30 April 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Alerts QC Government on Health Risks from Lead in Fitness and Play Equipment at QMC

A toxics watchdog has alerted the Quezon City Government about the health risks posed by physical fitness and playground equipment at the Quezon Memorial Circle (QMC) that are loaded with lead, a poison chemical that damages the brain and causes life-long health problems.

Through a letter sent to Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista last Friday, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the city government to undertake “urgent lead hazard control measures” at QMC, the city’s premier park, and other facilities frequented by children, the sector deemed most vulnerable to lead exposure due to their frequent hand-to-mouth activities.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier screened 25 exercise and play equipment at QMC and detected lead in 19 of them in the range of 151 parts per million (ppm) to over 100,000 ppm, way above the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint.

Lead was likewise detected in the “Bawal Magkalat sa QC” anti-littering signage (79,800 ppm), “exit” signage (44,600 ppm), “picnic area” signage (1,034 ppm) and even the mayor’s “HB” insignia adorning the steel fence (15,800 ppm).

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol found the highest levels of lead in the worn or eroded surfaces of physical fitness equipment located at the picnic area of QMC.

“Many of the yellow and green steel equipment at the picnic area show visible effects of wear and weathering such as chipping or peeling lead-based paint, particularly in the hand rails,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“This is dangerous as children could directly touch and ingest lead chips or dust from the eroded equipment,” he pointed out.

“We appeal to Mayor Bautista to initiate urgent lead hazard control measures for the health and safety of park visitors, especially the toddlers,” he pleaded.

For her part, pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center said: “Health authorities have confirmed that there is no safe level of lead exposure for kids without detrimental impact so every effort to check and stop lead pollution sources is necessary.”

“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.

A study by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates 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.

To prevent lead exposure among users of QMC’s fitness and play equipment, the EcoWaste Coalition requested Mayor Bautista to implement the following:

1. Block off the lead-tainted equipment, particularly those that are already worn out and with chipping paint, replace them with non-lead equipment or repaint them 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 public playgrounds in the city, as well as other government 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. Regularly monitor lead-containing equipment in good condition 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.

“We further ask the QC government to make the QMC a lead-free zone and to ensure that all forms of toxic exposure inside the park, a refuge for urban dwellers, is proactively prevented,” said the EcoWaste Coalition.


25 April 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Sounds the Alarm over Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals that can Cause Reproductive Disorders

A visiting ecotoxicologist from Sweden has called attention to a class of chemicals causing adverse health effects, including undescended testicles, shortened penises and reduced sperm production.

At a forum organized yesterday in Quezon City by the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, Dr. Markus Johansson from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) spoke about EDCs or endocrine disrupting chemicals and their effects to human health, especially to the male specie.

To emphasize the issue of consumer safety from EDCs, EcoWaste volunteers during the forum held two baskets filled with common products for kids and adults and a baby doll holding a mini-placard that says "are these products safe for me?"

EDCs are substances that disrupt the body’s hormonal system and thereby causing adverse health effects, including organ malformation, disturbed puberty, behavioral disorders, obesity and diabetes.

Some of the more well-known EDCs include industrial chemicals such as bisphenol A, nonylphenol, phthalates and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals such as lead and cadmium in paint, pesticides such as DDT, endosulfan and vinclozolin, and common ingredients of personal care products such as parabens and phthalates.

”EDCs are fast becoming an issue of global concern because of their potential harmful impacts to the capacity of humans to reproduce healthy offsprings,” said Johansson who is in the country as visiting resource person of the EcoWaste Coalition.

”We all need to be worried about EDCs and take action as these ubiquitous chemicals can badly affect the health and future of our communities and nations,” he said.

Some of the glaring effects of exposure to EDCs include malformed and shortened penises, undescended testicles, reduced sperm production, decreased age of puberty and increased rate in testicular cancer among males, stated Johansson

Among females, EDCs can alter reproductive development, including reduced fertility and early onset of breast and menopause. EDCs are linked to increased incidents of breast cancer and reduced fecundity, he said.

For his part, Thony Dizon of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project PROTECT said: "As a precautionary measure, the government should ban chemicals suspected of interfering with endocrine functions and the industry should be compelled to replace them with benign alternatives for human and environmental health."

To better describe the causal relationship between EDCs and adverse health effects, Johansson cited trends from several studies indicating that “the bulk of evidence” against EDCs is growing:

1. Boys, whose mothers were exposed to PCBs and dioxins during pregnancy, had a reduced sperm quality at the age of 20.
2. Boys, whose mothers were exposed to DDT during pregnancy, had a higher frequency of developing testicular cancer 30 years later.
3. Boys of hairdressers (who are exposed to hair sprays) and farmers (who are exposed to pesticides) had shown an elevated frequency of urogenital malformations.
4. Boys who had a prenatal exposure to phathalates had a reduced masculine play distance.
”The unborn child is most sensitive to EDCs,” Johansson pointed out.

To prevent fetal exposure, he suggested that pregnant or breastfeeding women, should particularly: 1) avoid cosmetics and personal care products, including sprays, with EDCs, 2) avoid exposure to lead-containing paint and dust, 3) avoid plastic toys for kids, especially PVC toys, 4) wash new clothes to remove excess chemicals, 5) buy organic food if possible, and 6) keep homes and offices clean and well-ventilated.


Note: Markus Johansson, PhD in Biology, works as an Ecotoxicologist and Scientific Officer at the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Previously, Markus worked for several years as a risk assessor of biocides at the Swedish Chemicals Agency.

23 April 2012

Health Advocates Conduct "On-the-Spot" Test of Cosmetics for Mercury, Detected Mercury in 9 out of 12 Samples up to 31,400 ppm, Caution Consumers from Buying Poison Products

Health advocates from the government an d the civil society today trooped to Sta. Cruz, Manila in their latest bid to expose and arrest the unlawful sale of mercury-laden cosmetics in the district.

In a combined enforcement action for consumer health and safety, representatives of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition braved the scorching sun to conduct an on-the-spot screeningof skin whitening products for mercury and other toxic metals.

Also present was Manila District II Councilor Numero Lim who had earlier filed a resolution and an ordinance to halt the unrelenting sale of cosmetics containing mercury in excess of the regulatory limit of one part per million (ppm).

“We laud the EcoWaste Coalition for their resolute action against health and environmental toxins in consumer products in support of the FDA’s mission,” said Dr. Suzette Lazo, Director, FDA.

“We appeal to all consumers to be wary of contraband cosmetics that could contain mercury and other chemical or bacterial contaminants. Please take precaution as these products pose real risks to health and should neither be offered for sale nor patronized and consumed,” she added.

During the event, EcoWaste Coalition’s A lerToxic Patrollers bought 12 samples of skin lightening creams, mostly imported from China, Taiwan and Thailand, from Chinese drug stores along Bustos St. and nearby areas and had them analyzed at once using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

Nine of the 12 samples tested positive for mercury, including five items which were among the 50 brands already banned by the FDA in 2010-2011 for containing high levels of mercury that could pose imminent harm to the consuming public.

"Beauty Girl Natural Olive and Sheep Essence 10 Days Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence" had the highest mercury conten t among the items screened at 31,400 ppm, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm.

After the XRF screening, FDA enforcers went to a Chinese drug store at Good Earth Plaza in Sta. Cruz, confiscated the mercury-tainted products and announced that proper charges will be filed against the store owner.

Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition warned that applying mercury-laden cosmetics onto the skin can cause serious dermal problems such as discoloration, inflammation, itchiness and tiny bumps, w hile repeated use can eventually damage the brain and the kidneys.

The US Environmental Protection Agency, according to Lucero, has classified mercuric chloride, a mercury compound often used in skin bleaching products, as a “possible human carcinogen.”

“These poison products should be taken off the store shelves right away and discarded as hazardous waste requiring environmentally-sound handling, storage and disposal,” she emphasized.

For his part, Councilor Lim urged the City Council to expedite the approval of the draft “Ordinance to Stop the Illegal Sale of Injurious Mercury-Containing Cosmetics in the City of Manila” he filed in March this year.

Lim’s ordinance prohibits the trade of mercury-tainted creams, lotions and soaps that are designed to lighten or whiten the color of the skin, and imposes harsh penalties to violators.

Consistent with R.A. 9711 or the Food an d Drug Administration Act of 2009, the ordinance will penalize individual violators with imprisonment from one to 10 years or a fine from P50,000 to P500,000, or both.

The imprisonment of five to 10 years and the fine of P500,000 to P5,000,000 will be imposed against violators who are manufacturers, importers or dist

If adopted, the ordinance will also ban the open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics in regular municipal solid waste.



21 April 2012

"Boy Bayong" Returns in time for Earth Day 2012

“Boy Bayong,” the EcoWaste Coalition’s favorite mascot for ecological and sustainable lifestyle, will stage a comeback amid the clamor for solutions to the plastic garbage crisis.

As part of the Earth Day 2012 festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines this Sunday, “Boy Bayong” will greet and inspire the public to “think out of the plastic bag” and embrace eco-alternatives to the ubiquitous symbol of our throw-away culture: plastic bags.

“The fragile state of our environment requires a key revision to our inconsiderate consumption and disposal habits that tend to view Mother Earth as a boundless source of raw materials to be extracted and consumed and as a dumping ground for leftover toxics and wastes,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste, Coalition.

“Through ‘Boy Bayong,’ we hope to encourage Filipinos from all walks of life to personally commit to reducing climate and environmental pollution by switching to reusable carry bags and containers,” he added.

Eco-alternatives to plastic bags include bags and baskets made from native plants such as abaca, bamboo, buri, coconut, karagumoy, nipa, pandan, rattan, water hyacinth and other local fiber materials, cloth bags fashioned out of used clothes, curtains, pillow cases, bed sheets and blankets as well as fabric scraps and flour bags, and carry bags from used rice, garlic and onion sacks, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Tupperware,” empty biscuit or ice cream containers, buckets and pails will come in handy for wet goods such as meat, fish and poultry, the group added.

“Boy Bayong” will also assist Zero Waste advocates Ofelia Panganiban and Christina Vergara in sharing skills to festival visitors on how to minimize the generation of garbage at home or in the workplace through the application of "3Rs" and more.

"3Rs" pertain to the green mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” to which the EcoWaste Coalition has added a few more “Rs” such as “repair” (for broken stuff), “rot” (for organics) and “reject” (for products packed in excessive packaging as well as those laced with toxic chemicals, genetically modified organisms and other substances of concern).

The EcoWaste Coalition has also added another very important “R”: “responsibility” to emphasize the responsibilities of consumers, communities, industries, financiers and investors, politicians and governments in attaining a just and sustainable society.

Panganiban and Vergara will particularly showcase the use of improvised sack hangers for the convenient segregation of discards into different categories to make recycling easy and fun.

First introduced in 2006 at the "Global Day of Action against Waste and Incineration," “Boy Bayong” draws attention to the obvious “plasticization” of our society and the need for ecological interventions from all quarters to address the multi-faceted problems associated with the unregulated use and disposal of plastics, particularly plastic bags.


17 April 2012

NPDC Lauded for Giving Jobs to Street Dwellers, Other Government Agencies Urged to Follow Suit

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, applauded the recent move by the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) to employ street dwellers for the maintenance and upkeep of parks under its jurisdiction.

The NPDC, in partnership with the National Capital Region office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), recently hired some 200 “vagrants” as park street sweepers, gardeners, janitors and electricians.

The workers age 18 to 59 years old are now deployed at Rizal Park and Paco Park in Manila and the “Pook ni Maria Makiling Forest Park” in Laguna receiving P303 per day for their service, which is paid for by the DSWD.

According to the NPDC, the workers will be assessed for potential regular employment after they have gone through 736 training hours.

Led by its executive director Dr. Juliet H. Villegas, the NPDC has partnered with DSWD to help alleviate the dire life situation of street dwellers who depend mostly on alms for their daily

“We congratulate and commend the NPDC for this humanitarian action which, we hope, will give a new lease of life to homeless and jobless people in the metropolis,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We urge other government agencies, including local authorities, to follow the NPDC in providing clean and decent work opportunities for many Filipinos who roam the streets all day and night in search for livelihood opportunities,” he said.

“The entire Metro Manila needs a massive cleaning up and the street dwellers can provide the warm bodies to sweep the streets clean, enforce anti-littering laws, handle segregated discards, manage recycling centers and keep the esteros clog-free,” he added.

“What our brothers and sisters in the streets really need is job. Clean, decent and secured livelihoods,” he pointed out.

“As an ancient proverb says: ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,’” he emphasized.


15 April 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Pre-Earth Day "Kuryentipid" Tips in the Face of Power Shortage

As leaders of the public and private sectors scuttle for solutions to prevent the power shortage in Mindanao from worsening, environmentalists have come up with practical steps that will moderate consumer demand for electricity.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, has prepared 22 "hot" electricity conservation tips or “kuryentipid” tips to guide the public on how to bring down the usage and wastage of electricity, a basic consumer need.

Making the most of the natural air and light available, using a ceiling fan instead of an air-conditioner, unplugging lights, appliances and gadgets when not in use and organizing chores for more energy efficiency like washing with a full load are among these “hot” tips.

“By saving electricity at home and workplace, we not only cut back our monthly bills but also rein in greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels, which contributes to environmental and climate pollution,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Aside from conserving electricity, we urge the public to voice their preference and support for safe, socially acceptable, non-nuclear and renewable energy investments and projects to address our country’s growing power needs,” he added.

A far-reaching shift from fossil-fuels such as coal, oil and gas to non-toxic renewable energy sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and others could provide sustainable solutions to the nation’s perpetual problems with rising energy demands and costs, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Practicing what it preaches, the group has boosted energy saving moves within its office in Quezon City ahead of the Earth Day on April 22.

Beginning April 16, staff will consciously let the daylight flow into the office and refrain from switching on the lights and air-conditioners to the extent that is possible.

Office glass windows will be kept clean and open, unnecessary clutter removed and indoor plants installed to improve air circulation and keep the temperature pleasant and bearable.

Meals and snacks served for official meetings will be “meatless” as meat requires more “burning” by the body and hence produces higher body heat. Fresh local fruits and vegetables will be offered instead.

Toward reduced electricity consumption, pollution and expenditures, the EcoWaste Coalition invites consumers to consider the following “kuryentipid” tips:

1. Open the curtains, drapes and windows, as well as remove clutter, to allow natural air and light in.

2. Install skylights wherever possible to maximize the daylight.

3. Switch off lights, radio and television sets and other energy-consuming devices when not in use.

4. Wipe lamps and fixtures clean to improve illumination as dust decreases brightness and energy efficiency as well.

5. Reduce the strength of lights to only what is needed. Use lights that are low in wattage for places where bright lights are not required.

6. Make sure that outdoor lights are switched off during the day.

7. Turn off appliances and gadgets at the power socket when not in use since these still consume electricity even on standby mode.

8. Use a fan to keep cool instead of an air-conditioner. Ceiling fans, in particular, can make you feel few degrees cooler while consuming less electricity.

9. Use an air-conditioner sparingly, set the temperature at about 25 degrees Celsius, keep the filter clean and ensure the unit is serviced regularly for more efficient cooling.

10. Organize household chores like cleaning, cooking, ironing and washing more efficiently and try to do these with lesser frequency.

11. Put leftover food on top of newly-cooked rice to warm it instead of using the stove, toaster or microwave.

12. Set fridge temperature at 5°C, organize items to allow airflow and do not overload. Cover liquids and foods to control moisture that makes the fridge work harder. Also, leave enough room around it to allow the heat to escape from the condensing coil and compressor.

13. Refrain from keeping the refrigerator door open longer than necessary, check the gaskets and make sure the door shuts tightly to avoid cooling loss. Defrost regularly.

14. Allow hot foods to cool first before putting them into the refrigerator.

15. Thaw frozen foods before you cook them to lessen energy use. Defrost them inside the refrigerator as this helps in cooling the fridge.

16. Keep your washing machine loads at maximum; wash manually if possible. Save laundry wash water for cleaning and other purposes.

17. Use just the right amount of detergent to avoid extra rinsing.

18. Hang clothes to dry instead of using the electric dryer.

19. Choose not to iron clothes whenever possible. If needed, do ironing in big batches. Start with clothes that need lower temperatures, avoid heating and re-heating the iron and use the residual heat for delicate items.

20. Use the kulambo (mosquito net) instead of electric mosquito repellants. Keep your surroundings clean and dry to prevent mosquitoes and other pests like roaches and rodents from breeding.

21. Save water by turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth or wash your face and do take shorter showers as these also save electricity used for pumping the water.

22. Plant vegetables and fruit trees to shade your house from the sun and water them after sundown. Get some indoor plants to make the house cooler.


10 April 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Seeks Regulatory Action vs. Cigarette Butt Waste

A waste and pollution watchdog today called upon the government, particularly the environment and health departments, to craft an urgent regulatory policy that will ensure the proper management of cigarette butts or filters as toxic waste.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a member group of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP), stressed that such a policy is warranted given the known toxicity of cigarette filters and the huge number of butts generated and discarded in the local and global environment.

“Cigarette butt waste is the most visible toxic garbage that we could find in our surroundings. Smokers litter butts on the streets, storm drains and even on beaches and parks, or throw them with regular discards for disposal at dumpsites or landfills oblivious of the fact that each butt poses a toxic threat to human and animal health and the environment,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Such policy on cigarette butt waste should embrace the precautionary principle (which says “environmental harm does not have to be proven to justify preventing potential exposures”) and extended producer responsibility (which, among others, states “those who produce a toxic waste product should be held accountable for its cleanup”), the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

For her part, Dr. Maricar Limpin, FCAP Executive Director, said: “We need to stop this notorious environmental pollutant from its source. The most effective way to curb this ubiquitous litter problem is, of course, for smokers to choose health over tobacco addiction and to quit smoking.”

The EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that cigarette butts contain numerous hazardous chemicals, including cancer-causing substances, justifying their categorization as toxic waste requiring environmentally-sound management and disposal.

Citing a paper from “Tobacco Control,” an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals and others in tobacco control, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated that “filters degrade very slowly and thus become an accumulating mass of potentially toxic waste.”

Richard Barnes of the California-based Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, in his paper said that “the trillions of cigarette butts generated each year throughout the world pose a significant challenge for disposal regulations, primarily because there are millions of points of disposal, along with the necessity to segregate, collect and dispose of the butts in a safe manner, and cigarette butts are toxic, hazardous waste.”

“Toxic substances are leached from the filter and tobacco residue that pollute waterways, and probably pollute ground water near landfills that are not properly constructed to contain such leachates,” he said, adding that “aquatic life may be harmed by the toxic leachates, and the butts may cause physical harm when ingested by animals,” he explained.

Barnes also pointed out butts collect in municipal storm drains and then may empty into waterways, and can clog storm drains and sanitary sewer systems.

The economic and administrative burdens of cigarette butt waste should be taken off state and local government agencies and taxpayers, according to Barnes.

Following the principles of product stewardship and extended product responsibility, Barnes stressed that tobacco manufacturers should shoulder the entire financial burden for the collection, transportation and safe disposal of cigarette butt waste.

According to the Ocean Conservancy’s marine debris report for 2011, some 52,907,756 cigarettes/cigarette filters out of the total debris items of 166,144,420 were collected during the last 25 years of the annual coastal cleanup activities worldwide

The Ocean Conservancy also reported collecting 56,376 cigarettes/cigarette filters out of the total debris items of 763,262 collected in the Philippines in 2010.





06 April 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Mourns Massive Breach of RA 9003 at Antipolo Penitential Walk (Hails Informal Recyclers for Cutting Waste Volume Sent for Disposal)

An environmental group campaigning for a “litter-free Pilipinas” decried the “massive breach” of the country’s waste law during the penitential walk to Antipolo City that began on Maundy Thursday.

“By sunrise of Good Friday, the ugly mess left by the tens of thousands of mainly youth pilgrims came to a full view,” lamented Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patroller.

“The unbridled littering during the ‘Alay-Lakad’ has blighted what was supposed to be an act of atonement for wrongs committed or an avowal of faith and obedience to Christ the Redeemer,” he said.

“What happened was exactly an ‘Alay-Kalat’ to the max: a massive breach of R.A. 9003 as if littering was OK and devotees were exempted from observing the law that clearly forbids and penalizes littering,” he observed.

R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits several acts that could endanger public health and sanitation and the environment, including the littering, dumping and burning of garbage.

Litterbugs can be penalized with a fine of P300 to P1,000, compelled to render community service at the local government unit (LGU) where the act was committed or be required to pay the fine as well as perform community service.

“LGUs would have made a killing in collected fines if only R.A. 9003 and its parallel anti-littering ordinances were duly enforced,” Calonzo said.

“LGUs would have enlisted thousands of warm bodies to help with community cleanup activities such as the removal of garbage in clogged canals and esteros if litterbugs were not let off the hook ,” he also said.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted the rampant disposal of trash along the Alay-Lakad routes, particularly in Ortigas Avenue Extension, Sumulong Highway and in M.L. Quezon St. and P. Oliveros St. and adjoining streets in Antipolo City.

Cigarette butts, food packaging materials, plastic bags, cups and straws, and soiled papers were among the most littered items, especially in places where people tend to gather such as in front of Ever Gotesco Ortigas Complex in Pasig City, Seven-11 in Cainta junction, Cainta, Rizal, Tikling junction in Taytay, Rizal and in Antipolo proper itself.

For example, the Antipolo Cathedral and the adjacent Dimasalang Park were littered with old newspapers, corrugated boxes and rice sacks used as beddings by exhausted devotees who simply abandoned on site the materials they slept on.

“While the city has imposed a ban on plastic bags and styrofoam containers, we found plenty of these problematic discards combined with “taho” plastic cups, “suman” palm leaf wrappers, junk food packets and fruit peelings,” Calonzo noted.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition commended the dozens of waste pickers who retrieved the recyclable discards left by the devotees.

“We laud them for demonstrating their precious role in resource conservation and recovery through recycling,” Calonzo said.

“Their environmental service has reduced the volume of trash sent to Antipolo City's garbage transfer station in Barangay Padilla and then dumped at a disposal facility in Barangay Boso-Boso,” he added.

The collected newspapers, according to the waste pickers, will be sold for P5 per kilo, the corrugated boxes for P6 per kilo and the polyethylene (PET) plastic bottles for P15-30 per kilo.

“We hope pilgrims to Antipolo will be more environmentally responsible and caring next time as they fulfill their spiritual vows. There simply is no excuse for littering,” Calonzo stated.


04 April 2012

Toxics Watchdog Thumbs Up Makati's Lenten "Kubol" (19 out of 22 "kubol" meet US regulatory limit for lead in paint

The makeshift structures or “kubol” for the traditional “Pabasa” in Barangay Poblacion in Makati City drew commendation from a toxics watchdog for their use of “no lead added” paints.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the rare citation today after the painted “kubols” were screened this morning for lead using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device routinely used by government regulators in US and other countries.

Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. conducted the XRF screening together with members of the EcoWaste Coalition's AlerToxic Patrol.

Lead, a heavy metal often used as drier or pigment in paint formulations, is listed as one of the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has indicated that there is no safe threshold for lead exposure.

“Out of the 22 creatively decorated ‘kubol’ we visited, lead above the US limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) was detected in only three of the makeshift structures,” reported Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project PROTECT.

“This could be attributed to the common use of latex paints with no lead added as confirmed by some of the 'kalbaristas' we spoke to,” he said.

The ‘kubol’ by the Kilusang Magkakapitbahay ng Pertierra, Samahang Alpha Spirits, Samahang Maria Aurora, Samahang Silahis and Tanglaw ng Kabataan, which were among the most colorful, passed the regulatory limit for lead indicating the availability of required paint colors with no lead added, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The 10-foot image of a suffering Jesus Christ, the centerpiece of the kubol by the Samahang Santiago Subdivision, which landed on the frontpages of major broadsheets and tabloids on Holy Wednesday, also tested negative for lead.

“The safety of the ‘kubol’ from lead in paint should entice more children to get involved in the neighbourhood ‘pabasa’ and the spiritual nourishment it brings,” Dizon further said.

While most of the “kubol” meet the regulatory standard of 90 ppm, the EcoWaste Coalition detected lead above this limit in three “kubol.”

Lead was also detected in three old racks used for holding the "Pasyon" book and in an old bench, which could be linked to lead-added paints applied on them in the past.

The EcoWaste Coalition duly notified the concerned "kalbaristas" about the findings and requested them to take basic precautionary measures such as preventing kids from touching materials with lead.

“While harmful to all people when inhaled or swallowed, lead is particularly damaging to the developing brains and nervous systems of young children who are most vulnerable to lead exposure due to their usual hand-to-mouth activities,” said Dizon.

The EcoWaste Coalition conducted the screening for lead in painted “kubols” as part of its campaign to build awareness and support for the elimination of lead-added paints to promote children’s health and safety.


03 April 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Appeals to Antipolo Pilgrims Not to Litter

(Littering at 2011 Alay-Lakad to Antipolo)

An environmental group promoting “Walang Aksaya” (zero waste) Holy Week today requested the public, particularly the youth, not to drop any litter as they perform their penitential walk to Antipolo City on Maundy Thursday.

The EcoWaste Coalition implored the pilgrims to carry out their religious vows without trashing the streets leading to the Antipolo Cathedral, home of the miraculous image of “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.”

“Don’t be a litterbug. Please don’t leave a carpet of garbage along the ‘Alay-Lakad’ routes. Otherwise, call it an ‘Alay-Kalat’ pilgrimage,” pleaded Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

"Ang ating panatang paglalakad ay huwag naman sanang maging penitensya o parusa para sa mga taga-walis ng lansangan," he added.

During the past years, EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrollers noted the unsightly littering in Ortigas Avenue Extension, Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway, in the vicinity of churches and roadside “Stations of the Cross” where pilgrims momentarily stop to pray.

“As an act of gratitude for the blessings that Mother Earth provides, please help out in keeping the streets clean by picking up litter and putting them into the proper bins,” he suggested.

“Please don’t set the garbage piles on fire, which is, like littering, against the law. You will only worsen the problem by creating toxic smokes and fumes,” he added.

"Remember: God recycles, the devil burns," he said in jest.

Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, lists littering and open burning among the prohibited acts under this law.

Littering is punishable with a fine of P300 to P1,000 or a one to 15-day community service at the local government unit where the unlawful act was committed, or both.

On the other hand, open burning is punishable with a fine ranging from P300 to P1,000, or a one to 15-day imprisonment, or both.

Towards a litter-free “Alay-Lakad,” the EcoWaste Coalition reminded the pilgrims to observe the following:

1. Refrain from all forms of indiscriminate disposal during the walk such as littering, spitting and urinating in public.

2. Place items to be disposed of in your pocket or bag until you have found a bin to put them.

3. Refrain from smoking during the walk to prevent pollution from tobacco smoke and from cigarette butts.

4. Bring your own water in a “reusable container" to avoid buying bottled water or “palamig" in plastic bags or cups.

5. Bring a reusable carry bag for pasalubong like kasoy, kalamay and suman that are aplenty in Antipolo City.


02 April 2012

Chemical Accident Prevention and Preparedness Policy Pushed Following Pasig City Ammonia Gas Leak

The latest chemical leak incident in Pasig City should prompt the government into fast tracking a strong policy and mechanism that will enhance chemical accident prevention and preparedness in the country.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the statement in response to the ammonia spill last Sunday, 1 April, at a candy manufacturing plant in Barangay Manggahan, Pasig City.

Information obtained from the incident report published at the website of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) indicated that the leak occurred from a tank inside the Polar Bear Plant.

According to the NDRRMC report, the incident affected three persons, including two men (Johnny Rey Abaco and Celetonio Tamayo) who both sustained chemical burns.

“This is not the first chemical spill of its kind. There have been ammonia-related leaks in the past that affected residents, including young children,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.

Dizon was referring to the ammonia gas leaks that overpowered hundreds of residents in Quezon City and more recently in Zamboanga City causing breathing difficulties, eye irritation, dizziness and vomiting among the victims.

On 29 February 2012 an ammonia gas leak from the ENL ice plant and storage in Barangay Ayala, Zamboanga City sickened over 100 villagers.

On 20 February 2011, over 300 families had to be evacuated as a result of an ammonia gas spill at VCNC ice plant in Barangay Bagong Bantay, Quezon City.

“The government should take its cue from this string of gas leak episodes and act decisively to avoid such incidents from happening again,” said Dizon.

“The latest incident should prompt the executive department to fast track and enforce a chemical accident prevention and preparedness policy and program with public participation,” he said.

The policy should also establish a publicly available chemical right to know system as it allows better transparency and accountability where hazardous chemicals are involved, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

This will allow public awareness on what chemicals are being stored, used, transported or disposed of in their communities, which enables them to prepare a contingency plan for dealing with these chemicals when spills or natural disasters cause the chemicals to spill, the group pointed out.

The policy, the group added, should also support increased capacity-building for rapid response in case of chemical accidents for both the public and private sectors, and further support clean-up and rehabilitation of contaminated areas.


Catholic Bishop Calls for "Walang Aksaya" Holy Week

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has amplified the plea for environmental responsibility and action as millions mark the events of Jesus Christ’s last week before his crucifixion and death.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., Chairman of the CBCP Public Affairs Committee, in a statement echoed the appeal made by the EcoWaste Coalition for a “Walang Aksaya” (zero waste) holy days.

“The serenity of Holy Week offers a unique opportunity for all to touch base with Mother Earth and face the truth that we live in a very much abused and sullied environment,” said Bishop Iñiguez.

“The litter we see around us is an explicit testimony of our lack of responsibility toward the environment on which we all depend on,” he noted.

“I therefore invite the faithful to make use of the holy days to make amends with Mother Earth starting with a conscious effort to live simply, do away with crass consumerism, and go for zero waste,” he stated.

“Our responsibility to Mother Earth is our responsibility to ourselves and to the next generations that will inherit the planet,” he added.

Bishop Iñiguez's plea reiterates a CBCP pastoral letter issued in November 2008 that exhorted the faithful to “uphold the sanctity of life” and, among others, “eliminate wasteful consumption.”

For his part, Romy Hidalgo of the Ecology Ministry of the Diocese of Caloocan, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition, stressed the importance of preventing garbage and pollution during the Holy Week and beyond.

“Reducing both the volume and toxicity of trash generated by every person, household, institution and community at any available opportunity is no longer a voluntary option, but an essential responsibility that has to be done at levels of the society,” he said.

“Preventing trash from being created, dumped or burned during the Holy Week is a timely act of penance, cleansing and conversion that will translate to cleaner and toxic-free communities, especially in the metropolis,” he added.

As per MMDA data, Metro Manila generates over 8,500 tons of garbage per day.

A “Walang Aksaya” holy days, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, should mirror a more conscious effort to lessen what is thrown to the bin through responsible consumption and active reusing, recycling and composting.

It should also reflect a more determined stance to use reusable bags and containers instead of plastic bags; a more judicious use of utilities such as water and electricity; and a more deliberate plan to eliminate all forms of littering and wasting, especially in religious activities.