Lucero pointed out that “mercury use in cosmetic products can have adverse effects, including skin rashes, discoloring and scarring, and can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic disorders.”

UNEP has warned that “direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys.”

“Our chemical analyses, as well as those conducted by the FDA that led to successive product recalls in 2010, justify the enactment of a comprehensive and robust law that will proactively protect consumers, especially women and girls, from mercury and other chemicals of concern in cosmetics,” she explained.

“Cosmetics that conceal essential product information such as their chemical ingredients and their associated risks should not be sold in the market. They should be first proven safe and beneficial before being traded and sold. Otherwise, consumers become unwilling guinea pigs,” she pointed out.

“The duty of proving that their products are safe and beneficial rests with cosmetic manufacturers who, in the first place, generate profits from their sale,” she added.

The group expressed support to Senate Bill 1886 filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that will require cosmetic products sold in the country to be “free of any ingredients which have been identified as chemicals causing cancer or reproductive toxicity”.

The group also welcomed Senate Bill 943 filed by Sen. Lito Lapid, which if enacted, will prohibit the use of phthalates, a group of industrial chemicals recognized as endocrine disruptors, in personal care products.

However, the EcoWaste Coalition seeks a stronger and holistic legislation that will, among others:

1. Prohibit the presence of toxic chemicals in personal care products, especially substances that are categorized as known or probable human carcinogens, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors or mutagens.

2. Require manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to disclose all chemical ingredients of their products in keeping with the consumer “right to know”, and deny market access for products not disclosing full product information, including potential health and environmental effects.

3. Set health-based safety standards on chemicals in personal care products in line with the precautionary principle, which states that “when we have a reasonable suspicion of harm, and scientific uncertainty about cause and effect, then we have a duty to take action to prevent harm.”

At the hearing, the EcoWaste Coalition also emphasized the need to ensure full budgetary support for FDA to enable the agency to effectively perform its expanded regulatory functions under the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009.

“With adequate resources at its disposal, including basic analytical equipment such as XRF, we can expect the FDA to make waves in the performance of its most essential regulatory functions,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.


01 August 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Mercury in Skin Whitening Products, Pushes Crack Down on Dangerous Cosmetics

Eleven out of 12 skin whitening products tested by the EcoWaste Coalition had mercury levels of up to 28,600 parts per million (ppm), atrociously over and above the Philippine regulatory limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics.

The toxic watchdog has duly notified Dr. Suzette Lazo, Director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Friday about its survey, who via e-mail told the group that the agency “will conduct its own operations based on this.”

Mostly made in China, the tainted products are likewise in violation of the tolerable limit of 1 ppm under the “Hygienic Standards for Cosmetics” of the People’s Republic of China, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

The toxic watchdog disclosed the horrendous data following the recent release of its report on toxic metals in children’s products in the Philippines that, among others, found some children’s cosmetics loaded with mercury in the range of 3 to 77 ppm.

“We are shocked to find outrageously high levels of mercury in the cosmetics we tested that ranged from 1,085 to 28,600 ppm, in brazen breach of the country’s regulatory limit,” said Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“None of the 11 products listed mercury as ingredient in their labels, indicating the manufacturers’ failure to provide truthful information that can help consumers make sound choices,” she observed.

“Of these mercury-tainted cosmetics, five brands were recalled in 2010 by the government for containing excessive mercury and should no longer be in the market. Their continued sale violates the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009,” she added.

“The other brands have not been recalled yet and should be recalled now for the safety of cosmetic consumers,” she pleaded.

Visiting Chicago-based scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi tested the skin whitening products bought by the EcoWaste Coalition using the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, a chemical analyzer widely used by private companies and regulatory agencies in US.

The samples were purchased last July 23, from 2 Chinese drug stores, 1 cosmetics shop and 2 sidewalk vendors all located in Quiapo, Manila.

“Mercury is poison that should not be present in consumer products, especially those applied directly to the skin,” said DiGangi, who is the Science and Policy Advisor of IPEN, a global civil society network, which includes the EcoWaste Coalition.

Skin whitening products such as creams, lotions or soaps sometimes contain toxic mercury chloride and/or ammoniated mercury, or hydroquinone, which is also highly toxic.

“Mercury harms the nervous system, the kidneys, and other organ systems,” DiGangi warned.

For her part, Cathy Untalan, Executive Director of Miss Earth Foundation, said: “Mercury in personal care products is dangerous to human health. Consumers should not use cosmetics with mercury or whose ingredients are unsafe and unknown.”

To stop the continued sale of mercury-tainted cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition has proposed a multi-stakeholders’ campaign to crack down against unscrupulous importers, distributors and retailers in the interest of consumer safety.

The toxic watchdog identified the FDA, Bureau of Customs, Philippine National Police, local government units, consumer protection groups, and the media as key players in keeping the market free of toxic cosmetics.

Among the skin whitening creams that failed the regulatory limit on mercury based on the analysis made the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN were:

1. Miss Beauty Magic Cream, 28,600 ppm
2. Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set Cream, 12,400 ppm
3. JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 9,610 ppm
4. The Flower Woman 7-Day Whitening and Spot and Night Set Cream, 7,754 ppm
5. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 7,665 ppm
6. Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening and Anti-Spot Cream, 6,210 ppm
7. Szitang 7-Day Specific Whitening and Spot AB Set Cream, 5,886 ppm
8. Beauty Girl Natural Olive and Sheep Essence 10-Day Double Whitening Cream, 3,638 ppm
9. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream, 2,304 ppm
10. Aichun Beauty Green Tea Whitening Speckle Removing Series Cream, 1,820 ppm
11. Aichun Beauty Whitening Freckle Day and Night Cream, 1,574 ppm