30 November 2011

Toxics Watchdog Raises Concern Over Lead Paint in Children's Playgrounds






A watchdog promoting public awareness and action against toxic chemicals in the environment has found lead, a brain poison, in some public playgrounds in the City of Manila.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the disclosure following an investigation by the group's "AlerToxic Patrol" last Monday, 28 November 2011, to determine the use of lead-added paint in common play equipment in the city’s public parks.

X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer was used to screen paint in monkey bars, see saws, slides, swings and other playsets for lead.

Lead, a toxic metal, has been on the spotlight for the last few months due to excessive levels found in tests commissioned by the EcoWaste Coalition on hundreds of product samples such as toys, school supplies, Halloween accessories, mugs and other consumer items.

Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. performed the tests on site using a portable XRF analyzer that shoots beam into the painted material of popular play equipment at the Rizal Park Children’s Playground in Ermita and Plaza Azul, Quirino Ave., Pandacan, Plaza de la Virgen, West Zamora St., Pandacan and Dakota Playground, Adriatico St., Malate.

Out of the 29 play equipment tested, lead was found in 16 samples (55%) with levels ranging from “ND” (non detectable) to 200,700 parts per million (ppm), way beyond the lead in paint limit of 90 ppm under Section 101 of the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

The Dakota Playground at the corner of Adriatico St. and Quirino Ave. in front of Manila Zoo tested with the most lead-tainted play equipment in the range of 44,800 ppm to 200,700 ppm.

Yellow, orange, red, pink, green and brown are the colours that tested with most lead.

“Our findings should stir the city government to undertake lead hazard assessment and remedial action to ensure that playgrounds and other facilities frequented by children are safe from dangerous chemicals,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

"Exposure to lead specifically damages our children's brains and their development. Knowing there is no safe level of lead exposure for children without harmful effects, we urge our government leaders to fast track a child-friendly policy that will promote lead-safe paint and uphold our children's right to health," said Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition's Steering Committee member.

The chipping, peeling or weathering of lead-based paints contributes to childhood lead exposure as kids often put their hands and objects to their mouths and play close to the ground where paint dust collects, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

In a letter delivered on November 29 to the office of Mayor Alfredo Lim, Executive Director Juliet Horfilla Villegas of the National Parks Development Committee and concerned barangay leaders, the EcoWaste Coalition put forward these five recommendations:

1. Cordon off the lead-tainted equipment, particularly those that are already worn out and with chipping paint, and either replace or stabilize them by repainting with a certified lead-free paint.

2. Avoid disturbing lead-containing paint to prevent the dispersal of contaminated chips, flakes or dust that children can breathe or swallow or come in contact with their skin.

3. Conduct visual inspection and lead hazard assessment of all children’s playgrounds, as well as maternity and pediatric wards, day care centers and schools in the city, to identify contaminated fixtures and facilities and ensure professional remediation to ensure children’s safety.

4. Lead-containing equipment in good condition should be regularly monitored for chipping, flaking or weathering.

5. Check the lead levels in soil within the playground to determine if lead has built up there, especially in spots where children often gather and play.

”Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and, in some cases, irreversible neurological damage,” according to the World Health Organization.

The premier global health agency has determined no safe levels for childhood lead exposure.

Common symptoms of lead poisoning, which can vary depending on the level of lead in a child’s blood, nutrition and other factors, include behavioural and learning disabilities, lower IQ, hearing difficulties and slowed growth.

A study by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that lead used in paint on playground equipment may present a serious poisoning hazard for children under six years-old, concluding that the problem arises principally with older paint where it has deteriorated and flaked due to weather conditions, age and usage.

-end-

Additional Information:

Key results per playground:

1. Plaza Azul, Children’s Playground, Quirino Ave., Pandacan: 6 out of 8 samples had lead up to 79,000 ppm

2. Plaza de la Virgen Children’s Playground, West Zamora St., Pandacan: 2 out of 8 samples had lead up to 190,000 ppm

3. Dakota Children’s Playground, Adriatico St., Malate: 5 out of 6 samples had lead up to 200,700 ppm with one sample laced with 776 ppm of cadmium

4. Rizal Park Children’s Playground, Ermita: 3 out of 7 samples had lead up to 7,126 ppm

28 November 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Lauded for Its Advocacy toward Lead-Safe Paint Products


Two government agencies with key responsibilities in ensuring the protection of public health and the environment have recognized the work of a toxics watchdog to eliminate lead, a neurotoxin, in paint products.

In separate letters, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR) acknowledged the persistence of the EcoWaste Coalition to have lead removed from architectural or household paints.

In response, Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee member, said: “We are deeply encouraged by the support from the country's foremost pillars for health and chemical safety, which is crucial for the adoption and enforcement of a national policy to eliminate childhood exposure from lead-added paint.”

“The DOH commends your efforts to protect consumers and raise their awareness and preference for safe products. We were informed of your present advocacy for the immediate phasing out of lead in paints in the country. We are nothing but supportive of your cause,” wrote Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona.

In his letter, the health chief cited information from the US Center for Disease Control identifying lead paint as hazardous and a major cause of lead exposure among children.

“Lead is highly toxic and affects virtually every system of the body. It can damage a child’s kidneys, central nervous system and can cause anemia. Exposure at very high levels can cause, coma, convulsion and death,” Dr. Ona said.

“Even low levels of lead are harmful. Levels as low as 10 micrograms of lead per decileter of blood are associated with decreased intelligence, behaviour problems, reduced physical stature and growth, and impaired hearing,” he stated.

“Thus, clinical toxicologists have indicated that there are no safe levels for lead exposure among children. This fact makes banning of substances containing lead an imperative,” Dr. Ona said.

The DOH likewise noted the effort of the DENR-EMB to craft a Chemical Control Order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds, which the department hopes “will eventually result in the banning of lead paint at the soonest possible time.”

For his part, Atty. Juan Miguel T. Cuna, Director, DENR-EMB acknowledged “the EcoWaste Coalition’s active participation in the various environmental endeavors and chemicals-related consultations in order to ensure a health-based policy formulation.”

Atty. Cuna specifically cited the position paper submitted by the EcoWaste Colaition regarding the draft CCO that rekindled dialogue about the “prohibited uses of lead in children’s toys, decorative paints and pigments, among other concerns.”

He likewise cited the information shared by the group regarding the global paint sampling results that “highlighted the need for the regulatory body to review” the draft policy and “address the concerns on potential exposures of children and workers.”

The DENR-EMB also notified the EcoWaste Coalition about the willingness of paint manufacturers to comply with government regulations on lead in paint, but companies will require time and resources to research and shift to non-lead alternative raw materials and implement gradual phase-out plans, the agency pointed out.

A government initiated consultation held in September 2011 recommended paint industry inventory and assessment to help in drawing up a realistic and workable phase-out period for the use of lead in paint, Atty Cuna said.

In the meantime, companies engaged in paints and pigments were advised to conform with the Priority Chemicals List Compliance Certificates under DAO 2007-23, he stated.

-end-

25 November 2011

Communities, EcoGroups Hit DENR, LGUs on “Cosmetic” Action to Save Bulacan Rivers

QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Residents of Obando and environmental groups express dismay over the failure of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the local governments of Bulacan in coming up with genuine solutions to rehabilitate the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando rivers and make the real culprits pay the price for continuously polluting the critical ecosystem.

“We are saddened by the publicity stunt offering a band-aid solution to the waste and toxics crises that have been messing up our river systems for generations. Clean-up and dredging of the rivers is not enough! The government must address the root of the problem by going after the violators and enforcing the law," said Ma. Teresa Bondoc of the Concerned Citizens of Obando.

Last November 22, Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino Sy Alvarado; officials of Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR; local government officials of affected towns and former Ambassador Antonio Cabangon Chua, chairman of the Ecoshield Development Corp. signed an agreement ­­­to forge partnership to clean up the said river system, identified as one of the worst in the world.

EcoShield is the proponent of the controversial Obando Landfill which is being established in Barangay Salambao, a coastal community in Obando and along Manila Bay, despite the opposition of local communities. The 44-hectare landfill will be built in mangrove forests of Manila Bay and foreshore areas of the Obando River.

"It is completely immoral and inhuman to pass this toxic burden to us, the people of Obando, by putting others' toxic garbage into our rivers while the real culprits go about their businesses as usual, continuously polluting the river systems they pretend to clean up," Bondoc added

Meanwhile, residents of Barangay Salambao and adjacent barangays feared that once the Obando Landfill starts to operate, it will aggravate the stinks and pollution of their waters caused by another nearby garbage dump – the Navotas Landfill.

"We are further saddened by the attempts from the pro-landfill side to blur the real issue by their alleging that the Obandenyo's opposition against the landfill project is motivated by political and business interests. These accusations are utterly baseless as our opposition stands solely on our desire to protect our right to live in a safe and toxic-free environment," former Salambao Chairman Mercy Dolorito stressed.

The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act 9003 prohibits the establishment of waste disposal facilities in environmentally-critical areas such as flood-prone areas, watershed, groundwater reserves etc. Yet, the DENR issued ECCs to Obando Landfill and to its neighboring Navotas Landfill.

“We teach our children not to throw their trash to our canals and rivers and yet the government allows waste disposal facilities, which will cater to tons and tons of garbage every day, to be built in our rivers and in Manila Bay," said Dolorito.

Meanwhile, the pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition hits the proposal of the DENR to dump the excavated river debris in the landfills in Manila Bay.

“The Navotas and Obando landfills are located in a very critical ecosystem. River debris and sediments contain high levels of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, which makes them special wastes that need special handling and should not be indiscriminately dumped in facilities not designed for them. These facilities are even prone to climate change impacts and susceptible to geologic hazards,” said Rey Palacio of the EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the site of the Obando landfill is vulnerable to liquefaction and tsunami, as well as to flooding and storm surges.

“We urge the government not to waste the already dwindling public funds. If we are sincere to save and rehabilitate our rivers, we should prosecute the polluters and end pollution from the source. We should stop dumping garbage in our ecosystems,” said Palacio.


-end-


23 November 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Remembers the Maguindanao Massacre

WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN. The EcoWaste Coalition joins the whole nation in honoring the memories of those who perished from the infamous Maguindanao massacre that took the lives of at least 58 people, including over 30 journalists. We stand in solidarity with those who continue to seek the light, truth and justice over this gruesome crime against women, the media and the Filipino nation. WE SHALL NOT FORGET!

EcoWaste Coalition Thumbs Up Christmas Decors from Recycled Materials

Crafting decorations out of recycled materials is a most fitting way of celebrating Christmas amid the austere economic times and the persistent garbage problem during the festive holidays.

Recycling advocate Ofelia Panganiban of the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, emphasized this point as she lauded Makati City’s “3B sa Pasko” recycling project.

“3B sa Pasko,” which stands for “Basura’y Bawasan, Balik-Gamitin at Baguhin ang Anyo sa Pasko,” seeks to reduce the waste volume during the holidays, as well as promote recycling awareness among city residents.

“Making Christmas decorations from common household discards is an eco-friendly way of expressing the Christmas spirit without creating trash,” said Panganiban.

“It’s also wallet-friendly and will surely not put a dent in the family budget,” she added.

Instead of buying pricey Christmas trees, one can turn the frame or skeleton of an old worn umbrella into a mini-Christmas tree garnished with used cake or gift ribbons and ornaments from used aluminum foil and other discards, she said.

Alternatively, used cardboard boxes, tin cans and plastic bottles in different sizes can be arranged from big to small resembling a Christmas tree to suit one’s taste and the space available, she suggested.

Old Christmas cards, ribbons and wrappers and even scratched CD disks can be used to decorate the recycled Christmas tree.

Atthe ongoing “3B sa Pasko” exhibit at the old Makati City Hall, the EcoWaste Coalition saw a variety of Christmas lanterns fashioned out of bottle caps, beverage plastic bottles, drinking straws and doy packs.

“The basic rule is for you to look around your home, find stuff that can be put into creative use and simply find the time to do it,” Panganiban said.

“Recycling is good for the environment. It's a good family bonding activity, and a good source of added income for enterprising groups and individuals,” she said.

Panganiban noted that Makati’s “3B sa Pasko” participants generated P139,527 in total sales in 2010, an eight percent increase from the 2009 sales.

"We hope our community recyclers will earn more this year and prove once again that 'may pera sa basura' (there's money in trash)," she stated.

-end-

21 November 2011

32 of 50 Christmas Gift Items Tested Positive with Toxic Chemicals

Popular Christmas gift items such as painted toys, glasses and mugs tested positive with nasty chemicals known for damaging a child’s brain and future.

“This is the outrageous truth that we have discovered after subjecting 50 product samples to chemical analysis,” lamented Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“64% or 32 of the 50 samples we tested contain mindboggling amounts of toxic metals such as lead that are totally unacceptable for products meant to spread Christmas cheer,” he said.

Toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio, a resource person of the EcoWaste Coalition, said "lead in consumer products can endanger human health, especially among kids."

"Lead exposure can damage the brain, lower a child's intelligence, decrease a child's attention span and cause delays in a child's speaking, reading and learning skills" added Antonio who is also the President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT).

Painted drinking glasses and mugs top the list of “dirtiest” products with 14 out of the 16 glass samples laced with lead up to 44,400 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm threshold under the US Consumer Product Improvement Act of 2008.

“This shocking eye-opener is truly worrisome as lead in painted glassware comes in direct contact with a child’s mouth and posing a serious health risk,” Dizon said.

Aside from lead, many of the painted glasses and mugs were found to contain antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium above levels of concern and thus increasing the chances of multiple exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Sold from 20 to 100 pesos, painted glasses and mugs are among the favourite holiday gift or give-away items because of their attractive designs, easy to wrap packaging and affordability.

In its latest investigation on the toxicity of children’s products in the market, the EcoWaste Coalition bought a variety of affordable toys and gift items from street vendors at Carriedo St. in Quiapo, Rizal Ave., Santa Cruz and Juan Luna St., Divisoria in the city of Manila.

The probe, conducted amid brisk sales of holiday goodies as Christmas nears, was also arranged to draw attention to the UN-recognized rights of children to health and safety as the “Universal Children’s Day” is observed on November 20.

The samples, mostly imported from China, were bought and tested for heavy metals on November 18, 2011 by Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemical analyzer.

None of the products indicated toxic ingredients on their labels, which were generally incomplete or totally lacking.

The top 10 products, all painted glasses and mugs, that registered the highest levels of lead were:

1. “Sloop Glass Collection” with giraffe (P100), 44,400 ppm

2. “Especially For You Glass” with bear and blue glass cover (P60), 34,300 ppm

3. “Angry Birds Glass” (P80), 32,900 ppm

4. An unbranded glass with flower design (P20), 32,800 ppm

5. “Angry Birds Glass” with sticker and spoon (P75), 30,600 ppm

6. “Love Life Angry Birds Cup” with orange glass cover (P60), 26,400ppm

7. An unbranded coffee mug with Santa Claus design (P50), 25,300 ppm

8. “Especially For You Glass” with Snoopy character and red glass cover (P60), 23,700 ppm

9. “Angry Birds Coffee Mug” (P80), 22,300 ppm

10. An unbranded coffee mug with sheep design (P80), 20,700 ppm

Health experts have confirmed and warned that there is no safe threshold for lead exposure, especially for children whose minds and bodies are still developing.

Children are most vulnerable to being exposed to lead and other poisons due to their normal hand-to-mouth activities that cause the direct ingestion of health damaging substances.

“Given the practical limitations of our consumers and governmental authorities, we appeal to manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers and vendors not to market and sell toys and other Christmas gift items unless they have undergone rigorous testing and have been certified safe for children to play or use,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Paint used to decorate glasses, mugs and other containers for food and beverage must be lead-free and food-safe,” the group emphasized.

-end-

19 November 2011

Government Urged to Protect Children from Lead Exposure

Civil society organizations today urged the government to prioritize action that will protect children from being poisoned by lead, a neurotoxic chemical, in paint products.

The EcoWaste Coalition and its over 125 member groups issued the appeal as the UN-declared “Universal Children’s Day” is marked on November 20.

“Reducing the health hazards posed by lead-added paint products should be a top priority for the government,” said Manny Calonzo, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition's Steering Committee.

“By prioritizing action against this toxic threat, the Aquino presidency will be remembered in history for enabling a safer, lead-free environment where children, a highly vulnerable sector, can live, study and play,” he emphasized.

“Children and their parents will surely be grateful to P-Noy for taking a decisive action to eliminate lead in paint products,” he added.

Children, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, are extremely prone to ingesting lead-containing paint chips and dust because they explore their surroundings a lot and routinely put their hands and objects like toys in their mouths.

Usual hand-to-mouth activities can cause lead and other substances of concern to be absorbed into their growing bodies and impede the development of vital organs, particularly the brain.

Despite being banned in the United States since 1977, lead and lead compounds are still added as anti-corrosive pigments and driers to architectural or household paint formulations by some paint manufacturers.

A test commissioned in 2010 by the EcoWaste Coalition to determine levels of lead in paint products sold locally showed that 69% of the 35 samples were found to contain huge amounts of lead with one sample containing 161,700 parts per million (ppm) of the toxic metal.

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

The World Health Organization has ascertained that there is no safe level of childhood lead exposure, the toxics watchdog pointed out.

The group cited a resolution adopted by the Asia-Pacific region at an international meeting on sound management of chemicals held in Belgrade, Serbia on November 15-18 affirming the health risks linked with lead exposure.

Representatives of the Philippine government and civil society took part in the said meeting.

“Childhood and occupational lead exposure may increase lifelong violent behavior, decrease intelligence as measured by intelligence quotient (IQ) scores, and also decrease school performance and educational achievement,” the resolution said.

The resolution further encouraged concerned countries to prioritize actions to eradicate lead paints and to establish controls on paint used in products.

The meeting also expressed support to an “International Lead Poisoning Prevention Day,” with an initial focus on getting rid of lead in paints.

Top manufacturers currently producing decorative paints containing lead can easily reformulate their products and produce, at a similar price, non-lead paints with similar colors and performance characteristics, the resolution noted.

-end-

Reference re Asia-Pacific resolution on lead in paint:
http://10.8.3.91/data/CRPs/documents/01e.doc


16 November 2011

Groups Back Senators' Move to Declare November 20 as "National Children's Day"

Citizens’ groups promoting children’s environmental health have thrown their support behind a Senate bill declaring November 20 of every year as “National Children’s Day.”

In a statement, Arugaan, Makabata para sa Bayan and the EcoWaste Coalition hailed Senate Bill No. 3006 as a potential platform for mobilizing support to a wide range of children’s rights, including the right to health and chemical safety.

“We welcome this initiative by our Senators to energize a movement for promoting national attentiveness and action to uphold children’s rights such as their right to be protected against health and environmental pollutants,” said Velvet Roxas of Arugaan, a group dedicated to promoting breastfeeding and maternal and child health.

Prepared by the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture with Senators Edgardo Angara, Antonio Trillanes IV and Manny Villar, SB 3006 seeks “to promote consciousness over the protection of the rights of Filipino children and the importance of fostering their well-being to secure the growth and development of society.”

Senators picked November 20 to commemorate two milestones in the international children’s rights advocacy, the groups said.

On November 20, 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the “Declaration on the Rights of the Child” and on the same day in 1989 adopted the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” that the Philippines ratified in 1990.

Article 24 of the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” affirms “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.”

State parties, including the Philippines, are directed to pursue appropriate measures to “diminish infant and child mortality, “combat disease and malnutrition” and “ensure access to education and the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation.”

“SB 3006 should lead to increased awareness about children’s special vulnerabilities and their need for vital safeguards against harms posed by chemicals and wastes,” said Allan Tura, Executive Director, Makabata para sa Bayan, a group promoting the transformation of Filipino children into active catalysts of social reform and nation building.

“The declaration, we hope, should provide impetus for the government and other stakeholders to proactively collaborate to prevent threats to children’s health at all stages of development,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network of over 125 public interest groups.

SB 3006 designates the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Youth Commission and the Council for the Welfare of Children as lead agencies for implementing the "National Children's Day."

-end-

References:


SB 3006

http://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/1238510430!.pdf


Convention on the Rights of the Child

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm

13 November 2011

Toxic “boxing” match held in Tondo, Manila to combat mercury pollution



Before taking time off from their backbreaking work to watch the Pacquiao-Marquez boxing match, informal recyclers in Tondo, Manila on Sunday morning first had their “fight” against toxic pollution.

In an event organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, recyclers of all ages and genders, many of whom live and work next to the Pier 18 Garbage Transfer Station, gathered together to get acquainted with a new barangay policy to reduce harmful mercury emissions in the community.

Held in collaboration with the Barangay Council of Barangay 105, Zone 8, District I of the City of Manila and the Nagkakakisang Mananambakan sa Dumpsite Area (NMDA), the information meeting saw local officials led by Barangay Chairman Luisito Reyes and Kagawad Marlene Tumbokon explaining Resolution 11-25 that bans the breaking of busted mercury-containing lamps in the area.

Inspired by Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino boxing legend, an “AlerToxic” boxer aimed his giant red foam gloves against volunteers wearing headgears adorned with mock compact fluorescent lamps (lamps) symbolizing the threat of toxic pollution from the improper recycling and disposal of mercury-containing lamps.

The headgears are marked with a precise reminder for all: “huwag basagin,” “break not.”

“We have come here to help the Barangay Council in explaining to our valued informal recyclers that breaking CFLs to recover recyclable parts is very dangerous to health and is best done by authorized recyclers,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of Project Protect, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The practice of manually breaking CFLs and other similar lamps causes mercury in the form of vapor to escape into the environment,” he said.

“Inhaling mercury vapor is damaging to the brain and the central nervous systems, as well as to the kidneys and the liver,” he warned.

Government data indicate that 88% of households and 77% of commercial establishments disposed of their busted fluorescent lamps as regular waste, raising the spectre of mercury toxicity in mixed waste garbage disposal facilities such as dumpsites.

Informal recyclers painstakingly retrieve the discarded lamps, store them up in sacks and then break the lamp, piece by piece, with a hammer to salvage the aluminium and copper components for recycling.

In a bold decision “to safeguard the public health and the environment from toxic pollutants,” the Barangay Council adopted last Monday Resolution 11-25 banning the breaking of mercury lamp waste in the community. The ban will formally take effect on December 7.

Under the said resolution, junk shop operators in the area will be likewise banned from buying aluminum and copper obtained from the improper recycling of mercury-containing lamps to stop unsafe recycling.


The Barangay Council also decided to approach concerned national and city government agencies to get their advice and assistance on the environmentally-sound management of mercury-containing lamp waste.

-end-

08 November 2011

Manila Barangay Bans Breaking of Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste


A barangay in Tondo, Manila has taken a decisive action to protect recyclers and residents from toxic pollution caused by the deliberate breaking of fluorescent lamps containing mercury.

Resolution 11-25 adopted yesterday, November 7, by leaders of Barangay 105, Zone 8, District 1 will prohibit the breaking of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and other mercury-containing lamps in the area, a recognized hub of informal recycling in Metro Manila.

“The practice of breaking lamps directly exposes informal recyclers and the entire community, especially young children, to mercury vapor pollution,” the resolution said.

Mercury is highly toxic and, ifingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin, can damage the brain and the central nervous system and cause other serious diseases.

Mercury as vapor is released into the environment when the glass tubing of compact, linear and fluorescent lamps and other mercury-containing lamps is broken accidentally or intentionally as in the case of manual lamp recycling by informal recyclers.

To discourage the unsafe practice of breaking fluorescent bulbs to retrieve recyclable materials, junk shop operators in the area will be prohibited from buying aluminum and copper obtained from the improper recycling of mercury-containing lamps.

The resolution will take effect one month after its adoption, or on December 7.

Kagawad Marlene Tumbokon, Committee Chairperson on Health, proposed the resolution that was backed by Chairman Luisito Reyes, Kagawad Zenaida Aceveda, Kagawad Dan Aliman, Kagawad Federico Conde, Kagawad Maribel Cruz and Kagawad Valentin Vinas, and attested by Secretary Conrado Flores “to safeguard the public health and the environment from toxic pollutants.”

A“toxic investigation” conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition and other environmental health groups in April 2011 detected high levels of mercury vapor in Sitio Damayan where busted CFLs are manually broken with hammer to remove recyclable materials.

The resolution also directed the Barangay Council to collaborate with the City Government and the EcoWaste Coalition in conducting public information and education activities about mercury and other toxic chemicals, including their health and environmental hazards.

Recognizing their limited capacity, the Barangay Council further moved to seek the advice and assistance of concerned national and city government agencies regarding the environmentally-sound management of mercury-containing lamp waste.

The EcoWaste Coalition has lauded the decision by the leadership of Barangay 105, describing it as a “historic” public health action.

“It’s a historic move by barangay leaders to protect the health of their constituents, including the many informal recyclers of electronic waste in the area," said Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee member who attended the Barangay Council meeting.

“We hope that the barangay action will accelerate ongoing efforts by the government, the lamp industry and the civil society to put in place a practical collection system for busted lamps and the availability of safe and non-polluting storage and recycling facilities for lamp waste,” Calonzo said.

-end-

07 November 2011

Environmental Watchdog Calls for "Climate-OK Christmas"

A presidential plea for climate awareness and action has drawn a quick response from a waste and pollution watchdog.

President Benigno S. Aquino III issued Memorandum Circular 25 last Friday urging the government and the citizenry to support the commemoration of “Climate Change Consciousness Week” from November 19-25.

“In support of P-Noy’s climate call, we invite the public to observe Christmas, the nation’s longest, grandest and lamentably most wasteful feast, in a way that will not add to rising garbage and climate woes,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To help the public in reducing the environmental effects of the festive occasion, we have come up with a ‘Climate-OK Christmas Guide’ for everyone to keep in mind,” he said.

The “Climate-OK Christmas Guide” lists 20 ideas that individuals, households, schools, churches, government agencies, workplaces and shopping malls can easily put into action to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other toxic releases from wasteful activities.

“Consider it a pilot list,” Alvarez noted. “We urge our fellow Filipinos to think of more eco-friendly ideas if only to give Mother Earth a little break from the massive consumption spree,” Alvarez emphasized.

The extended Christmas extravaganza eats up enormous amounts of raw materials and fossil fuels and produces huge quantities of waste that end up being dumped or burned, generating pollutants that trap heat in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and fluorinated gases, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The flurry of Christmas parties, shopping and gift-giving during the joyful season yields tons of discarded plastic bags, packaging materials, disposable party supplies, kitchen scraps and food leftovers, the group observed.

Failing to proactively prevent and reduce Christmas discards will lead to increased “holitrash” (holiday trash) as can be seen from the overflowing bins and dumpsters and stinking garbage dumped at street corners, the group noted.

“By using the ‘Climate-OK Christmas Guide,’ we conserve valuable resources, prevent the generation of wastes and toxins and avoid inappropriate disposal activities that can kill the Christmas spirit,” Alvarez said.

For example, make it a point to reuse decorations from earlier celebrations. Use recycled materials for Christmas cribs, trees, wreaths and garlands.

Choose safe, energy-efficient and enduring Christmas lights, be sure to check the Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) and use them sparingly to conserve electricity.

Christmas parties should use reusable party supplies that can be washed and used again. Refrain from using disposable, throw-away plates, cups and utensils. And, most importantly, ecologically manage party discards to make reusing, recycling and composting easy.

Avoid overspending during the holidays by shopping ecologically and wisely. Be a proud reusable carry bag or “bayong” shopper!

For the traditional gift-giving, consider non-material presents, locally-produced gifts, and eco-friendly products and services that support sustainable lifestyle.

Here’s the full list of the “Climate-OK Christmas Guide”:

A. CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

1. Reuse decorations from past celebrations.

2. Make garlands made from recycled materials such as old cards, gift wraps and ribbons.

3. Recreate the Belen (Nativity scene) using recycled materials.

4. Create a Christmas tree using potted plants or trees, twigs or broomsticks.

5. If buying new items, look for those that are locally made, non-toxic, reusable and require no electricity.

B. CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

1. Choose safe, energy efficient and long lasting Christmas lights with genuine Import Commodity Clearance (ICC).

2. Use your Christmas lights sparingly, light them up only as Christmas nears and only when needed. Turn them off during daylight hours and turn them off whenever you are away or asleep.

3. Refrain from over-the-top use of Christmas lights: conserve electricity.

C. CHRISTMAS PARTIES

1. Go for austere Christmas get-togethers. Money saved from lavish parties can be shared to families and communities in need.

2. Say no to disposable party supplies such as plastic plates, cups and cutlery. Go for items that can be cleaned and reused.

3. Adopt a no left-over policy to prevent wasting food.

4. Implement a system for ecological party waste management to make reusing, recycling and composting easy. Consider sharing clean food leftovers with the poor.

D. CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

1. Organize Christmas shopping wisely to avoid impulsive purchases and overspending and also to cut fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Walk, cycle or take the jeepney, bus or train whenever possible.

2. Break the plastic bags habit. Bring with you a reusable carry bag, basket or bayong when you shop.

3. Avoid items wrapped in excessive packaging and go for healthy and eco-friendly products.

E. CHRISTMAS GIFTS

1. Give non-material presents such as giving your loved ones the more precious gift of time and company.

2. Give unused gifts, old clothes and books to charity.

3. Give locally-produced products or delicacies from your province such as fruits, vegetables, plants, sweets, condiments, decorative and functional crafts, etc.

4. Give eco-friendly products that support sustainable lifestyle (for example, reusable non-polycarbonate water jug, solar-powered flashlight, non-toxic personal and household care products, organic and GMO-free foodstuff, etc.).

5. Choose gifts that do not need to be wrapped such as potted plants, massage from blind masseurs, gift checks, concert or game passes, raffle tickets etc. If wrapping is needed, use old magazines or comics page of newspapers, old bandannas, etc.

-end-

03 November 2011

Obando Landfill at risk to Acts of God

3 November 2011, Quezon City. Obando Landfill, if set up, would be highly vulnerable to extreme natural disasters confounding the latter’s disastrous impacts on the people of Obando, Bulacan.

In response to the query made by EcoWaste Coalition, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) had determined that the Obando Landfill site in the fishing village of Salambao is vulnerable to liquefaction and tsunami, as well as to flooding and storm surges.

PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum, Jr. said in his letter of response, “[Obando] is prone to liquefaction based on our indicative Liquefaction Susceptibility Map.”

According to literatures, liquefaction is the process by which sediment that is very wet starts to behave like a liquid, often due to severe shaking especially that associated with earthquakes, which could destroy structures especially those whose foundations bear directly on the soil which liquefies.

The letter also stated that “the coastal areas of the municipality are prone to tsunami inundation especially in the event of major earthquake occurrence coming from the Manila Trench and other nearby offshore earthquakes close to Bulacan.”

“The low and flat elevation of Obando is such that, aside from being susceptible to liquefaction, flooding can and has occurred, more recent of which is the flooding and storm surge resulting from the passage of Typhoon Pedring.” the PHIVOLCS Director further stated in the letter.

Residents claim that flooding in Obando is almost a year round occurrence as the town is below sea level and that the only protection that the municipality has from the tides are the dikes that are normally torn down whenever typhoons and tidal surges pay their visits.

Why the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) Region III and the Obando local government failed to recognize these facts alarmed zero waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition. “They even allowed the establishment of toxic time bomb in an established geologic and climate hazard zone,” the coalition exclaimed.

“This should leave no doubt as to the unsuitability of the site for the unpopular Obando Landfill,” EcoWaste Coalition’s Dumps and Incineration Task Force Co-Chair Romeo Hidalgo said.

“The technical opinion of PHIVOLCS should prompt authorities, specifically the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to immediately halt the Obando Landfill project, as well as order the closure and rehabilitation of all disposal facilities in the Manila Bay area which has been shown to be vulnerable to acts of God,” Hidalgo added.

Additional references:

http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/images/liquefaction/liqn_phils.pdf
http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/images/tsunami/tsunami_phils.jpg

02 November 2011

Eco Cleanup of Post-Undas Waste Urged

A pollution watchdog has called for an ecological cleanup of discards left by millions of cemetery visitors who put up with the human and traffic congestion to pay respects to their dearly departed.

The EcoWaste Coalition directed their post-Undas environmental plea to local authorities in charge of public cemeteries, as well as to managers of memorial parks run by religious and business entities.

“The deluge of people who visited the tombs of their relatives and friends saw cemeteries and adjoining streets being littered with cigarette butts, food wrappers and containers, plastic bags and other discards,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“While the volume of trash may or may not be as bad as in previous years, we still find the littering that again marred the observance of Undas regrettable,” he emphasized.

“Cemeteries are hallowed places where the earthly remains of our deceased loved ones are interred and should be garbage-free,” he insisted.

“We should lay to rest the ‘Zombasura’ within us,” he added.

“Zombasura” (a fusion of “zombie” and “basura” or trash) was coined by the EcoWaste Coalition to draw public attention to the filthy habit of cemetery litterbugs.

To avoid further pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition advised cemetery officials and overseers to ensure that only non-reusable, non-recyclable and non-compostable discards are sent to residual disposal facilities.

Instead of just loading them into garbage trucks, efforts should be exerted to retrieve reusable and recyclable materials from garbage heaps and bins such as papers, boxes, beverage cans and plastic bottles, the group suggested.

Biodegradable materials like food leftovers, plant trimmings, discarded flowers and the like should be composted on site if practicable, the group added.

Open burning should never be done as this is illegal and very polluting, the group stressed.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the ecological management of discards will surely help in trimming down the volume of mixed waste sent to dumpsites and landfills, while providing health, environmental, climate and livelihood benefits to the society.

Data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission indicate that the country produces some 36,000 tons of garbage daily, out of which 7,000 tons are generated in Metro Manila.

-end-