30 September 2012

EcoWaste Coalition to Candidates: Moderate Your Garbage during the Filing of COCs

An environmental watchdog has aired a plea for ecological responsibility among candidates and their supporters who will be rushing to the offices of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to file their Certificates of Candidacy (COCs) for the May 13, 2013 polls.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has initiated waste prevention and reduction efforts during the 2004, 2007 and 2010 elections, requested politicians to moderate their garbage and keep the vicinities of COMELEC offices clean and without litter as they file their COCs from October 1 to 5.

“We request all well-meaning politicians and their supporters to cooperate in keeping the COMELEC grounds litter-free,” stated Von Hernandez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, an independent environmental network promoting zero waste and chemical safety.
“Please don’t be a ‘garpol’ as if Mother Earth is not suffering enough from our wastefulness,” he said.

"Garpol" is a wordplay of "garbage" and "politician," or a politico who has no authentic concern for the environment and is fixated with the outmoded, climate unfriendly "tapon-hakot-tambak-sunog" (throw-collect-dump-burn) approach to managing discards.

The EcoWaste Coalition's plea for zero waste coincided with the "Global Day of Action against Waste and Incineration," which is observed on September 30.

As per COMELEC Resolution 9518, senatorial candidates should file their COCs at the COMELEC headquarters in Intramuros, Manila, while congressional and local candidates should filed their COCs at the municipal, provincial or regional offices of the COMELEC.

Candidates for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should file their COCs at the COMELEC’s provincial and regional offices in the area.

“The filing of COCs should be low-key and simple as much as possible. In fact, we see no reason for candidates and their political groups to distribute leaflets, go on motorcade or march with their families, friends and followers in tow at this very early stage of the electoral exercise,” Hernandez emphasized.

“Enlightened voters will not be pleased to see obsessive candidates holding wasteful gatherings and parades, creating trash and chaotic traffic, as if they have already won the trust of the electorate,” he added.
The EcoWaste Coalition, as in past elections, will provide the public with guidelines on how to identify and select “green” candidates, and will actively promote waste prevention and reduction before, during and after the campaign period.

The COMELEC through its spokesperson Atty. James Jimenez had earlier appealed to candidates to avoid “extravagant gimmicks” and to keep their followers “in check” to ensure a peaceful filing of COCs during the designated period.


25 September 2012

Green Groups Mark "Ondoy" With Plea for Waste Prevention and Reduction

Environmental groups implored all members of the society to commit to preventing and reducing garbage as the nation commemorates the “Ondoy” tragedy that brought the country to its knees in September 2009.

After dumping a record volume of rain, typhoon “Ondoy”  (international name: “Ketsana”)  instantly  transformed huge parts of Metro Manila and Luzon into “water world,” killing over 700 citizens, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and causing billions of pesos in damaged properties and business losses.

The EcoWaste Coalition and its partner groups in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City and Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal, two of the many communities ravaged by the floods, pointed to waste prevention and reduction as an essential measure to alleviate the impact of extreme weather disturbances  like Ondoy.

“Waste prevention and reduction, along with time-tested ecological practices of reusing, recycling and composting discards, could be the simplest flood and disaster mitigation strategy there is,” noted Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our society will have better chances of toning down the effects of calamities upon our people and the environment if every waste generator, from individual citizens, households, markets, schools, hospitals, malls to factories, will moderate their wastefulness, conserve resources and avoid creating any form of garbage,” stated  Tatalon resident Ben Galindo, Chairperson, Sagip Pasig Movement.

“We have seen and suffered the wrath of Ondoy, but have we really learned and changed after Ondoy’s onslaught?,” asked Noli Abinales, President of the San Mateo-based Buklod Tao.  “Let the painful memories of Ondoy remind us of our shared responsibility to protect our Mother Earth, save what remains of her forests and rivers and restore her capacity to support life, starting with responsible consumption and the ecofriendly handling of our discards.”    

The groups also emphasized the need for a system that will ensure the environmentally-sound management of disaster debris and waste to minimize bacterial and chemical pollution in affected communities, noting that certain waste materials, particulary electronic waste or e-waste, are laden with toxic chemicals that could harm humans and the ecosytems. 

The groups likewise threw their support to the meaningful observance of the “Save Sierra Madre Day” on September 26 and the importance of protecting the mountain range from illegal logging activities and “developmental intrusions.” 

They cited a statement by Fr. Pete Montallana, Chairperson of the Save Sierra Madre Network who once said that “forested mountains are our best natural defenses against the twin scourges of ‘too much water’ on one hand, and ‘too little water’ on the other.”

“Ondoy could not have done its worst on the island of Luzon if its once-majestic protector, the Sierra Madre, had not been so degraded by unabated logging and other ‘developmental” intrusions’,”  Montallana, recipient of the Fr. Neri Satur Award for Environmental Heroism in 2011, said.


24 September 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Reiterates Need for Proper Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste

An environmental network promoting zero waste and chemical safety has cautioned the public against the improper disposal of energy efficient but mercury-containing compact
fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

The EcoWaste Coalition made the plea as some 3.6 million CFLs are set to be distributed through congressional and party list representatives from September 22 to 28, 2012 under the National Residential Lighting Program of the Philippine Energy Efficiency Project by the Department
of Energy (DOE).

According to the DOE, the distribution of CFLs will translate to 44,702 tons of carbon dioxide emission reduction, which is equivalent to 83 MWh energy savings or P828 million monetary savings.

Under the program, 10,000 CFLs will be distributed free of charge to 5,000 households per congressional district or party list household beneficiaries. Two 14-watt CFLs will be given per household.

Each 14-watt CFL contains 1.5 mg of mercury, a toxic substance that is often released due to product breakage or through recycling in uncontrolled conditions.

“While recognizing the climate benefits of CFLs, we urge users to strictly follow safety precautions, from lamp installation to disposal, to avoid breakage and exposure to mercury,” said Thony
Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Products and wastes containing mercury such as busted fluorescent lamps should be carefully handled and not mixed with regular household discards nor dumped or burned,” Dizon emphasized.

Aside from busted lamps, other sources of mercury in municipal solid waste include discarded thermometers, dental amalgams, laboratory chemicals, measuring devices, skin whitening cosmetics and electronics or e-waste.

Dizon stated that R.A. 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act, considers lamp waste as hazardous and thus requiring safe management and disposal, while R.A. 9003, the
Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, classifies lamp waste as special waste that should not be combined with compostable and recyclable waste.

A study prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition and included in a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on heavy metals in products has noted some challenges in the country’s shift from incandescent bulbs to CFLs.

These challenges include the lack of producer responsibility or take back system for discarded lamps, the lack of mercury information and precaution on product labels, the lack of public education on mercury exposure and emergency response measures, the lack of a functional system for collecting busted lamps, including storage, and the informal recycling of busted lamps in dumpsites and junk shops that releases mercury vapor into the surroundings.

According to the government-published “Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste Management” guidebook, “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic especially to the developing nervous system, which is very sensitive to all forms of mercury. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause
permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, vision loss, sensation loss, and tremors.”

The guidebook stated that “mercury is also a suspected endocrine disruptor, which means it damages the reproductive and hormonal development and growth of fetuses and infants. Even low-level
exposure to mercury has caused serious health effects that include neurological damage, reproductive system damage, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.”

To minimize exposure to mercury-containing lamps and wastes, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to users to heed the following precautionary steps:

1. Do not break. Handle spent mercury-containing lamps with extreme care as they can easily break.

2. Do not burn lamps containing mercury or throw them into regular waste bins.

3. Do not play with discarded lamps or leave them lying around.

4. Return spent lamp to its original box container or place in a clear plastic bag, seal and mark “Toxic: Lamp Waste with Mercury.”

5. Put the properly wrapped and labeled lamp waste into a secured place for temporary storage.

6. For increased protection against breakage, store spent lamps in an upright position and place in a covered tin or plastic container for smaller lamps or in a cupboard for linear lamps.

7. Mark the container where the lamp waste is stored with a readable warning: “Toxic: Lamp Waste with Mercury.”

8. Keep the storage area safe, out of children’s reach and away from the elements and human traffic.

9. Contact fluorescent lamp manufacturers and/or distributors to check if they have a take-back program for their spent products or suggest a take back program if they have none.

“As we wait for a system that will ensure the environmentally-sound management of busted lamps, we call on the public to observe these steps to prevent mercury pollution,” Dizon said.

As defined by UNEP, “environmentally-sound management” means “taking all practicable steps to ensure that hazardous waste or other wastes are managed in a manner which will protect human health and the environment against adverse effects which may result from such wastes.”




22 September 2012

Groups Press for Expeditious Phase Out of Leaded Paints

Groups promoting children’s safety from toxic exposure appealed to the government for an immediate phase out of lead, a nasty brain damaging chemical, in decorative paints.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition pressed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to speed up the issuance of a prevention-oriented policy that will protect children from exposure to lead paints, a significant source of childhood lead exposure.
“We urge the DENR to fulfill a much-delayed promise to issue a policy directive that will proactively safeguard children and other vulnerable groups from harms caused by exposure to lead-containing paint and dust,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in December 2011, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded, has called for “stricter control” of leaded paint as the DENR finalizes a draft Chemical Control Order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds, which has been pending since 2007.

“Paint makers and consumers are waiting for the DENR to give a sound policy guidance that will decisively and quickly ban lead-added paints, which are used in homes, day care centers, playgrounds, schools and even in toys and other children's products," said Ines Fernandez, Coordinator, Save Babies Coalition.

The groups issued a fresh plea for speedy phase out of leaded paints after the international community reiterated that “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe” and “lead can have profound and permanent adverse health effects on children.”

At the third session of the UN-sponsored International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3) held in Nairobi, Kenya from September 17-21, delegates noted that “lead is a toxic metal whose widespread use has caused environmental contamination and extensive public health problems in many parts of the world.”

Delegates noted “that good and affordable substitutes for lead pigments and other lead compounds that are used in decorative paints have been widely available for decades.”

They encouraged governments and other stakeholders to contribute to the “promotion of national regulatory frameworks, as appropriate, to stop the manufacture, import, export, sale and use of lead paints and products coated with lead paints.”

A presentation by Caroline Vickers of WHO’s Public Health and Environment Department at the ICCM3 emphasized that "children are particularly vulnerable,” that lead poisoning “accounts for 0.6% of the global burden of disease” and that “childhood lead exposure contributes to 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities per year.”

Citing a new report released at ICCM3 by IPEN, a global civil society network for a toxics-free future that includes the EcoWaste Coalition, the groups explained that lead exposure in children is associated with a lifelong, irreversible decrease in their intelligence and with aggression and other behavioral problems.

Other neurological effects of childhood lead exposure may include problems maintaining attention in school or home; hyperactivity; problems with learning and remembering new information; rigid, inflexible problem-solving abilities; problems controlling aggressive or impulsive behavior; problems paying attention; poor work completion and others, the report stated.

“To prevent childhood exposure from lead in paint and dust, we strongly urge the DENR to take action now and phase out leaded paints without further delay,”the EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition pointed out.


15 September 2012

Groups Sound Alarm Over Illegal Sale of Mercury-Laden Cosmetics in Cebu

Environmental and health advocates today revealed an ugly news about mercury-laced beauty products being sold in Cebu City that are supposed to lighten the skin complexion.

Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center together with Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition announced the discovery of the tainted skin whitening creams, which included brands that government had earlier recalled for containing mercury above the allowable limit of one part per million (ppm).

Mercury, an extremely toxic chemical that can damage the kidneys, the skin and the nervous system, is often found in imported skin facial creams that lure users with the promise of whiter skin tone and the “magic” removal of freckles, scars, spots and even aging wrinkles.

“Our test buys provide solid evidence that mercury-tainted cosmetics have reached and infected the Cebu market,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The test buys were conducted on September 13 and 14 involving 4 shops that specialize in beauty products, health supplements and Chinese medicines located in Manalili, V. Gullas and Colon Sts., Cebu City, she said.

Lucero reported being able to buy eight mercury-laced skin whitening products, sold from P35 to P99, including items that were among the 50 brands banned under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory 2011-012.

Subsequent analysis of the purchased items using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence(XRF) spectrometer by Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila),Inc. indicated high concentrations of mercury in the eight products,namely:

1. Miss Beauty Magic Cream, with 11,400 ppm of mercury

2. S’Zitang Cream, with 7,856 ppm ofmercury

3. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, with 7,254 ppm of mercury

4. The Flower Woman 7 Days Whitening and Spot and Night Cream, with 7,303 ppm of mercury

5. Xin Jiaoli 7-Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Cream, with 6,795 ppm of mercury

6. Jiaoli, with 5,061 ppm of mercury

7. S’Zitang 7-Days Specific Eliminating Cream , with 4521 ppm ofmercury

8. Woman of Flower, with 4,228 ppm of mercury

None of the above mentioned products listed mercury as an active ingredient.

“The discovery of banned mercury-laden cosmetics in Cebu is bad news for consumer health and should rouse the government to act with firm resolve:confiscate the contraband goods, charge erring importers, distributors and vendors and ensure dealers’ compliance with the law,” said Atty.Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Coordinator of the Philippine Earth Justice Center

“Selling health-damaging cosmetics with mercury is totally not pretty,” added Ramos who is also a member of the EcoWasteCoalition’s Steering Committee.

Cebu City Councilor Nida Cabrera, chair of the committee on environment, has expressed serious concern about the illegal trade in mercury-tainted cosmetics.

“I find this very alarming as consumers are practically buying poisonous cosmetics that can bring about adverse health effects. This is not acceptable,” said Cabrera.

To safeguard consumers against mercury exposure, the EcoWasteCoalition urged users to be extra vigilant, read the product information carefully and do not buy items that lack adequate and understandable labels.

“The right to product information and the right to product safety are guaranteed by the Consumer Act of the Philippines. Consumer vigilance is needed to ensure that these rights are respected by business and industry,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.


12 September 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Detects Toxic Chemicals in 74 of 150 Toy Samples from Divisoria in Pre-Christmas Testing of Toys

With barely 100 days before Christmas, a toxics watchdog reminded the public to be cautious of the thriving trade in unlabeled and unlicensed toys that may spell danger for kids.

In a pre-Christmas testing of toys sold from P10 to P100 that are increasingly enjoying brisk sales in Divisoria, the bargain hunters’ heaven, the EcoWaste Coalition detected toxic metals in 74 of 150 samples (49%) above levels of concern.

The investigation also showed that 148 samples (98.6%) carried no license to operate (LTO) on their labels, and that none of the samples (100%) provided complete product information, including their chemical composition.

“We have embarked on a timely toxics investigation to find out if toys sold at rock bottom prices in Divisoria are indeed good deals and pose no risk to young users,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We will do this every month from September to December in different locations to generate information that we hope consumers can use to make sound purchasing decisions,” he said.

“The sampling data will be transmitted to the authorities to assist them in undertaking essential regulatory interventions, including the issuance of toy safety advisories and recall orders, to protect our children’s health,” he added.

The samples were obtained on September 8, 9 and 10, 2012 from over a dozen toy wholesale and retail shops located at 11/88 Shopping Mall, 168 Shopping Mall, 999 Shopping Mall, New Divisoria Center, Tutuban Center Prime Block Shopping Mall and Tutuban Corner Store, and screened for heavy metals on September 11, using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

Of the 150 samples, 54 (36%) were found to contain elevated levels of lead up to 14,100 parts per million (ppm), way above US lead in paint limit of 90 ppm.

According to the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, lead may be found in the paint on toys, or as an additive to make the plastic material soft and pliable, or as an agent to stabilize molecules from heat.

Among those with the highest concentrations of lead among the sampled toys were a "Wonderful Voice" xylophone with 14,100 ppm, an “Angry Birds” bookmark clip with 6,484 ppm, a baby doll with 5,638 ppm, an “Angry Birds” wrist strap with 3,976 ppm and a “Ben 10” wrist strap with 3,363 ppm.

Lead is a neurotoxin that is exceptionally bad for young children and whose health effects are often permanent. Health scientists have recognized that there is no safe threshold for lead exposure, especially for children.

Lead exposure through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation in the form of dust can cause mental retardation, learning disabilities, decreased intelligence quotient scores, growth delays and behavioural problems among children. Lead exposure is also linked to anemia, hearing loss and kidney damage.

Pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center pointed out that children are most susceptible to absorbing lead because of their habitual hand-to-mouth practices as they grow, explore and develop.

“Children tend to put their hands and other objects such as toys that may have lead paint or dust into their mouths resulting in direct ingestion of lead. Their bodies and vital organs are still developing, making them more vulnerable against lead and other chemical poisons,” she said.

Other metals found in some of the toys sampled include antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium and mercury.

Mercury, a highly toxic substance, was discovered in all four children’s makeup sets in the range of 2.7 to 326 ppm, way above the government’s 1 ppm allowable limit for mercury in cosmetics.

Chromium, which can be carcinogenic depending on its type, was found in 14 samples from 97 to 2,685 ppm (a baby doll); cadmium, a probable human carcinogen, was uncovered in eight samples from 196 to 954 ppm (the same baby doll); arsenic, a known human carcinogen, was found in nine samples from 34 to 1,474 ppm (a xylophone); and antimony,a suspected carcinogen, was detected in 28 samples from 66 to 11,900 ppm (a lizard squeeze toy).

Barium, another chemical of concern, was detected in 11 samples from 1,141 to 6,811 ppm (a child lipstick with 2,687 ppm).

All the 150 samples provided zero information about their chemicals ingredients, and none that tested positive for toxic metals indicated that they contain such chemicals.

A further analysis of the samples with reference to the requirements of the Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order 2007-0032 to regulate toys sold or given free in the Philippines as amended in 2011 and 2012, revealed that:

A. 148 samples (98.6%) had no LTO issued by the DOH’s Bureau of Health Devices and Technology (BHDT). LTO is granted to toy producers, importers and distributors whose products conform with the DOH’s health and safety requirements and the Philippine National Standard for the Safety of Toys.

B. 150 samples (100%) provided either zero or incomplete product information, including a duly registered name and trademark, a model reference number, the name of the manufacturer or distributor, place, country and year of manufacture, directions for use, precautionary indications and warnings.

With the test results, the EcoWaste Coalition renewed its appeal to the toys industry to strictly manufacture, import, distribute and sell products that have been fully tested for safety, contain no toxic chemicals of concern and provide truthful product information in keeping with the consumers’ right to know.



DOH Administrative Order 2007-0031on the “Regulations on the Issuance of a License to Operate to Companies thatManufacture, Import or Distribute Toys for the Philippine Market”


11 September 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Anew Mercury-Laden Cosmetics in Divisoria

The sale of imported mercury-laced skin whitening products in the domestic market continues notwithstanding efforts to have them removed for consumer health and safety, a toxics watchdog pointed out.

In test buys conducted in Divisoria, Manila on September 10, the EcoWaste Coalition got to purchase seven skin whitening products containing mercury up to 46,200 parts per million (ppm), which is over and above the allowable limit of 1 ppm.

“We deplore the sale of these dangerous cosmetics to unsuspecting consumers. To help stop the illegal trade, we request the City Council to speed up the enactment of a pending ordinance that seeks to stop the illegal sale of injurious mercury-containing cosmetics in Manila with harsh penalties,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The group, which has been tracking the illegal trade in mercury-laden cosmetics since 2010, found huge amounts of mercury in seven of the eight products bought for P120 to P240 each from beauty product shops in 168 Shopping Mall and 999 Shopping Mall, in one retail shop in Roman St. and in one Chinese drug store at the corner of Recto Avenue and Roman St., Divisoria.

According to the World Health Organization, mercury can cause kidney damage and may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. It can also cause harm to the cardiovascular, digestive, gastrointestinal, nervous and respiratory systems.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the group detected mercury in the following products:

1. Beauty Girl Ginseng & Green Cucumber 10 Days Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 46,200 ppm of mercury (Benson Chinese Drug Store, Recto Ave. cor. Roman St., P130);

2. Yudantang Milk & Papaya 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 11,300 ppm of mercury (bought from Benson Chinese Drug Store, Recto Ave. cor. Roman St., P130);

3. Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening and Anti-Spot Cream, 3,933 ppm of mercury (Stall 1M-11, 999 Shopping Mall, P150; also available at Stall 2G-8);

4. Beauty Girl Egg White & Tomato 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream, 3,592 ppm of mercury (Stall IR-24, 168 Shopping Mall. P120);

5. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (Blue), 2,207 ppm of mercury (1005 Roman St., P180); and

6. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (Purple), 1,343 ppm of mercury (1005 Roman St., P180).

7. Liliki Whitening Day Cream 911, 133 ppm of mercury (Fabie General Merchandise, Stall 21-11 2/F, 168 Shopping Mall, P240);

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled the Beauty Girl Ginseng & Green Cucumber in 2010 and the Beauty Girl Egg White & Tomato, Liliki, Miss Beauty and Sara products in 2011. The agency has yet to ban the Yudantang product.

While all the products provided labeling information about their product ingredients, none listed mercury as an active agent.

Quoting the “Epidemiological Alert: Mercury in Skin Lightening Products” by the World Health Organization (WHO), the EcoWaste Coalition said that “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”

The WHO had warned that “mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.”

“The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish. Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children,” the WHO further said.




Additional information about the draft “Ordinance to Stop the Illegal Sale of Injurious Mercury-Containing Cosmetics in the City of Manila” filed by Councilor Numero Lim in March 2012:

- 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;

- penalizes individual violators with imprisonment from one to 10 years or a fine from P50,000 to P500,000;

-penalizes manufacturers, importers and distributors with imprisonment of five to 10 years and the fine of P500,000 to P5,000,000; and

- bans the open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics in regular municipal solid waste.

06 September 2012

FDA Urged to Step Up Drive vs Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics

Quezon City. The designation of renowned toxicologist Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go as head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has buoyed up expectations for tougher action to rid the market of dangerous cosmetics.

Through a letter sent to the new FDA chief, the EcoWaste Coalition lauded his appointment and expressed hope that the agency will further strengthen itself towards becoming a “center of regulatory excellence” dedicated to protecting the public health under his watch.

“As a toxics watchdog, we take it as our duty to provide your office with some insights and suggestions as to how the FDA can reinforce its ongoing work to curb, if not eradicate, the unlawful sale of skin whitening creams containing dangerous amounts of mercury,” wrote Edwin Alejo, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We are keen to continue our collaboration with the FDA towards attaining our people's right and hope for a healthy and toxics-free society,” he added.

The letter was signed by 20 environment and health advocates, including film actor Roy Alvarez, Miss Earth Philippines titlist Cathy Untalan, educator Dean Antonio La ViƱa, environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, pulmonologist Dr. Maricar Limpin, breastfeeding champion Ines Fernandez, climate defender Dr. Helen Mendoza, toxics campaigner Beau Baconguis, community leader Noli Abinales, Rotarian Romy Hidalgo, Ang NARS president Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz and zero waste proponent Sonia Mendoza.

Through the letter, they drew Dr. Go’s attention to the continued sale of mercury-laden skin whitening products and the apparent need for a more effective strategy to deal with this preventable health menace.

Out of the 50 brands of skin whitening creams that the FDA had so far banned for containing excessive levels of mercury, the EcoWaste Coalition managed to buy over a dozen of the various proscribed cosmetics in several test buys conducted this year.

They also told Dr. Go that the EcoWaste Coalition had detected high concentrations of mercury in more than 20 brands that the FDA has yet to recall, including 14 products confirmed by the FDA last July 25 as containing mercury up to 63,516 parts per million (ppm), way above the 1 ppm allowable limit.

The mercury-laced skin whitening creams are being sold in some Chinese drug stores, beauty product shops, food and herbal supplements booths as well as in some stalls of ambulant vendors, they said.

They presented a 15-point proposal to Dr. Go to stop the illegal trade of mercury-laden skin whitening creams, stressing the need for all stakeholders to get involved, including the FDA, customs and police authorities, local government units, health, wellness and beauty associations, the management of shopping malls, the mass media and the civil society.

One specific proposal was for the FDA to either initiate or back a “Brown is Beautiful” campaign that will promote acceptance and pride in our natural skin tone.

Vice President Jejomar Binay who in 2011 said "we are brown and we should be proud (of it)" will be a good champion for such an advocacy, they noted.

Here is the full list of civil society recommendations to the FDA as the lead regulatory agency for cosmetics:

1. Issue timely health and recall advisories as frequent as may be deemed necessary to forewarn consumers against mercury exposure from certain skin whitening products, including those that have not gone through the required notification process with FDA.

2. Improve the content and delivery of the FDA health and recall advisories such as by providing photographs of the banned products.

3. Publish a paid advertisement in one broadsheet and at least two tabloids of national circulation warning the general public about all the banned products with accompanying photos.

4. Maximize the use of conventional broadcast and print media as well as new media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools) to ensure that the message reaches through the target sector/s, particularly cosmetics consumers and vendors.

5. Provide a hotline that concerned citizens, including vendors and consumers, can contact to obtain information or clarification about banned cosmetics.

6. Issue a more in-depth Health Alert that will provide information about the hazards of mercury in cosmetics, signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning, medical remedies, disposal of mercury-containing products, etc.

7. Publish a consumer information material (e.g., a simplified, illustrated version of the Health Alert) that will inform users about the health and environmental risks posed by mercury-containing cosmetics for wider distribution and consumption.

8. Encourage victims of mercury exposure from skin whitening products to come forward and tell their stories in appropriate venues.

9. Designate a "No Mercury in Cosmetics" awareness-raising day or any appropriate event to drum up public interest and alertness about this toxic health threat. A potential date is August 4 of every year to mark the issuance of the landmark FDA Advisory 2011-012 banning a total of 50 mercury-laden skin whitening products.

10. Spearhead or support a “Brown is Beautiful” campaign that will encourage Filipinos to be proud of our beautiful, natural complexion.

11. Actively promote and support city or municipal ordinances prohibiting the importation, distribution, sale and use of mercury-containing cosmetics.

12. Forge an agreement with the Bureau of Customs for a more stringent control on the entry of contraband cosmetics such as skin whitening creams.

13. Conduct a series of law enforcement activities, including on-the-spot confiscation of contraband items and preventive closure of business establishments, to rid the market of illegal skin lightening cosmetics, and to demonstrate FDA’s conviction and firmness to enforce the law.

14. Forge Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs) with the management of shopping malls to secure their cooperation in preventing the distribution and sale of banned cosmetics by shop owners in their premises.

15. Work out an arrangement with FDAs or equivalent regulatory bodies in other jurisdictions suspected as sources of imported mercury-laced cosmetics such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc. to prevent export of such tainted goods to the Philippines.


03 September 2012

Novaliches Retailers Flout Ban on Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics (11 of 12 Samples Tested with Excessive Mercury up to 12,600 ppm)

Five retail outlets in the booming business hub of Novaliches District were found to be selling 11 brands of mercury-laden skin whitening products in blatant disobedience of the law.

In test buys conducted over the past weekend, the EcoWaste Coalition was able to buy a dozen of products costing from P90 to P285 each from beauty, herbal and general merchandise shops located inside the Novaliches Plaza Mall (popularly known as the Nova Mall) and Susano Complex and in one store along Gen. Luis St., near Susano Road.

“This is by far our most toxic sighting in Quezon City, which clearly shows that the unlawful trade in mercury-laced cosmetics goes unabated despite the government’s ban,” observed Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We therefore appeal to our cosmetics regulators and law enforcers to take swift action against erring retailers and their suppliers to protect susceptible consumers from being exposed to these dangerous goods,” she said.

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer, the toxics watchdog detected mercury in 11 of the samples in the range of 977 parts per million (ppm) to 12,600 ppm, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

None of the tainted products listed mercury as a product ingredient, and none provided complete product information as required under the labeling and fair packaging provisions of R.A. 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

The names of the 11 mercury-laden skin whitening products on sale in Novaliches and their mercury contents are as follows:

1. Bihuayn Whitening Cream (Day), 12,600 ppm
2. Miss Beauty Magic Cream, 10,500 ppm
3. S’Zitang, 8,652 ppm
4. Yudantang Green Cucumber & Ginseng 6-Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream, 7,821 ppm
5. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 5,627 ppm
6. Jiaoli 7-Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 5,376 ppm
7. Beauty Girl Ginseng & Green Cucumber 10-Days Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 4,813 ppm
8. Jiaoli 10-Days Eliminating Freckle Day and Night Set, 4167 ppm
9. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream, 2,144 ppm
10. JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 1,058 ppm
11. Jiaoli Huichusu 10-Days Whitening Speckles Removal Cream, 977 ppm

All the Jiaoli products, along with JJJ and S’Zitang were ordered recalled by the FDA in 2010 and the Miss Beauty products and Yudantang were banned in 2011, while Bihuayn has yet to be withdrawn from the market, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“As a precautionary measure, consumers should stop using improperly labeled and unregistered facial creams to lighten the skin tone, prevent acne, remove freckles or erase age marks as these may contain mercury and other bacterial or chemical contaminants,” said toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center.

“Beware: the reckless use of unsafe cosmetics will not be pretty,” added Antonio who is also the Vice-President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.

According to a Health Alert issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), “inorganic mercury in face cream is absorbed following application to the skin and toxic levels in the body can develop gradually with prolonged use. The target organs for toxic effects are the central nervous system and kidneys.”

The signs and symptoms of mild to moderate toxicity due to exposure to inorganic mercury in skin lightening products, the CDPH said, may include nervousness and irritability, difficulty with concentration, headache, tremors, memory loss, depression, insomnia, weight loss, fatigue, numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or around the lips.

As advised by the CDPH, “any face cream product that is suspected to contain mercury must be disposed of as household hazardous waste, labeled “contains mercury,” placed in a sealed plastic bag, and disposed of at local household hazardous waste collection facilities.”




01 September 2012

QC Environmentalists Urge QC Residents and Transients to Take to Heart Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance

Environmental advocates living in Quezon City have one common appeal to all city residents and transients: shun plastic bags and make it a practice to bring your own reusable carry bags.

The environmentalists issued their respective pleas as SP-2140 or the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance, which regulates the use of plastic bags and sets an environmental fee for its use, takes effect today, September 1.

“We urge everyone who lives, works or simply visits QC to take to heart the local government’s environmental policy to cut back the uncontrolled use and disposal of plastic bags. Let us break the plastic bag habit and get into the routine of taking a bayong or any reusable bag or container whenever we shop. Matututo rin tayo. Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?,” said Von Hernandez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

"We congratulate the QC government for its effort to reduce plastic waste and pollution through the ordinance. We call on our fellow residents to bring reusable bags made of indigenous materials,support the regulation and give Mother Earth a much needed breather from the ever-present plastic bags," said Sonia Mendoza,Chairperson, Mother Earth Foundation.

"This ordinance is long overdue. We look forward to seeing the positive results of its implementation. We can proudly say that this generation did something to stem the tide of plastics. There is still plenty of work to be done. But for now, we pat ourselves in the back and say, thank you," said Beau Baconguis, Philippine Program Manager,Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Dear fellow citizens in QC of our affections, rejoice that we can now contribute to keep our city clean and plastic-free. Let us heed the ordinance for healthier and more toxic-free space for our families. Mabuhay ka QC!” said Esther Pacheco, Citizens Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability.

“Please give the ordinance the chance to succeed. We need not spend for eco-replacements to plastic bags as we can creatively make our own reusable bags from used materials that we can find in our homes," said Ofelia Panganiban, Trustee, Zero Waste Philippines.

Plastic bag waste is a huge and costly problem in highly urbanized cities like Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Citing data from the Quezon City Government, the group noted that some 719 cubic meter or 45 10-wheeler truckload of plastic bags are disposed of daily in the city.

According to the Quezon City Government, the single-use plastic bags and their improper disposal create significant litter problems, clogging up canals and sewerage systems and causing floods.

The free distribution of plastic bags, the authorities said, also brings about a throw-away attitude among consumers.

Through SP-2140,the Quezon City Government will enforce a Plastic Recovery System Fee that will charge and collect a fix amount of two pesos (P2.00) per plastic bag used regardless of its size.

Proceeds will go to the city’s Green Fund that will be used to finance relevant environmental initiatives.

A related ordinance SP-2130 requires all business establishments that uses plastic bags to conspicuously display a notice encouraging their customers to protect the environment by bringing their own recyclable/reusable bags.

Meanwhile, environmentalists also welcomed SP-2127 banning the use of plastic and other polystyrene materials with the Quezon City Hall, which has tremendously reduced the volume of residual garbage generated by employees and visitors.

A vendor selling snacks and drinks at the City Hall told the EcoWaste Coalition that he cut his waste volume from 3 sacks to just 1 as soon as the ban on plastic and Styro took effect.

“We urge the City Council to build upon the success of SP-2127 and consider a similar ordinance with citywide application,” they said.