27 September 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Reminds Consumers to Watch Out for Toxic Toys as Christmas Nears

With just 90 days before Christmas, a toxic watchdog exhorted consumers to exercise due diligence in shopping for holiday gifts to prevent children’s exposure to unsafe toys proliferating in the market.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit group promoting the right of consumers to chemical safety, appealed for consumer vigilance with the anticipated rise in toy sale as the long Christmas shopping frenzy gets underway.

“Not all toy products that made it to store shelves are child-friendly as they ought to be. If we are not careful with our purchasing choices, it is likely we will be giving away toys that are not safe for children to play with,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Unsafe toys are playthings that can choke, cut, poke, strangulate and expose young children to dangerous chemicals such as lead and mercury, which can damage the brain and nervous system and cause serious developmental delays and disorders, the EcoWaste Coalition explained.

“By being super diligent in demanding information about chemicals in products such as toys, we can make better choices and lessen children’s exposure to toxic chemicals that can badly affect their health and development,” he pointed out.

“Consumer vigilance can push toy companies to finally shape up and put the health interests of young consumers ahead of corporate gains," he emphasized.

“Consumer demand for safe toys will hopefully compel manufacturers to disclose the chemical ingredients of their products through understandable and truthful labelling,” he added.

As per Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order 32, Series of 2007, all toy products in the market, whether imported or locally produced, should bear the following minimum information on the label or package: a) correct and registered trade or brand name, b) duly registered trademark, c) model or reference number, d) duly registered business name and address of the manufacturer and/or distributor, e) place, country and date of manufacture, f) license to operate (LTO) number, g) warning and/or precautionary indications, h) instructions on toy’s usage, functions, features and assembly, and i) information on the specified age requirements.

Consumers should specifically look for the LTO number, which is an indicator that the product is duly registered and compliant with the health and safety requirements of the DOH and the Philippine National Standard for Safety of Toys, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Since most toy labels would not reveal the chemical ingredients that make up a product, consumers could ask retailers to call the manufacturer, importer or distributor to get the essential information and refuse to buy the item if the requested information is kept confidential,” Dizon said.

To stir up public attention on the issue of toxic toys, the EcoWaste Coalition will conduct awareness raising activities in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The EcoWaste Coalition will distribute a colorful “Play Safe” poster co-published with the Food and Drug Administration and IPEN through public and private schools and other children’s hubs.

In July this year, the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN tested 435 samples of children’s products bought from bargain, high-end and “ukay-ukay” shops in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and in Davao City.

Using a device called X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the tests indicated that 124 products, or 29 percent of the 435 samples, were found to contain at least one toxic metal above levels of concern such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.

Sixty-seven children’s products (15 percent) of the samples had lead levels above the US regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm), with the top 10 products containing lead from 1,712 to 38,433 ppm.

Eight children’s products were found laced with mercury, including four children’s cosmetic products containing 2.5 to 77 ppm of mercury, surpassing the country’s regulatory limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics.

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22 September 2011

Senate Bill on Safe Cleaning Products in Schools Gains Support

A non-governmental toxic watchdog welcomed the filing of a Senate bill that seeks to enforce the use of safe cleaning products in schools.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group promoting chemical safety, lauded Senate Bill 2962 authored by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago requiring schools to use certified environmentally-preferable cleaning products for the safety of the school community.

The proposed "Safe Cleaning Products in Schools Act" will prohibit the purchase or use of air fresheners in school premises, including para-dichlorobenzene, a suspected carcinogen, that is often used as toilet deodorizer.

As defined in the bill, cleaning products will include items routinely used for cleaning chores such as hand soaps, general purpose cleaners, bathroom cleaners, glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, floor care items and antimicrobial pesticides.

“We welcome this legislative measure that aims to safeguard the health of students, teachers, janitors, gardeners and other school personnel from harmful chemicals in common cleaning products,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Since substitutes to toxic cleaning products are now widely available, we hope the bill will categorically disallow the use of materials laced with chemicals of concern and duly promote safer chemical as well as non-chemical alternatives,” she suggested.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Santiago called attention to dangerous ingredients present in typical household cleaning products such as caustics or solvents, which when used, stored or disposed of improperly are deemed health hazards.

Caustic chemicals, Santiago warned, can cause burns and severe damage to the skin and eyes, while the inhalation or accidental ingestion of solvents can be harmful or even fatal.

Long-term exposure to some solvents may cause liver and kidney problems, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and cancer, she emphasized.

The veteran legislator also cited a study conducted by the University of Washington in US which showed that many scented cleaning products contain mystery chemicals not listed on their labels that are toxic to health.

Researchers found that 25 of the most frequently used scented products contained an average of 17 hazardous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which may have short-term and long-term adverse health effects.

“Children are more sensitive (to chemical exposure) because they are still developing their basic body systems. The brain, internal organs, respiratory, and immune systems are not fully developed until adolescence,” observed Santiago.

Senate Bill 2962, if approved, will require the Departments of Education, Environment and Natural Resources and Health, to jointly create and update a “school environmental health website.”

The website will contain information regarding:

(1) Materials and practices in common use in school operations and construction that may compromise indoor air quality or negatively impact human health;

(2) Potential health problems associated with these materials, with specific reference to children's vulnerability;

(3) Integrated pest management and alternatives to chemical pest control;

(4) Methods to reduce or eliminate exposure to potentially hazardous substances in schools.

(5) Environmentally preferable cleaning products certified by an independent third party including a list of these products and procedures for using them.

“The website should facilitate public access to critical information to guide administrators and other stakeholders in making the school environment safe from toxic chemicals ,” Lucero added.

-end-

Link to Senate Bill 2962:
http://www.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=15&q=SBN-2962

21 September 2011

Manila City Council Lauded for Thumbing Down Incinerators

Environment health leaders commended the Manila City Council for unanimously passing yesterday a resolution that effectively nipped in the bud a proposal to burn Metro Manila’s trash.

Through a resolution sponsored by Councilor Numero Lim of Manila’s second district, councilors from various political blocs expressed "strong and vehement opposition" to the use of incinerators for garbage disposal as proposed by the Metro Manila Development Authority.

The City Council cited health, environmental and economic reasons for rejecting incinerators, adding "that these devices are notoriously expensive because of the energy required to burn garbage."

In lieu of incineration, the City Council urged the government to enforce “with vigor and political will” proven waste prevention and reduction measures such as source separation, reusing, recycling and composting.

The resolution immediately drew a chorus of approval from various citizens’ groups that see waste as a resource, which should be recycled back to nature or commerce instead of being dumped or burned and causing toxic pollution.

“We laud Councilor Lim and the City Council for weighing in on moves to lift the incineration ban that is enshrined in two major environmental laws. They are right in telling the concerned authorities to focus on real solutions, not on deceptive techno-fixes, that will address the garbage woes of Manila and the bulging metropolis,” said Froilan Grate, President of Mother Earth Foundation and NGO representative to the Metro Manila Solid Waste Management Board.

Republic Act 8749, the Clean Air Act, prohibits the “burning of municipal, bio-medical and hazardous wastes, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes,” while Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, calls for the “adoption of the best environmental practices in solid waste management excluding incineration.”


For his part, Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, encouraged other local government units (LGUs) to take their cue from the Manila City Council and stop the resurgence of waste incinerators all over the country.


“LGUs should not fall prey to incinerator prophets and their misleading promises of supplying emissions-free and cost-effective waste burners. Take notice of what the Manila councilors did, don’t play with fire and pursue inclusive, climate-friendly Zero Waste systems,” stated Alvarez.


Von Hernandez, President of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA-Philippines), also cautioned LGUs against the “formidable air pollution challenge” resulting from the discharge of persistent environmental pollutants linked with incinerators, including cancer-causing dioxins and furans.


“Modern incinerators may be equipped with advanced pollution control systems, but in the end, they only serve to capture and transfer the problem between different environmental media,” Hernandez explained.


“Ash generated by the combustion process, considered hazardous waste, typically end up being dumped in landfills. So while there are indeed modern incinerators, there is no such thing as a pollution or emissions-free incinerator,” he emphasized.

To drum up support for real solutions to garbage woes, various environmental health groups are conducting public outreach programs that will culminate with an anti-incineration parade on September 28 in Quezon City


-end-

20 September 2011

EcoGroups Ask Davao City Officials to Junk "Waste-to-Energy" Proposals

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Rei Panaligan, EcoWaste Coalition – 0920-9062348

Betty Cabazares, Kinaiyahan Foundation – 0918-5315110


DAVAO CITY- The pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition urge Mayor Sara Duterte and the Davao City officials to cast aside incinerators disguising as “waste-to-energy” facilities proposed by foreign companies Herhof and Sinovia Capital.

“Either proposal promotes burning of otherwise valuable resources - which is in fundamental conflict with our Clean Air and Ecological Solid Waste Management Acts,” said Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition, a public network of more than 125 environmental, health and community organizations and networks.

“We strongly urge Mayor Duterte to reconsider her options and refrain from signing any Memorandum of Agreement with these companies. Knowing that the best ecological alternatives such as waste segregation, re-use, recycling and composting are more economical, it will not be in the best interest of Davao City if these companies are allowed to burn away the city’s useful discards,” he emphasizes.

In a letter sent by the coalition to Mayor Duterte last week, the group claims that both Sinovia’s gasification and Herhof’s Stabilat waste-to-energy processes are toxic and hazardous to both surface environment and groundwater reservoirs.

“Mixed solid waste, even as ‘pellets’ promoted by Herhof, are laden with toxic substances and chemicals. When garbage is burned, extremely toxic heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and dioxins, a substance hazardous to human health and wildlife, may be released to our air, soil and water. Furthermore, incinerating waste generates toxic ash and other by-products which need landfilling, which means that the city will be forced to host an additional highly-toxic waste disposal facility,” said Panaligan.

Meanwhile the Davao City-based environmental group Kinaiyahan Foundation also asks Davao City officials not to fall for “sugar-coated” promises of both companies, and instead urge them to demand from both companies full feasibility studies and data on environmental impacts, appropriate clearances, proof of public acceptance, closure plan and other important information before even considering any long-term agreements. Kinaiyahan Foundation is a member of the Davao City Solid Waste Management Board.

“These companies are saying that DavaoeƱos will not spend a dime for these projects but, in reality, the city might have to sacrifice a lot of things and could very well be at the mercy of these companies in the future,” said Betty Cabazares, Executive Director of Kinaiyahan Foundation.

“Burning waste directly competes with smaller industries and communities engaged in recycling, composting and waste collection, and also undermines the city’s commendable efforts to promote environmental stewardship to its citizens,” she added.

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and Kinaiyahan Foundation believe that the city can achieve sustainable solution to its garbage woes by strengthening the ecological solid waste management program in every barangay, enhancing the city’s collection and recycling systems, mandating bio-digesters and similar waste treatment facilities to big and private institutions, and intensifying composting towards the promotion of organic agriculture and urban gardens.

-end-

Plastic Waste Tops Laguna de Bay Debris

Quezon City - A waste audit conducted by ecogroups and youth groups from Quezon City, Cavite and Laguna revealed that plastic discards are the top debris found in Laguna De Bay.

The audit was conducted in observance of this year’s International Coastal Clean-up Day, and was led by EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace, with support from Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Malikhaing Landas na Magpapayabong sa Sining at Kultura (MALAYA), Laguna Youth Development Affairs and youth volunteers from schools in Laguna.

Wastes were collected off and along the shore of Laguna De Bay in Aplaya, Calamba City, Laguna.

A total of 1,755 liters of wastes were collected and categorized into 14 classifications: plastic/sando bags, plastic wrappers, composites, polystyrene, hard plastics, plastic bottles, rubber, metals, glass, hazardous waste, biodegradable, dry paper, diapers/ napkins and others.

Of the total discards collected, plastic materials accounted for the highest percentage at 55.56%, with plastic bags topping the list at 22.79%. Other discards such as cigarette butts, cloths/rags and sponges ranked second with 14.81%. Biodegradable wastes ranked third at 11.40%.

In 2009, Greenpeace, EcoWaste Coalition and Laguna Youth Development Affairs conducted a similar activity along Laguna de Bay in Pila, Laguna where plastic bags accounted for 560 liters or 25.51%, the highest percentage in a total of 2,195 liters of wastes collected then.

The groups noted that plastic discards are not only a problem in Laguna de Bay but also in Manila Bay, where waste audits conducted in 2010 and 2006 also showed plastic bags topping the list of wastes collected.

“In our experience from audits done in previous years, plastic discards especially plastic bags continue to proliferate in our waterways,” said Gigie Cruz of GAIA. “It only shows how our throw-away mentality and continued patronage of conveniently disposable stuff choke the life out of both land and water bodies”, Cruz added.

“The audit results strongly substantiate the ordinances by Calamba and other Laguna LGUs banning plastic bags as a way to alleviate Laguna de Bay’s solid and toxic waste problems”, said Troy Lacsamana, head of Task Force Plastics of EcoWaste Coalition.

The groups belie claims that “oxodegradable” plastic bags are better alternative to conventional plastic bags for the fundamental reason, among other things, that it sustains our throw-away mentality.

The groups also warned against a draft bill repealing existing and more stringent local ordinances banning plastic bags. The proposed HB 4840, authored by Hon. Oscar Malapitan, et. al, will “water down genuine efforts of local government units to reduce the volume of plastic wastes, and manage their solid waste more efficiently and effectively”, added Lacsamana.

Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia added that, “Laguna de Bay suffers not only from solid waste, but also from pollution caused by industries found along its coast. A Pollution Release and Transfer Register should be set-up where industrial discharges are disclosed to the public in order help them protect themselves from toxic effluents released in the water.

“While it is good to clean-up our water bodies, it is far better that policies and systems in reducing and eventually removing these sources of pollutants to our water resources should be put in place,” added Baconguis.

Participants in this year’s waste audit are AMA Computer College-Sta. Cruz, Federation of Student Leaders of Laguna, EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Greenpeace, Laguna Youth Development Affairs, Laguna Science and Technology College-San Pedro, Laguna State Polytechnic University-Siniloan, Laguna University, MALAYA-Cavite and Philippine Women’s University – Sta. Cruz.

-end-



Note to the editors:

Complete Results:

*Plastic Bag/ Sando Bag 22.79%

Others (cigarette butts, sponge, clothes etc. 14.81%

Biodegradable 11.40%

*Composite 11.11%

*Plastic wrappers 6.84%

*Styrofoam/ Polystyrene 5.98%

Hazardous Waste 5.41%

Dry Paper/ Dry Cartons 5.41%

*Hard Plastic (HDPE/LDPE) 4.27%

Glass 4.27%

*Plastic Bottle (PET) 2.56%

*Diapers/ Napkins 1.99%

Rubber 1.71%

Metal/ Cans 1.42%

*Plastic products

14 September 2011

Groups Root for Congressional Action on Toxic Children's Products

Groups promoting children’s health and safety have thrown their support behind proposals at both the House of Representatives and the Senate for a legislative probe on toxic chemicals in toys and related children’s items.

Rep. Rep. Anthony Del Rosario (1st District, Davao del Norte) this week filed House Resolution 1669 calling for an inquiry into the proliferation of toys and school supplies laced with dangerous chemicals.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago had earlier proposed Senate Resolution 556 directing the proper committee to conduct an investigation to strengthen current regulations that will eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products.

Senator Manny Villar followed suit with Senate Resolution 560 proposing a similar inquiry in the hope of formulating stricter measures to protect Filipino children from dangerous substances in toys.

“The legislative inquiry should pave the way for the enactment of a robust policy that will identify and phase out chemicals of concern in children’s products. The continued use of toxic inputs that can impair a child’s full development is unethical and totally unjustifiable,” said Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, a network of over 125 public interest groups.

These chemicals of concern will include chemicals and compounds that are recognized or suspected of being a reproductive or developmental toxicant, carcinogenic or endocrine disruptor, or persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic.

“The policy should compel manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to provide complete and correct information about the chemical ingredients of their products in keeping with the consumers’ right to know,” he added.

“Only products that have been proven safe for children and are properly registered and labeled should be offered for sale in the market,” Alvarez emphasized.

A joint report by the EcoWaste Coalition and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) on toxic metals in children’s products sold in the country triggered the gush of proposals from lawmakers for a legislative inquiry.

Based on tests conducted by the groups using a device called X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzed, 124 products, or 29 percent of the 435 samples tested, were found to contain at least one toxic metal above levels of concern such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.

Sixty-seven children’s products (15 percent) of the samples had lead levels above the US regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm), with the top 10 products containing lead from 1,712 to 38,433 ppm.

Eight children’s products were found laced with mercury, including four children’s cosmetic products containing 2.5 to 77 ppm of mercury, surpassing the country’s regulatory limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics.

Also, 57 products (13 percent) tested with more than one toxic metal that raises the probable harm due to multiple exposures.

According to Santiago’s proposed Senate Resolution, the four key elements of a strong safety policy for children's products are:

1) ban or restrict the use of toxic chemicals in children's products

2) ensure consumers' "right to know" about chemicals in children's products including labeling to promote consumer choice,

3) require chemical manufacturers and importers to generate and disclose the chemical content of children's products as a condition for sale in the Philippines, and

4) promote the design and development of safer children's products using green design, safe natural materials, and green chemistry.-end-

References:


Sen. Santiago’s PSN 556:
http://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/1194110022!.pdf

Sen. Villar’s PSN 560:
http://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/1199610080!.pdf

Rep. Del Rosario’s Press Release re PHR 1669:
http://www.congress.gov.ph/press/details.php?pressid=5436

13 September 2011

Group Backs Monitoring of Food Marketing to Children to Curb Childhood Obesity

A group supportive of the government’s drive for healthy and nutritious school foods welcomed a global initiative to monitor food marketing to children amid rising incidence of childhood obesity in the country.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group promoting children’s health and safety, lauded Consumers International (CI), a worldwide federation of consumer groups, for coming up with a manual that can assist policy makers and citizens in collecting evidence on the marketing of unhealthy foods to kids.

The “Manual for Monitoring Food Marketing to Children” seeks to expose the multi-billion dollar promotion of products that are high in fat, sugar or salt to children by the food and beverage industry.

The manual provides clear advice on how to set standard definitions of marketing to children, including the classification of unhealthy foods and beverages, as well as how to conduct the analysis and interpret the collected data. It details the range of marketing techniques to help researchers identify subtle, as well as conspicuous promotions.

“We welcome the timely release of this monitoring tool that can help the authorities in crafting a policy to halt the unethical promotion of unhealthy foods and beverages to children, which can lead to obesity and to serious ailments such as diabetes and heart disease later in life,” said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, a university educator and Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Companies invest millions in promoting their unhealthy products to children, using traditional advertising and a range of more subtle techniques online and in schools. This manual is a small, but significant, step in exposing the junk food industry’s efforts to influence our children’s dietary choices,” said Helen McCallum, Acting Director General of CI.

The manual was launched Monday in London ahead of the UN high-level summit on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in New York on September 19-20, 2011.

“As health ministers gather ahead of the UN summit in New York, we call on governments and civil society organisations to use this manual to help inform health policies that can have a real impact on the rising levels of obesity,” the UK-based official of CI said in a statement.

The said summit will highlight the current lack of concerted action to tackle the shocking levels of obesity worldwide, and the impact this has on rates of critical illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

According to WHO, the prevalence rate of obesity in the Philippines has been increasing through the years with more than three million children classified as “overweight obese.”

“Overweight and obesity are now impending health crises” in the country, wrote the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines in their website.

Globally, there are an estimated 170 million school-aged children overweight or obese, while 43 million pre-school children already carry excess body fat.

At the 63rd World Health Assembly (WHA) held in May 2010, governments adopted a “set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.”

The WHO Recommendations urge member states to implement policies with the aim “to reduce the impact of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt to children” by addressing the dimensions of ‘exposure’ and ‘power’ of marketing of foods to children.

In January this year, Education Secretary Armin Luistro expressed his support to a WHO recommendation to ban junk foods in schools and playgrounds to promote healthy diet and curb obesity among school-aged kids.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier urged DepEd to go further by embarking on a holistic program that will promote a healthy school community that is conducive to well-rounded and well-balanced learning and development.

-end-

To read the full CI press release, please see:
http://www.consumersinternational.org/news-and-media/press-releases/2011/09/food-manual-launch

To read the CI manual, please see:
http://www.consumersinternational.org/foodmanual

To see the article on obesity by the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines, please see:
http://www.ndap.org.ph/feeding-right-help-your-obese-child