30 October 2011

Bishop, Watchdog Appeal for Garbage-Free Undas

A Catholic bishop and an environmental watchdog have jointly appealed to the public not to trash the cemeteries as millions are expected to remember their dearly departed on November 1 and 2.

In a combined appeal, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez and the EcoWaste Coalition called for a simple and waste-free commemoration of Undas in light of the country’s unrelenting problem with garbage.

“I exhort everyone to keep our cemeteries safe and clean,” said Bishop Iñiguez who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“Please don’t leave any trash behind. With public cooperation, we can turn the tide on trash and make Undas a pleasant occasion for all, especially for Mother Nature,” he pleaded.

Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, requested cemetery visitors to be mindful of the 3Rs (Respect, Reduce, Refuse) toward an earth-friendly Undas:

1. Respect the dead and the living by not leaving any litter in the cemetery and surrounding area.

2. Reduce what you bring to the cemetery to just the bare essentials and cut down on stuff used and discarded.

3. Refuse habits and practices that tend to pollute the occasion: smoking in the cemetery, dumping and burning of trash, consumption of disposable, one-time use plastic bags and containers, extreme noise from radio and music, etc.

“Let us treat the cemeteries with due respect and refrain from turning these sanctified sites into giant garbage bins,” Alvarez said.

In addition, the EcoWaste Coalition has put forward the following eco-ideas for the consideration of cemetery goers:

CANDLES: Select plain, clean-burning and minimally packed candles. Light just one or two candles to minimize heat and pollution in cemeteries that are crowded with people, young and old. It’s the thought that really matters, not the number, size, scent, packaging and price of candles offered in fond remembrance of our dearly departed.

FLOWERS: Pick locally grown fresh flowers and abstain from wrapping them in plastic that will soon become an unwanted litter. Flowers are already pretty.

MEALS AND DRINKS: Just bring enough, not easily perishable food items to avoid spoilage and poisoning. To reduce plastic bottle consumption, come to the cemetery with your own water jug. Refrain from bringing single-use, throw-away plastic bags, plates, cups and cutlery.

DISCARDS: Please do not be a “Zombasura,” the cemetery litterbug. Place your discards into their proper bins. If there are no bins available, please bring them home for reusing, recycling or composting.

TRANSPORTATION: Walk, bicycle, take public transportation or share a ride to the cemetery.

NOISE POLLUTION: Keep the noise down, especially from blaring radio and music, so as not to disturb others.

Last Friday, the EcoWaste Coalition, together with the Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, Malaya Theater Group and the Miss Earth Foundation, staged a "Zombasura" drive at Manila North Cemetery to drum up public support against littering and for waste-free Undas.


28 October 2011

EcoGroup Urge the Public to Observe Waste-Free Undas

Photo courtesy of Rey Palacio

October 28, 2011. Manila City - As the commemoration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day draw near, the pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition encourages all Filipinos to practice Zero Waste and keep cemeteries waste-free and toxic-free.

The coalition, joined by Miss Earth Foundation, Diocese of Caloocan-Ecology Ministry, representatives from the city government of Manila City, Manila North Cemetery Administration, and civil society groups held a public event at the Manila North Cemetery to call on the public to bury wasteful habits.

The groups also symbolizes wasteful practices through “Zombasura” (a word jumble of “zombie” and “basura” or trash), a toxic monster who throw away garbage anywhere and litter the graveyard. Together with toxic ghouls, Zombasura paraded in the cemetery to demonstrate the bad impacts of burning and dumping of garbage to the environment and public health.

“Our cemeteries are sacred place and not graveyards for our unwanted trash. Let us commemorate the occasion with simplicity, spirituality and utter respect for both the dead and the living. Let us all do our share for our planet. Do not be a Zombasura!,” said Roy Alvarez, President of EcoWaste Coalition.

According to Alvarez, by cutting the volume of our waste and practicing segregation and composting, we also address the worsening conditions of our climate and halt the proliferation of dirty technologies such as landfills and incinerators.

"As we visit and commemorate our deceased loves ones, we need to express also our love and responsibility for the environment. Do not throw or burn your trash and avoid using plastic bags and disposable products and packaging. Let us keep our cemeteries clean and waste-free. These small steps will be a great gift to our Mother Earth!" said Miss Earth-Philippines Athena Mae Imperial.

To remind the public, EcoWaste Coalition recommends these simple-tips for a waste-free, climate-friendly and toxic-free Undas:

1. For local government and cemetery administrators, hang cloth banners to remind the public that the cemetery is a waste-free zone. Implement ecological solid waste management and encourage vendors to support waste prevention. Place segregated bins (biodegradable and non-biodegradable at a minimum) in strategic locations.

2. On Undas, remind the people to properly manage their discards through regular public announcements. Unwanted discards should be sorted in segregated bins or if bins are not available, discards should be brought home for reusing, recycling or composting. In addition, nearby recycling communities can be invited to monitor cleanliness of the cemetery while the collected recyclable discards can be donated to them.

3. Walk, bike, carpool or take the public transportation to the cemeteries.

4. Make use only of non-toxic soaps or detergents to clean the tombs and unleaded paints for those who plan to re-paint them. Avoid burning of grass and plant cuttings and garbage piles.

5. Reuse left-over candles at home. If buying new candles, select plain and clean-burning candles to minimize smoke and pollution.

6. Choose locally grown fresh flowers and abstain from wrapping them in plastic to avoid additional litter.

7. Avoid use of plastic bags, polystyrene packaging, disposable plates and utensils and etc. to reduce your garbage.

8. Just bring enough, not easily perishable food items to avoid spoilage and poisoning.

9. Bring water jug and reusable cups and glass to reduce plastic bottle consumption.

10. Keep your noise and voices down as a respect to others.

The event also drew the support from Manila City Health Office, Manila Department of Public Services, Manila North Cemetery Administration, Office of Manila City Councilor Niňo Dela Cruz, and environmental groups such as Ban Toxics and Malikhaing Landas na Magpapayabong sa Sining at Kultura.

EcoWaste Coalition Lauds Pasay City’s Regulation on Plastic Bags

Pasay City, October 27, 2011 – Pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition commends the city government of Pasay City for enacting an ordinance that aims to regulate the use of disposable plastic bags and reduces plastic pollution in the city.

“We laud Mayor Antonino Calixto, Vice Mayor Marlon Pesebre who authored the ordinance, and the Pasay City Council for enacting this very important legislation. Through this initiative, the city will significantly reduce the volume of its garbage, promote the use of ecological bags, and mitigate plastic pollution in the city and in Manila Bay,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Program Officer of EcoWaste Coalition.

The City Ordinance 4647 or “Ordinance Regulating the Use of Non-compostable Plastic Carry Out Bags in Pasay City and Promoting the Use of Recyclable Paper Carry Out Bags and Reusable Carry Out Bags” was signed by Mayor Calixto last October 3, 2011. The ordinance prohibits all stores within Pasay City from providing customers with plastic carry-out bags while promoting the use of recyclable paper carryout bags, reusable bags and compostable bags.

The Ordinance aims to minimize the impacts of plastic pollution and reduce the city’s expenditure on solid waste management disposal.

It will take effect next year to provide time for educational program and allow affected stakeholders, especially store owners to comply with the requirements of the ordinance.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, there are already 20 cities and municipalities across the country that have adopted regulation phasing out and banning single-use plastic bags and packaging.

The Metro Manila Development Authority early this year urged local government units (LGUs) to ban plastic bags, while the Laguna Lake Development Authority has issued a resolution supporting the ban on plastic bags in lakeshore towns and cities.

“More and more cities and municipalities are already banning the use of plastic bags and it should already be a motivation to President Noynoy Aquino to enact a national ban. Plastic bags and other disposable plastic products are disastrous to our environment, pollute our rivers and water bodies and contribute to the worsening of the world’s climate. The people are already speaking and we want to end plastic pollution, now!” said Vergara.

According to Vergara, such move from PNoy will also heed the call of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner encouraging all world leaders to ban thin-film single-use plastic bags. It will also show that the president supports the strong implementation of the country’s environmental laws.

The coalition also cautioned the LGUs against the so-called oxo-degradable plastic bags.

“These degradable plastic bags do not biodegrade – meaning they remain to be plastic after degradation and cannot be processed by nature. While we may no longer see them if they ever degrade, all the other affiliated threats remain: they could still contain toxic chemicals; encourage wasteful lifestyle since they are designed to be disposable; and pollute our marine ecosystems,” added Vergara.

The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 also know as Republic Act 9003 mandates the national government, through the National Solid Waste Management Commission, to release the list of non-environmentally acceptable packaging and products. However, the government has not come up with the said list. Meanwhile, members of the plastic industry continue to sit in the said Commission and its technical working groups.

25 October 2011

Toxic Watchdog Finds Huge Amounts of Mercury in 19 Out of 25 Skin Lightening Creams

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group promoting chemical safety, slammed the callous sale of skin lightening cosmetics loaded with mercury higher than the regulatory threshold of 1 part per million (ppm).

The group bared the “ugly truth” after finding mercury up to 52,100 ppm in 19 of 25 samples even with the heightened drive by the government to purge the market of such injurious products.

The group’s latest toxic exposé was made ahead of the third Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting for a global mercury control treaty in Nairobi, Kenya on October 31 to November 4 to call attention to the intentional use of mercury in products as a public health and environmental issue.

“We have uncovered an ugly truth behind some cosmetics with outrageous amounts of mercury that are directly applied to the skin. These products are terribly harmful to health, totally not pretty and blatantly illegal,” stated Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

"We appeal to the conscience of concerned retailers to stop selling such toxic merchandise as we advise consumers to be on red alert for products that can ruin their skin and health," she added.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on August 4, 2011 issued a list banning 50 skin whitening products for having mercury above the permissible limit of 1 ppm and posing imminent danger or injury to consumers.

The unprecedented move by the FDA was triggered by tests conducted in July this year by the EcoWaste Coalition and the US-based IPEN showing that 11 of the 12 skin whitening products they tested had mercury levels up to 28,600 ppm.

To check if vendors were complying with the government recall order, the EcoWaste Coalition's AlerToxic Patrol went shopping on October 20-23 and bought 25 samples from various retail outlets.

The items were obtained from shops selling health supplements and beauty products in Guadalupe Nuevo and Santa Cruz in Makati City, Uniwide Sales Metromall in Las Piñas City, Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall in Pasay City, and Cubao, Quezon City, and in several Chinese drug stores in Binondo, Divisoria and Santa Cruz in the city of Manila.

The samples were then screened for mercury on October 24 by Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. using a portable equipment called X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a screening device regularly used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Environmental Protection Agency of US.

Out of the 25 samples, 12 were among those already banned by the FDA.

The tests showed that 19 of the 25 samples (76%) had mercury levels ranging from 1,395 ppm to 52,100 ppm. None of these samples listed mercury as an ingredient.

The products that tested positive with mercury were:

1. Long Dian Tu Glutathione Pearl Natural Whitening Essence Cream, 52,100 ppm.

2. Beauty Girl 10-Day Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence Cream, 42,400 ppm

3. Jonathan 12-day Clearing Facial Spots Cream, 28,200 ppm

4. Feique Rose Refining Nourishing Set Cream, 21,600 ppm

5. Lianglibai Qingbanxuejizuhetaozhuang Cream, 15,000 ppm

6. Pretty Model Whitening and Freckle Removing Cream, 11,000 ppm

7. Yudantang Aloe Pearl 10-Day Whitening Speckles Removed Essence Cream, 10,700 ppm

8. Women of Flower Whitening and Speckle Removing AB Series Cream, 9,643 ppm

9. Lamb Placenta Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 8,816 ppm

10. Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set Cream, 7,053 ppm

11. Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 6,548 ppm

12. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 5,297 ppm

13. Forever Beauty 10-Day Special Cream, 5,199 ppm

14. JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 5,034 ppm

15. New Baijiasi Whitening Night Cream, 4,912 ppm

16. Beauty Girl Double White SPF17AP Whitening Cream, 4,452 ppm

17. (Skin whitening cream with Chinese characters on the label), 2,235 ppm

18. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (violet packaging), 1,453 ppm

19. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (old rose packaging) 1,395 ppm

The mercury-laced skin whitening products were mostly imported from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, while a few came from Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia as indicated or insinuated on the labels.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, mercury is readily absorbed by the skin, damages brain function and is particularly hazardous during fetal development. Mercury is linked to nervous, immune, reproductive and respiratory toxicity.

Aside from mercury, the latest tests conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition showed that some of the samples also had high levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead.




23 October 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Campaigns for Public Access to Chemical Information in Products and Wastes

(Photos by: Gigie Cruz)

Amid pleasant weather, some 200 members of the EcoWaste Coalition gathered this Sunday in front of the Quezon City Hall to campaign for an often neglected entitlement of the people: the right to chemical information.

Hailed as the citizens’ “Right to Ask, Right to Know” assembly, the event saw representatives from various groups and communities in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces joining up to demand public access to information that can facilitate safe and sound choices.

“We need to be better informed about chemicals that make up products and wastes that can pose considerable harm to health and life. Since such information is not readily available, we need to be inquisitive, ask probing questions and insist on chemical information as a basic entitlement,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

"Companies should publicly disclose chemicals used in production processes, as well as pollutants released and transferred in the course of their operations. Information relevant to public health and the environment should not be treated as confidential," he stated.

Dr. Suzette Lazo, Director of the Food and Drug Administration, in a message sent to the EcoWaste Coalition said: "It's time to seriously build a culture of safety in our country. An essential component of this shift is ensuring the availability of truthful product information to help discerning citizens make informed choices."

Speaking at the event, Dr. Lazo said: "We now understand the hazards of toxins in the environment such as lead in toys. It's time that we work together to protect our people from these toxins. Our doors are open for communication and that's why we're here. We hear you."

Department of Health Spokesperson Dr. Eric Tayag, who also graced the event, told the EcoWaste Coalition that "every time you release results of your chemical tests, you promote the safety of every Filipino and remind us of our responsibility that we should be doing. Groups like you lighten up our work load. Like you, I will ask for information and I will search for truth."

To drive their call for public access to chemical information, participants formed themselves into a "human question mark" as a huge banner that says "right to ask, right to know for health, safety and justice" is unfurled.

The event also saw the launch of the EcoWaste Coalition's latest advocacy poster "Got Toxins? Be Safe: Assert your Right to Ask, Right to Know."

Together the participants recommended the following:

TO THE PUBLIC: demand access to information on chemicals in products and wastes, including their health and environmental effects, for informed choice and chemical safety.

TO THE GOVERNMENT: enforce rules that will require companies to test and identify chemicals they use and dispose of through accessbile and reliable public disclosure tools.

TO THE INDUSTRY: establish verifiable and publicly available inventory of chemical inputs to manufacturing and production processes, as well as by-product pollutants, consistent with corporate social responsibility and in service of the community right to know.

These recommendations are in line with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Among those who took part in the event were the Advocates for Environment and Social Justice, Angkan ng Mandirigma, Ang Nars, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance –Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Malaya, Maskara-GSF, Miriam PEACE, Samahang Pagkakaisa ng Tindera sa Talipapa-Caloocan, SK Federation - Malabon and Zero Waste Philippines.

The “Right to Ask, Right to Know” assembly coincided with the national observance of the "Children's Month" and the “Consumer Welfare Month” this October.


17 October 2011

Revoke Obando Landfill ECC

“Revoke Obando Landfill ECC!” echoes as members of Concerned Citizens of Obando and EcoWaste Coalition converge in front of the DENR. The groups carry placards and a boat replica from which hangs a garbage-filled fishing net to dramatize their opposition against the landfill, as DENR reviews the project’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC). (Photo courtesy of Gigie Cruz-Sy)

“Dump Bulacan Landfill ECC” - Green groups to DENR

“Revoke Obando Landfill ECC!” reverberates outside the environment department gate as the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of the proposed landfill in Bulacan undergoes a review inside.

Carrying a fishing boat, fishing net and placards, bearing calls to revoke the ECC of the proposed landfill to be sited in a fishing village in Obando, Bulacan, more than 200 individuals from the said town and members of the EcoWaste Coalition marched to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City this morning to press Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje to dump the landfill project.

The groups immediately set up a tableau and offered prayers to dramatize their opposition against the landfill upon reaching the DENR.

They argue that under Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the landfill violates the minimum considerations for Siting and Designing Sanitary Landfills, which requires that “the site must be chosen with regard for the sensitivities of the community’s residents,” and that "the landfill's operation will not detrimentally affect environmentally sensitive resources”.

"If you put garbage in Salambao, Obando river, it will be like putting garbage in our plates, because this is where our food come from," cried Mercy Dolorito, former Barangay Chairman of Salambao where the 44 hectare landfill is proposed to be set-up.

The groups said they reject the landfill project asserting that it will cause further damage to the fragile ecosystems of the Obando River and Manila Bay, devastate the remaining marine resources, destroy the mangroves and fishing livelihoods, and aggravate the flooding problem of the low-lying municipality.

“It is completely inhuman and un-Godly, immoral and unethical, and even unconstitutional, to turn our rivers and historic town into a poisoned sacrifice zone for garbage coming from Metro Manila and other places,” asserted Ma. Teresa Bondoc of the Concerned Citizens of Obando.

The extreme unpopularity of the project has led to unprecedented citizens’ activism in Obando as can be seen from the conduct of monthly anti-landfill processions and related activities, including the use of the internet to disseminate stories and videos about the struggle and to petition the concerned authorities to junk the landfill project.

Obando Vice-Mayor Danilo de Ocampo stated that "The people have spoken loud and clear in rejecting the landfill project. DENR should heed this call and junk the project’s ECC at once.”

Despite the strong opposition of the people of Obando, the municipal government passed Resolution 07-102 allowing the proponent, Eco Shield Development Corporation, to construct the proposed landfill in the fishing village of Salambao off Manila Bay.

“The landfill project plainly contravenes the Supreme Court mandate to clean-up Manila Bay and restore it to its former condition of vitality. We should make Manila Bay landfill-free,” said Romeo Hidalgo, member of the executive committee and Co-Chair of Dumps and Incineration Task Force of EcoWaste Coalition.

Meanwhile, the groups cried foul at the statement of Regional Director Lormelyn Claudio of DENR- Environmental Management Bureau Region 3, which appeared recently in one broadsheet, claiming Sec Paje “has endorsed [Obando] landfill” even while the project’s ECC is still under review by the DENR. ###

Additional information available at:




14 October 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Alerts Consumers vs Dangerous Chemicals in Halloween Products

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental health group promoting awareness and action toward chemical safety, today cautioned consumers about toxic chemicals in Halloween products.

At a press briefing held in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition divulged the results of the tests it instigated to find out if toxic metals are present in seasonal accessories, face and body paints, masks, pumpkin buckets, vampire teeth and other Halloween favourites.

“Our latest chemical analysis confirms the presence of toxic metals, particularly cadmium, lead and mercury, in Halloween products often used by kids and adults in merrymaking,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The test results, we hope, will inform and strengthen the ongoing drive by the government and other sectors to rid the market of products containing dangerous chemicals,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The EcoWaste Coalition collaborated with QES (Manila), Inc. to screen 60 Halloween products for antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury using a device called X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), a handheld chemical analyzer routinely used by government regulatory bodies and private companies in the US.

The products were purchased from well-established retail outlets located in the cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila and Quezon, in Cainta, Rizal and bargain shops in Divisoria, Manila.

The tests indicated that out of 60 samples:

a. 42 (70%) had at least one toxic metal above levels of concern.

b. 36 (60%) had cadmium up to 199 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the 75 ppm limit under H.R. 4428, the proposed “Children’s Toxic Metals Act” of the USA.

c. 10 (17%) had lead as high as 3,463 ppm, way beyond the 90 ppm limit under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

d. 2 (3%) had mercury, including a crayon body paint with 239 ppm of mercury, way above the 1 ppm limit for mercury in cosmetics by the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines.

The tests also showed that none of the 42 products tainted with toxic chemicals specified on the labels that they contain such substances of concern.

Also, only 5 of the 60 samples had the mandatory license to operate (LTO) number on their labels, and 55 had zero or incomplete product information, denying consumers of their “right to know,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Citing information about the health impacts of chemicals from the website of the World Health Organization (WHO), the EcoWaste Coalition reminded consumers that:

1. Cadmium is classified as a human carcinogen and has toxic effects on the kidneys, the skeletal and the respiratory systems.

2. Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.

3. Mercury poses a particular threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life and has toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.

To address the problem with toxic children’s products, the EcoWaste Coalition strongly urged the industry not to manufacture, import, distribute or sell toys and other children’s products that contain chemicals of concern such as those found in the Philippine Priority Chemicals List.

The group also urged well-meaning wholesalers and retailers to refuse to sell children’s products unless these have been tested for safety, registered with the authorities and labelled with vital information, including chemical ingredients and their health and environmental effects.

With Halloween and Christmas just around the corner, the EcoWaste Coalition called on concerned government agencies to launch a unified campaign with the civil society and the mass media to rid the market of untested, unregistered and unlabelled toys and other children’s products.

The campaign should involve the Food and Drug Administration, Bureau of Customs, the Departments of Health and Trade and Industry, the Philippine National Police and concerned local government units, the EcoWaste Coalition said.


Links to WHO document on health impacts of chemicals:


13 October 2011

Spooky Secret Exposed: Halloween Products Loaded with Chemical Poisons Cadmium, Lead and Mercury

13 October 2011, Quezon City. Beware: 42 of the 60 Halloween products (70%) tested by a toxic watchdog were found to be contaminated with excessive amounts of health-damaging chemicals.

This is the eerie truth unearthed by the EcoWaste Coalition from a test it initiated to determine if Halloween products that are popular among children and adults contain heavy metals.

“Our test reveals that some Halloween products are unsafe for children due to their highly toxic ingredients and should be pulled out from the market at once,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

In collaboration with QES (Manila), Inc., local dealer of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the products were screened for toxic chemicals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.

The group purchased the Halloween products from popular retail outlets in the metropolis on October 8 to 11 and analyzed with XRF on October 12.

The samples, costing P5 to P499.50 were obtained from Landmark (Trinoma), National Book Store (Shangrila Plaza Mall, SM City North EDSA, Q-Plaza), Shopwise (Makati), Toy Express (SM City North EDSA) and Toys R Us (Robinsons Ermita), and from bargain shops in 999 Shopping Mall and the New Divisoria Center in Manila.

The XRF, a portable device that shoots beam into the material and then measures certain chemical elements in less than a minute, is widely used by regulatory agencies and private companies in the USA.

Among the Halloween products tested were accessories, costumes, hats, masks, face paints, decorations, screamers, trick or treat buckets and toys.

Out of 60 samples, 42 (70%) had at least one toxic metal such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury above levels of concern.

None of the 42 products found with chemicals of concerns indicated that they contain such toxic substances.

Of the 60 samples, 36 (60%) were found to contain cadmium above 75 parts per million (ppm), the limit proposed under H.R. 4428, the “Children’s Toxic Metals Act” bill of the USA. An unlabelled red plastic devil mask from Landmark had 199 ppm of cadmium.

Ten samples (17%) exceeded the 90 ppm regulatory limit for lead under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. A pull string skull toy bought from shop number IQ 2-4 in 999 Shopping Mall tested with the highest levels of lead at 3,463 ppm, as well as chromium at 3,771 ppm.

Two samples (3%) had mercury above the 1 ppm limit for cosmetics set by the Food and Drugs Administration of the Philippines, including a crayon body paint product with 239 ppm of mercury from Anding’s Toys and Flowers, Inc. in New Divisoria Center.

Cadmium, lead and mercury are among the 28 chemicals and chemical compounds in the Philippine First Priority Chemicals List that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had established to likely cause unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment.

The tests also showed that 13 samples (22%) contained more than one toxic metal that raises the health risk due to multiple exposure. For example, a key chain with a witchlike pumpkin design had antimony (476 ppm), cadmium (187 ppm), chromium (2,306 ppm) and lead (2,683 ppm).

Of the 60 samples, nine were face and body paint products, six of which provided chemical information on their labels and seven claimed to be “safe” or “non-toxic”. However, all seven “safe” or “non-toxic” products turned out to be tainted with cadmium. In fact, all nine face and body paint products were found toxic, including expensive branded products bought from National Book Store that registered with high levels of cadmium from 104 ppm – 180 ppm .

Only 5 of the 60 samples had the mandatory license to operate (LTO) number on their labels, and 55 had either no labels or incomplete labels, depriving buyers with basic information such as the product brand and name, its manufacturer or distributors, contact details, age suitability and precautionary instructions.

To address the problem with toxic children’s products, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated its call to the industry not to manufacture, import, distribute or sell toys and other articles intended for children that contain chemicals of concern.

As both Halloween and Christmas get closer, the EcoWaste Coalition urged concerned government agencies to launch a unified campaign with the civil society and the mass media to rid the market of untested, unregistered and unlabelled toys and other children’s products.

“It will be extremely hard for consumers to ascertain which children’s products are really free of toxins. The government and the industry need to guarantee that only products that have been proven safe for children, registered and labelled are sold in the market,” Dizon emphasized.


EcoGroups Express Alarm on Massive Outbreak of Waste Incinerators in Mindanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Environmental justice and health networks EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) expressed alarm on the massive increase of waste incineration proposals and contracts signed in different areas in Mindanao at the culmination of the Anti-Incineration Road Show (AIR Show), a series of workshops and community consultations about waste-to-energy held in General Santos, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.

Teachers, government employees, public officials, lawyers, advocates, social workers, media and health workers attended the AIRshow in the three cities.

“We are saddened by the news shared by different stakeholders from Mindanao that local government units are signing or are about to sign multi-year contracts with different incinerator companies that will allow dirty facilities to be built within their respective areas. Once these waste burners operate, they will bring immense environmental and health problems to many marginalized communities and threaten even more the island’s already critical environment,” said Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition.

During the AIR Show, the groups discovered that the German company Herhof GmbH already secured 25 to 50-year deals with the local governments of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur; Glan, Sarangani; Panabo City, Davao del Norte; and Midsayap, North Cotabato. Herhof’s proposal is also pending and being discussed by the local governments of Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.

Herhof and its recently formed local counterpart TIG Green Mindanao plan to put up “stabilat” plants in different areas in Mindanao to “pelletize” mixed municipal and hazardous wastes to be burned in their facilities or sold as co-fuel for cement kilns. In the small, quiet town of Glan the company is demanding at least 1,000 tons of garbage per day.

“We hope LGUs will not be misled by the grand promises and sham statistics of waste burning companies hiding behind high-tech sounding names like ‘pyrolysis’, ‘gasification’, ‘plasma arc’ or ‘stabilat’,” said Paeng Lopez, National Campaigner of GAIA.

“Herhof promotes the collection and burning of mixed waste which run against our aim to reduce the volume of our solid waste and protect our environment as stated under our Clean Air Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. To say yes to the wanton burning of discarded papers, bottles, metals, plastics, and other useful discards is to say yes to the continued destruction of our remaining ecosystems, because incineration sustains the need for further extraction of raw materials to manufacture new products. Think of incinerators as parasites – they suck out the life of our environment by burning its resources,” he emphasized.

For her part, HCWH Executive Director Merci Ferrer shared that, “environmentally-sound waste management alternatives like discards segregation, re-use, recycling and composting are easier to do and are much cheaper. Even hospital wastes, after disinfecting them through the use of autoclaves or microwaves, can be treated as regular household wastes and be recycled.”

“On the other hand, waste incineration produces carcinogenic dioxins – the most toxic man-made compound – and neuro-toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc. These are poisons that will inevitable contaminate our communities if we say yes to waste burning,” Ferrer warned.