29 July 2011

Top Retailers Urged to Pull Tainted Children's Products Off Store Shelves

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxic watchdog, today asked top retailers to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility by removing children’s products that have been found to contain health damaging chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN, in collaboration with project partners in Manila, Cebu and Davao, recently released the results of their investigation showing 121 samples, or over 27%, of the 435 children’s products tested were loaded with excessive amounts of toxic metals such as lead, a neurotoxin.

Some of the tainted products were procured by the EcoWaste Coalition from National Book Store (SM City North EDSA and Ayala Mall-Cebu), Toys R Us (Robinsons Galleria-Quezon City, Robinsons Place-Cebu and Robinsons in Abreeza Mall-Davao City), Toy Kingdom (SM City North EDSA, SM Cebu and SM Davao) and other formal retailers with official receipts issued.

The samples were screened for toxic ingredients such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a device that is routinely used by US regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The screening was conducted by Dr. Joe DiGangi , Senior Science and Policy Adviser of IPEN, who left the country last Wednesday.

In separate letters sent by Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, to Mrs. Socorro Reyes (NBS), Mr. John Gokongwei, Jr. (Robinsons) and Mr. Henry Sy, Sr. (SM), the group expressed serious concern over the sale of children’s products that tested positive with extreme levels of toxic metals.

The letters were delivered today to the corporate offices of NBS in Mandaluyong City, Robinsons in Quezon City, and SM in Pasay City.

“As recognized market leaders, we urge your companies to take immediate action and stop selling items loaded with toxic metals that could irreparably damage children’s health, development and future,” he said.

“Removing the tainted products from your stores would be a commendable act of corporate responsibility on the part of your companies,” he pointed out.

“We have written to you first in the hope of eliciting your earnest cooperation that can be emulated by other retailers, including those in Baclaran and Divisoria in Metro Manila, Bankerohan in Davao City and other toy centers,” he said.

“We are interested in meeting with you to discuss some further steps that could be taken to promote safe products including requiring suppliers to disclose substances of concern in products and requiring suppliers to comply with the labeling requirements under the Consumer Act of the Philippines, Food and Drug Administration Act and other pertinent laws,” he further said.

Some of the products that have to be removed from the market in the interest of children’s health and safety, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, include:

a. Educational toys made by a Cebu-based manufacturer, including wooden number blocks bought from National Book Store SM City North EDSA that tested with 12,053 parts per million (ppm) of lead, or over 100 times the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm. The same sample had 7,053 ppm of chromium, 1,758 ppm of arsenic and 42 ppm of mercury, making it the most contaminated item in the 200 products tested in Manila.

b. A "Bubblegum" drinking glass with painted designs that is made in Thailand and purchased from Toys R Us, Robinsons Place in Cebu City that yielded 38,433 ppm of lead, the highest concentration of lead among the 435 product samples.

c. A picnic tea set toys imported from China and sold at Toy Kingdom, SM-Davao City , which was found to contain 1,404 ppm of lead.

To learn more about the EcoWaste Coalition - IPEN investigation on toxic metals in children's products, please log on to:

http://ipen.org/toxicproducts/

-end-

26 July 2011

26% of Davao Children's Products Tested Positive with Toxic Metals, Study Finds



Davao City. The popular children’s puzzle mat with its varied coloured tiles, a familiar accessory in most nursery and pre-school rooms, was found to contain elevated amounts of lead far beyond the regulatory limit

The puzzle mat contained more than five times the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm.

An infant milk bottle designed to contain candies was found to contain more than three times the amount of mercury permitted in packaging by 19 US states.

These were some of the findings revealed in a study of Davao’s children’s products conducted by Dr. Joseph DiGangi, Senior Science and Policy Adviser of the International POPs Eliminations Network (IPEN), with the Interface Development Interventions and the EcoWaste Coalition, Inc.

The 135 samples were bought from 568, Haotian Toys, Robinsons Toys R Us, SM Toy Kingdom and in Bankerohan in Davao City.

In a public forum sponsored by the environment NGO Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), a member of the EcoWaste Coalition, DiGangi presented the results of the tests conducted over the weekend which revealed that approximately 26% of the 135 children’s products bought from department stores, public markets and ukay ukay stalls all over Davao City contained at least one toxic metal above levels of concern.

A significant number of the products contained lead levels above the US regulatory limit. Twenty two samples (16%) contained lead ranging from 92 ppm to more than 1700ppm; almost 20 times higher than the US regulatory limit.

Alarmingly, at least 21 items (16%) from the 135 samples were also found to contain more than one toxic metal increasing the potential harm from multiple exposures.

Dr. Romy Quijano, a University of the Philippines toxicologist, warned the public of the dangers of these toxic metals. “ Lead, mercury and other heavy metals in toys are significant threats to children’s health. People should be made aware that these poisons cause brain damage, neuro-behavioral disorders and other serious illnesses.”, he said.

DiGangi , a molecular biologist and biochemist, had tested the products with the X-Ray Flourescence (XRF) analyzer to screen priority chemicals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury in the 135 samples, using 30-second measurements of each sample.

The device, however, is unable to identify and measure other chemicals of concern such as bisphenol A and phthalates hence samples with low or non-detectable concentrations of metals may still not be totally safe.

The XRF is routinely used by private companies and by US regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“If we can analyze products, so can the manufacturers, distributors, and importers.”, said DiGangi. “It’s time for the industry to be proactive and eliminate toxic metals before products end up in children’s hands.’ DiGangi said. “

IDIS Executive Director Lia Jasmin Esquillo, meanwhile, urged the vendors and the local business community to stop engaging in the production, trade and sale of toys and other children’s products containing these toxic metals.

“Our children’s safety is paramount”, she said. “ Policymakers and regulatory agencies should use these findings to craft laws to help ensure that children are not exposed to undue risks to their lives and health.”

The national Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, released a press statement endorsing this research survey initiative.

Dr. Suzette H. Lazo, FDA Director, noted that the XRF technology has “significantly boosted monitoring efforts and prevented unsafe products from being marketed to unsuspecting consumers.”

“The FDA hereby enjoins every manufacturer, importers, distributors and retailers to be more aware of safety issues and to exercise extraordinary diligence in their manufacture and distribution of products under their stewardship by assuring that these are free of harmful chemicals,” she stressed.

-end-

23 July 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Cites Role of Health Professionals in Drive for Toxic-Free Children's Products



The environmental group EcoWaste Coalition today called attention to the essential role of health professionals in preventing childhood exposure from toxic chemicals in children’s products.

This came on the heels of the discovery of outrageous levels of heavy metals in dozens of children’s products bought from Metro Manila and Metro Cebu and tested by the EcoWaste Coalition and its partner IPEN, using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemical analyzer.

For instance, 19% of the 200 samples from Metro Manila and 8% of the 100 samples from Metro Cebu were found to contain lead, a neurotoxin, from 90 parts per million (ppm), the US regulatory limit for lead, to as high as almost 40,000 ppm.

Overall, approximately 30% of the Metro Manila samples and 25% percent of those from Metro Cebu had at least antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead or mercury above levels of concern.



At a forum on “Toxic Metals in Children’s Products” that drew participants from both health professional and environmental health groups, the EcoWaste Coalition affirmed the importance of medical doctors, nurses and other healthcare specialists in acting on knowledge of harm to public health from heavy metals.

“The results of our analysis provide sufficient evidence and strong basis to warrant sweeping action on lead, mercury and other toxic metals in children's products,” said Manny Calonzo, Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We hope that the country’s numerous medical and health organizations will take the lead in seeking the removal of the tainted products off the shelves in the interest of public health,” he said.

“Knowing that protecting our children from toxic exposure, which can often lead to irreparable effects, is better than cure, we urge our health experts to likewise ask the industry to cease from using harmful substances in all children’s products,” he stated.

Speaking at the forum, American scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi of IPEN emphasized that “a comprehensive approach should be implemented that prohibits substances of concern in children’s products such as carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants, neurotoxicants, immunotoxicants, persistent bioaccumulative and toxic substances, and endocrine disrupters.”

Medical and health authorities can take their cue from the country’s food and drug administrator who recently appealed to all sectors to “participate to achieve the daunting goal of toxic-free products” following the release of the test findings in Manila last Wednesday, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Dr. Suzette Lazo, Director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in a statement posted in the agency’s website, also enjoined the industry “to exercise extraordinary diligence in the manufacture and distribution of products under their stewardship by assuring that these are safe.”

Among the medical and health professionals who participated in the forum were the representatives from the Philippine Pediatric Society and the Philippine Nurses Association.

Also present were the Mother and Child Nurses Association of the Philippines, Occupational Nurses Association of the Philippines, Perinatal Association of the Philippines, Philippine Cancer Society, Philippine College of Hospital Administrators, Philippine College of Radiology, Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupation Toxicology and the Philippine Society of Oncology.

Representatives of Ang NARS, Arugaan, Autism Society of the Philippines, Ban Toxics, Citizens' Organization Concerned with Advocating for Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Makabata para sa Bayan and the November 17 Movement also took part in the forum.

Government-affiliated offices were also represented at the forum, including the Occupational Safety and Health Center, and UP College of Medicine - Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

-end-

To view the EcoWaste Coalition-IPEN report on toxic metals in children’s products in the Philippines, please log on to:










http://ipen.org/toxicproducts/

Cebu Environment Advocates Call for Action on Toxic Toys

MANDAUE CITY, CEBU- Environmental advocates in Cebu call for action to look into the recent findings of heavy metals found in children’s products in Metro Cebu that cause concern for consumer toxic exposure, particularly the children.

In a public forum called “Luwas nga Pagduwa” held at the University of Cebu Banilad Campus in Mandue City, the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), EcoWaste Coalition and the IPEN through its “State of the Toys Analysis” (SOTA) revealed that approximately 25 percent of the products contained at least one toxic metal above levels of concern. This is the first ever public investigation of toxic metals in children’s products such as toys, cosmetics and accessories in Cebu.

The chemical analysis conducted by the PEJC, EcoWaste and IPEN shows that lead, mercury and other toxic metals can be found in toys and other children’s products for sale in bargain stores and giant shopping malls in downtown Colon, in uptown Cebu, in reclamation area and “ukay-ukay” shops in downtown Cebu.

The findings were disclosed ahead of the “State of the Nation Address” (SONA) by President Benigno Aquino III in the hope of pushing the government to adopt the protection of children from harm posed by toxic substances as a priority goal.

Visiting American scientist Dr. Joseph DiGangi conducted the tests in July 21, 2011 using a hand-held X-ray flourescence (XRF) analyzer that is widely used by the private sector and regulatory agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This study measured toxic metals in 100 children’s products in Cebu with a focus on antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury.

The data revealed 8 products (8%) that contained lead at or above the US regulatory limit. Eight samples (8%) contained more than one toxic metal, DiGangi said.

He explained that in this study, several products were found that connect directly to the mouth. These included two drinking glasses with extraordinary levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic along with a toy container for candies and toy vampire teeth designed to be placed in the mouth.

The study also found children’s toy cosmetics with mercury levels approximately three times higher than the Philippine regulatory limit of 1ppm (part per million), he added.

“The findings raise valid safety concerns for toxic exposure among children and send a strong signal to the toy industry to shape up, phase out harmful chemicals in their products and shift to safer ingredients,” stated DiGangi, IPEN Science and Policy Adviser.

Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, PEJC coordinator said that “citizens deserve protection of their non-negotiable right to health from the State.”

She added that “government has a clear obligation to provide the much needed policy and regulatory framework for the producers and manufacturers of goods to prioritize the well-being of consumers, especially the children’s.”

PEJC hopes that the findings of lead and other hazardous substances in kids’ toys will propel much needed action from LGUs, in close coordination with other government agencies and stakeholders, in ensuring that children are not exposed to undue risks to their lives and health, she added.

The effort of the PEJC, EcoWaste, and IPEN to generate data and seek industry reforms drew immediate support from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the lead agency that regulates toys and other children's products.

In a statement read by FDA- Region VII, Dr. Suzette Lazo, FDA Director, said that the agency “continues to work towards strengthening its capability and processes consistent with its relentless quest to achieve toxic-free products.”

“Recognizing the vital role of non-government organizations (NGOs), the FDA acknowledges every effort including activities that can aid the agency in establishing data to justify regulatory actions,” she stated.

“The FDA, thus, endorses initiatives of EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN, both NGOs, in conducting a research survey on the presence of toxic elements in consumer products especially those critical to vulnerable groups of the society such as children,” Dr. Lazo said.

Dr. Lazo also noted “the availability of breakthrough technology that can quickly and accurately test for the presence of harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and arsenic in consumer products can significantly boost monitoring efforts and prevent unsafe products from being marketed to unsuspecting consumers.”

“The FDA hereby enjoins every manufacturer, importers, distributors and retailers to be more aware of safety issues and to exercise extraordinary diligence in their manufacture and distribution of products under their stewardship by assuring that these are free of harmful chemicals,” she stressed.

The FDA further encouraged consumers to be more vigilant and report to the agency at telephone number 8078275 or the nearest DOH-Center for Health Development (CHD) or the Health Offices of Local Government Units (LGUs) any product suspected to be hazardous to health for appropriate action.

20 July 2011

EcoWaste Coalition's Study Bares Toxic Ingredients in Children's Products


(Photos by Gigie Cruz)



EcoWaste Coalition’s Study Bares Toxic Ingredients in Children’s Products
(as FDA endorses research survey, enjoins industry to produce toxic-free products)

20 July 2011, Quezon City. A toxic watchdog today released the results of the first ever public investigation of toxic metals in children’s products such as toys, cosmetics and accessories in the Philippines.

At a press conference held in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition through its “State of the Toys Analysis” (SOTA) revealed that 30% of the 200 imported, as well as locally-made, children’s products bought from a variety of shops and locations in Metro Manila tested with at least one toxic metal above levels of concern.

However, some 70% of the products did not contain toxic metals (or contained low levels of them), indicating the technical feasibility of manufacturing safe products that do not expose children to toxic metals, the group reported.

The chemical analysis conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition in collaboration with the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) shows that antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury can be found in toys and other children's products for sale in bargain stores in Baclaran and Divisoria, "ukay-ukay" shops and even in giant shopping malls in the metropolis.

The findings were disclosed ahead of the “State of the Nation Address” (SONA) by President Benigno Aquino III in the hope of pushing the government to adopt the protection of children from harm posed by toxic substances as a priority goal.

Of the 200 samples, 37 products (19%) were found in violation of the US regulatory limit for lead, a neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure, with values ranging from 90 parts per million (ppm) to over 12,000 ppm.

The lead-tainted products included a variety of cars and dolls, fake food items which invited chewing, cosmetics that are applied directly to the skin and floor matting which commonly used to cushion areas where infants play.

The study also found three children's cosmetic products containing mercury, another notorious neurotoxin, at levels significantly higher than the regulatory limit in the Philippines of 1 ppm, ranging from 4 to 77 ppm. The products included lipstick and eye shadows designed to be applied directly to the lips and skin.

Visiting American scientist Dr. Joseph Di Gangi conducted the tests from July 17 to 19, 2011 using a portable X-Ray Flourescence (XRF) analyzer that is widely used by the private sector and regulatory agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“The findings raise valid safety concerns for toxic exposure among children and send a strong signal to the toy industry to shape up, phase out harmful chemicals in their products and shift to safer ingredients,” stated DiGangi, IPEN Science and Policy Adviser.

For his part, Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect appealed to the business community not to engage in production, trade and sale of toys and other children’s products containing toxic metals and other injurious substances such as those listed on the “Priority Chemical List” of the country.

The effort of the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN to generate data and seek industry reforms drew immediate support from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the lead agency that regulates toys and other children's products.

In a statement read by her representative, Dr. Suzette Lazo, FDA Director, said that the agency “continues to work towards strengthening its capability and processes consistent with its relentless quest to achieve toxic-free products.”

“Recognizing the vital role of non-government organizations (NGOs), the FDA acknowledges every effort including activities that can aid the agency in establishing data to justify regulatory actions,” she stated.

“The FDA, thus, endorses initiatives of EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN, both NGOs, in conducting a research survey on the presence of toxic elements in consumer products especially those critical to vulnerable groups of the society such as children,” Dr. Lazo said.

Dr. Lazo also noted “the availability of breakthrough technology that can quickly and accurately test for the presence of harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and arsenic in consumer products can significantly boost monitoring efforts and prevent unsafe products from being marketed to unsuspecting consumers.”

“The FDA hereby enjoins every manufacturer, importers, distributors and retailers to be more aware of safety issues and to exercise extraordinary diligence in their manufacture and distribution of products under their stewardship by assuring that these are free of harmful chemicals,” she stressed.

The FDA further encouraged consumers to be more vigilant and report to the agency at telephone number 8078275 or the nearest DOH-Center for Health Development (CHD) or the Health Offices of Local Government Units (LGUs) any product suspected to be hazardous to health for appropriate action.

Link to the report:

http://ipen.org/toxicproducts/
















-end-

15 July 2011

DepEd Urged to Tighten Food Safety Policies in Schools Following Successive Poisoning Incidents

An environmental network exhorted the Department of Education (DepEd) to waste no time in tightening policies that could help in promoting knowledge and compliance to food safety regulations in schools.

Reacting to a recent flurry of food poisoning cases in schools, the EcoWaste Coalition urged Education Secretary Armin Luistro to strengthen DepEd’s food safety policies and launch fresh initiatives to promote faithful adherence to them.

From June 14 to July 13 this year, episodes of food poisoning were reported in Larion Bajo Elementary School (Tuguegarao City), Makati High School Annex I (Makati City) and St. Mary’s College (Quezon City), the EcoWaste Coalition observed.

Over 65 students were poisoned by accident, including two young fatalities from Tuguegarao City: kindergarten pupils Eloisa Ballad and Jessica Mae Bangayan, lamented the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We appeal to Secretary Luistro to make healthy and safe school environment a flagship program of DepEd under the Aquino administration,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“By fortifying existing policies and launching fresh initiatives on food safety, we can expect reduced number of injuries and deaths due to food poisoning in schools,” he added.

Among the policies that have to be revisited and reinforced, the EcoWaste Coalition said, include DepEd Order No. 52, Series of 2008 on “Compliance with DepEd Policies on Food Safety in Schools,” DepEd Order No. 8, Series of 2007 on “Revised Implementing Guidelines on the Operation and Management of School Canteens in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” and DepEd Order No. 14, Series of 2005 on “Instructions to Ensure Consumption of Nutritious and Safe Foods in Schools.”

“We further request DepEd to revive the ‘Food Safety Awareness Week’ promoted by the late Education Secretary Andrew Gonzalez,” Alvarez stated.

Then Secretary Gonzalez issued DECS Memorandum NO. 435, Series of 1999, in support of Presidential Proclamation No. 160, Series of 1999,"to reduce and ultimately eradicate food poisoning and foodborne illnesses,” specifically in schools and communities.

To prevent food poisoning due to bacterial or chemical contamination, the EcoWaste Coalition advised school administrators, teachers and personnel to adopt, popularize and enforce essential precautionary and preventive measures.

These measures should build on the“five keys to safer food” as espoused by the World Health Organization: 1) keep food clean, 2) separate raw and cooked foods, 3) cook food thoroughly, 4) keep food at safe temperatures, and 3) use safe water and raw materials, the group said.

Also, schools are advised to ban use of hazardous products in school facilities such as toxic cleaning agents, pesticides and laboratory chemicals, promote safe alternatives, including non-chemical substitutes, and ensure environmentally-sound management of all chemicals and discards.

-end-

References:
http://www.deped.gov.ph/cpanel/uploads/issuanceImg/DO%20No.%2052,%20s.%202008.pdf
http://www.deped.gov.ph/cpanel/uploads/issuanceImg/DM%20No%20435%20s%201999.pdf
http://www.who.int/foodsafety/consumer/5keys/en/

10 July 2011

EcoGroups Lament Government’s Persisting Environmental Crime in Payatas

Quezon City – Environmental groups are outraged at the government’s continuing failure to stop the destruction of the environment and bring justice to more than 600 people who died when a portion of the Payatas garbage mountain collapsed on July 10, 2000.

“After all these years, justice has yet to be served to the Payatas garbage slide victims and to the families they left behind. The continuing operation of the toxic dump eleven years since the disaster mocks the death of the victims and untold sorrow of their loved ones,” said Joey Papa of Bangon Kalikasan Movement and co-chair of the Task Force Dumps of the EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, all controlled dumpsites should have been closed in February 2006 and yet the Quezon City government operated the said waste disposal facility until December 31, 2010. Currently, the Payatas waste disposal facility is called a “sanitary” landfill.

“The Payatas waste disposal facility, by any other name like sanitary landfill, remains a dumpsite,” said Nito Panoy, a resident living adjacent to Payatas waste disposal facility.

“In fact, three weeks ago, we were told by the Payatas Operation Group headed by retired Col. Jameel Jaymalin to expect pocket or gradual demolition of houses to clear more area for garbage. To think that we were invited before to relocate here, a clean and promising community then and which we call until now Lupang Panagko,” said Panoy.

“Even if the so-called Payatas landfills have liners, these are bound to leak as have been found out by the United States Environmental Protection Agency from same facilities in the United States. The dump will continue to release leachate containing toxic chemicals and pathogens that can cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhea and other illness,” said Papa.

The Payatas waste disposal facility is located near the critical La Mesa Watershed, a major source of drinking water to many communities of Metro Manila. It is also adjacent to the Marikina-Pasig River.

“To replace dumping, the Quezon City government must mandate and ensure that all its barangays to set up their own ecology centers. With honest-to-goodness implementation of the law, there is no need to haul and dump the waste in Payatas. This will ensure that millions of public funds are utilized properly and prevent another catastrophic tragedy,” said Papa.

05 July 2011

Green Groups Push for Take Back System for Plastic Garbage


(Photos by Gigie Cruz)


After observing last Sunday the International Plastic Bag-Free Day at Quezon Memorial Circle where green groups surrounded the landmark with used plastic bag chain, organizers are now vexed by the plastics bags they successfully collected.

"Now we have a significant stockpile of used plastic bags at our office and it gives us mixed feelings,” revealed Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We are sad that there’s just way too much of it, and at the same time we are glad that we diverted them from waterways, landfills, cement kilns and incinerators. But the question is: now what?" he noted.

“Our predicament actually emphasizes the pressing need to put in place a proper take-back mechanism where producers are required to recover the plastic discards,” campaigner Paeng Lopez of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) said.

A take-back mechanism along with phasing-out both regular and degradable plastic bags, promoting organic reusable bags, and taxing plastic bags are some of the fundamental features of a national law banning plastic bags that the green groups are urging Congress to enact.

More than 300 participants from almost 50 groups, including many from Cavite, Nueva Ecija and Rizal, took part in the plastic bag chain event that put a spotlight on the pervasive plastic pollution throughout the country.

Some of the notable participants include Miss Earth Philippines 2011 Athena Mae Imperial and her court, MMDA Vice-Chairman Alex Cabanilla, Muntinlupa City Councilor Raul Corro, and Atty. Agnes Baylen from the Office of Congresswoman Lani Mercado-Revilla.

In a statement sent to GAIA, Cong. Mercado-Revilla expressed her solidarity with all the participants “in bringing about a plastic-free Philippines.”

Speaking form personal experience, she mentioned how in taking part in the 25th International Coastal Clean-Up last year she saw the “proliferation of plastic bags and other products in the Bacoor Bay coast and how these plastic products destroyed the ecological environment in Bacoor Bay.”

This is consistent with the discards survey conducted in 2006 and 2010 by EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, and GAIA, which found plastic bags comprising 51.4 and 27.7 percent respectively of the flotsam in Manila Bay. Plastics in general, including plastic bags, made up 76.9 and 75.55 percent respectively.

“We hope that together, our concern for our environment and that of humankind shall convince our fellow men and women to view plastic bags as an ecological menace,” Mercado-Revilla said.

“(I hope that) the millions of pesos that the plastic industry has generated in the economy shall not prevent them from taking action now,” she emphasized.

Aside from pushing for a comprehensive plastic bag law, the green groups also cited LGUs who have initiated the phase out and ban of plastic bags in their jurisdictions.

“Plastic pollution is indiscriminate – it affects all of us, private and public individuals, rich and poor, everyone, so we should stand united and firm in addressing it through a phase out,” the green groups said.

--end--

04 July 2011

Consumers Urged to Read Product Labels Carefully as FDA Raises Alarm over Tainted "Toyo"

A group promoting public health and safety from harmful chemicals advised consumers to read food product labels carefully before making any purchase.

The EcoWaste Coalition, following a recent reminder from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for consumers not to buy unlabeled soy sauce products due to possible carcinogenic ingredients, urged the public to be firm in demanding for information.

A chemical of concern in some tainted soy sauce products from China is 3-MCPD (3-monochloropropane-1, 2-diol or 3-chloro-1,2-propanediol), a chemical byproduct formed in foods that has been identified by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee for Food as a “suspected genotoxic carcinogen.”

As soon as the FDA advisory hit the news, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol on Sunday went to Quiapo, Manila to investigate if any unlabeled soy products are being sold in the area.

While relieved to find that most stores only sell locally-made soy sauce with proper labeling and packaging, an AlerToxic Patroller was able to buy a mislabeled bottle of what is claimed to be a “mushroom soy sauce” for P35 from a vendor in Villalobos St.

The original label of the said product, which has been posted in the EcoWaste Coalition’s website, was noticeably removed and replaced with a hand-written note that says “mushroom soy sauce.”

“The unbranded ‘mushroom soy sauce’ is definitely in violation of FDA’s mandatory labeling requirements for prepackaged food products and should not be sold in the market,” said Aileen Lucero of EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Please take the time to read the label for facts that should help you in making an informed choice for your health and safety,” she emphasized.

“We have the right as consumers to enjoy access to complete and truthful product information and we should insist on it,” she pointed out.

"As added precaution against adulterated or contaminated soy sauce, consumers should refrain from buying repacked 'toyo' products," she added.

According to Article 74 of Republic Act 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, “the state shall enforce compulsory labeling and fair packaging to enable the consumer to obtain accurate information as to the nature, quality and quantity of the contents of consumer products.”

As a safety precaution, the EcoWaste Coalition encourages consumers to take a closer look at the label of prepackaged foods and check if the following requirements of the FDA as contained in Administrative Order No. 88-B, Series of 1984 are adhered to:

1. Name of the food
2. List of ingredients
3. Declaration of food additives
4. Net contents and drained weight
5. Name and address of manufacturer, packer and distributor
6. Lot identification

In addition, the FDA through Memorandum Circular No. 18, Series of 1994 requires the display of Food Registration Number of the label of prepackaged food products.

R.A. 7394 further requires additional labeling requirements for foods such as expiry or expiration date; a description whether the product is semi-processed, fully-processed, ready-to-cook, ready-to-eat, prepared food or just plain mixture; nutritive value, if any; information regarding the use of natural or synthetic ingredients; and other labeling requirements as may be deemed necessary and reasonable.

-end-

References:

On 3-MCPD:
http://www.fodevarestyrelsen.dk/fdir/Pub/2001901/rapport.htm

On FDA’s labelling requirements for prepackaged foods:

http://www.bfad.gov.ph/pdf/RegulatoryGuidance/food/ao/AO088-Bs.1984.pdf

http://www.bfad.gov.ph/pdf/RegulatoryGuidance/food/mc/MC18s1994.pdf

http://www.bfad.gov.ph/pdf/RegulatoryGuidance/food/mc/MC4s2002.pdf

On the Consumer Act of the Philippines:

http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno7394.htm

03 July 2011

Green Groups Make "Plastic Bag Chain" to Call for National Phase Out of Plastic Bags












Over 300 concerned individuals and organizations from NGOs to Academe, college students to senior citizens, Church-based groups to bike enthusiasts, beauty queens to LGUs converged today at the Quezon Memorial Circle to participate in the International Plastic Bag-Free Day.

Bearing banners and placards calling, among others, for a nationwide phase out on plastic bags, the collective also linked together “plastic bag chain” made of used plastic bags and surrounded the full circumference of Quezon Circle.

“This chain, made of plastic bags from recognizable establishments, represents but a tiny fraction of the world’s plastic problem and highlights our very own here at home,” lamented campaigner Paeng Lopez of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives [GAIA]. “If merely hundreds of people here today can enclose the entire Quezon Memorial Circle with plastic bags, imagine what 95.8 million[1] Filipinos do to our waterways, marine life, and climate with our continued consumption of plastic bags,” he added.

The group expressed gratefulness to the LGUs who have started to phase-out and ban plastic bags in their jurisdictions, and called for a national law that will enhance waste reduction by prohibiting the same and promoting organic reusable bags.

“We know for a fact that our noble legislators in Congress, led by the tireless Committee on Ecology, are doing their best to complement what our LGUs have started,” revealed Roy Alvarez, President of EcoWaste Coalition. “And we want them to know that we will be behind them in firmly cutting down waste and phasing-out plastic bags,” he added.

The group called for the enactment of a law that will:

- phase-out plastic bags [regular and degradable]
- promote organic reusable bags
- espouse take-back mechanisms and recycling
- support LGUs in their waste management initiatives;
- impose environmental levy on plastic bags; and
- for accountability purposes, label so-called “degradable” plastic bags to show name of manufacturers, manufacturing date, and the degradation period of the bag.

The group also warned about the proliferation of so-called “biodegradable” plastics, and shared the findings of Loughborough University and DEFRA-UK which revealed that while these materials may degrade in 2-5 years, their biodegradability remain unclear. Available data suggest that oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade in anaerobic conditions, such as would be found in landfill.[2]

“Degradable plastic bags merely perpetuate ‘throw-away’ and ‘dispose-as-usual’ mentality as it gives the wrong impression that discarding them the habitual way is okay since they degrade anyway,” pointed out Greenpeace campaigner Beau Baconguis. “This raises, at least, two problems: littering and continued production of plastic waste.”

“The trick is simply not to get duped into believing that degradable plastic bag is the solution. There’s a reason the item is called as it is because even if it degrades it remains to be plastic,” warns Mother Earth Foundation President Froilan Grate. “If at all, it is only a stop-gap or temporary measure that we also have to do away with on our way back to using organic reusable bags,” he added.

“We are glad that more and more provinces, cities, and municipalities are taking on what Los BaƱos, Muntinlupa, Batangas City, Lucban, and other pioneer LGUs have done. Let us re-think our relationship with plastic bags, knowing fully well that local and environmentally sound alternatives are available,” said Miss Earth Athena Mae Imperial. “It is time we give our environment a break and our cottage industries that support local employment a boost.”

As of last count, there are more than 10 cities and municipalities that have banned plastic bags and about 10 more are proposing to do the same.[3]

Recently, Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro attributed, in part, the welcome absence of floods in his city during typhoon Falcon to their plastic ban and said, “there was less trash along the waterways,” which “eased the local government’s headaches in ensuring that rainwater would leave the city’s streets as soon as possible.”

Discards survey conducted in 2006 and 2010 by EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, and GAIA found plastic bags comprising 51.4 and 27.7 percent respectively of the flotsam in Manila Bay. Plastics in general, including plastic bags, made up 76.9 and 75.55 percent respectively.

Annually, the world produces 200 million tonnes of plastics. Using conservative estimates, if bags have an average weight of 32.5g and size of 900cm2 , we will be able to encircle the earth more than 41,000 times.

Participants of the International Plastic Bag-Free Day activity include private individuals, Alaga Lahat, Arugaan, Ban Toxics, BERDE, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Citizens' Organization Concerned with Advocating for Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Cycling Advocates, Diocese of Caloocan-Ecology Ministry, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Kabalikat Civicom-Iloilo, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Malabon National High School - Ecomarino, Malayang Tinig ng mga Kababaihan sa Komunidad, Mary Immaculate Parish Special School, Miss Earth Foundation, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Sanib Lakas ng mga Aktibong Lingkod ng Inang Kalikasan, Sang-at Uli Mountaineering Society, Sagip Pasig Movement, Samahang Pagkakaisa ng mga Tindero sa Talipapa, Sarilaya, Viajero Outdoor Center-CDO, Quezon City Public Library and Zero Waste Philippines.


[1]http://govhealthinsurancequote.com/1830/rh-bill-population-in-philippines-to-reach-96-million-by-2011/
[2]http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=EV0422_8859_OTH.pdf
[3]With "IMPLEMENTING" Ordinance:1. Carmona, Cavite
2. Muntinlupa City
3. Antipolo City4. Los Banos, Laguna
5. Sta. Barbara in Iloilo
6. Lucban, Quezon
7. Infanta, Quezon
8. Imus, Cavite
9. Binan, Laguna
10. Batangas, City
11. Burgos, Pangasinan

With "PROPOSED" Ordinance:
1. Caloocan City
2. Valenzuela City
3. Taytay, Rizal
4. Mandaluyong City
5. Real, Quezon
6. GMA, Cavite
7. Sorsogon
8. Iloilo
9. Bacolod

01 July 2011

Environmentalists Back MMDA's Intensified Drive vs. Smoking

The Metro Manila Development Authorities (MMDA) has found another ally in its campaign to rid the metropolis of harmful cigarette smoke and litter.

After the Philippine Medical Association vowed to send doctors to the streets to inform the public about the hazards of smoking, environmentalists from the EcoWaste Coalition followed suit with a plea urging all caring citizens to rally behind the call for a “smoke-free,” as well as “litter-free,” Metro Manila.

“We join the MMDA in their strong-willed campaign to make the national capital region safe from tobacco pollution. We appeal to the general public to support this initiative that seeks to protect the public health and the environment from toxic smoke and litter,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We laud the MMDA for its smoke-free campaign as this will protect our right to health as enshrined in the Constitution and in various international instruments on human rights,” added Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines ( FCAP).

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and FCAP expressed confidence that Metro Manila’s 17 local government units (LGUs) will actively back the smoke-free goal for Manila by 2012 as this will help in preventing tobacco-related diseases among residents as well as transients.

This will further help in reducing the volume of toxic-laden cigarette butts that are recklessly tossed onto streets and street gutters, canals and rivers, the groups said.

“If cigarette butt receptacles are to be provided, we caution the LGUs not to accept donations from tobacco companies as they will only use this to gain some advertising mileage,” the groups said.

“LGUs must not fall into the ‘green washing’ trap by tobacco companies, which directly flouts our commitment under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC),” they said.

The FCTC, which the government ratified in 2005, specifically requires state parties to legislate and implement a comprehensive ban on TAPS, or tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The metrowide ban on smoking in public places commences today, July 1, after a month-long information drive that saw MMDA environmental enforcers issuing warnings to 8,792 violators.

According to the latest available data from the agency’s website, the MMDA has also apprehended 49,807 litterbugs as of June 27, 2011.

-end-