30 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Asks Politicos to Test Give-Away School Bags for Lead, a Brain Poison

With school classes about to recommence next week, the EcoWaste Coalition urged politicians, particularly town and city officials, to test school bags for lead, a brain poison, before giving them away to needy students in public schools.

Their appeal was triggered by the group's latest X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analysis on May 28 of three old LGU-provided backpacks as well as four recently bought backpacks with cartoon characters from Divisoria.

All three blue and yellow used backpacks from the cities of Makati, Manila and Quezon had lead ranging from 1,027 parts per million (ppm) to 2,850 ppm exceeding the 90 ppm limit under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, while three of the four backpacks from Divisoria had lead up to 409 ppm.

"Guided by the saying ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry,’ we urge our mayors to screen school bags and supplies for harmful substances such as lead before these are distributed to the children,” suggested Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

“There is no safe level of exposure to lead, especially among young and defenseless children,” she stated.

“As their developing brains are very much at risk to lead toxicity, we must ensure that children’s environment, including the articles they use to learn and play with, is safe from lead and other pollutants,” she said.

“Primary prevention is key to ensuring that our children do not suffer from the often irreversible effects of lead exposure,” she emphasized.

Lead is a dangerous poison that can retard the development of a child’s developing central nervous system and permanently damage the brain even at low levels of exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The effects of lead poisoning in most cases are not immediately seen and there usually are no obvious symptoms until the lead level in blood is very high, the group noted.

According to health studies, childhood lead exposure can result to a broad range of serious developmental and behavioral problems, including reading and learning disabilities, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and irritability, lower IQ and poor school performance.

Lead can enter a human body through the inhalation or ingestion of lead particles or dust from chipping or flaking paints in homes, playgrounds, schools and other facilities as well as from lead-containing products such as toys and cosmetics and lead-glazed or lead-painted glasses, mugs and dishes.

The improper recycling or disposal of lead-containing discards such as electronic waste also contributes to environmental contamination and human exposure to lead, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

-end-

26 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Draws Attention over Phthalates in PVC School Supplies

After detecting lead in some school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition has revealed the discovery of yet another class of harmful chemicals in some children’s school products: phthalates.

Pronounced as “THAL-ates,” these plasticizers are synthetic chemical additives used to make plastics, particularly polyvinyl chloride (PVC), soft, flexible and durable.

Because phthalates are not chemically attached to plastics, they can disperse or leak into the environment over time, and interfere with endocrine or hormone functions.

Endocrine disruptors such as phthalates may cause birth defects in baby boys, premature breast development in girls, male genital abnormalities, reduced sperm count and quality and testicular atrophy and cancer.

Given their adverse health effects, the European Union, USA and other countries have restricted or outrightly banned phthalates in children's products, including Benzyl Butyl Phthalate (BBP), Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Di-Ethyl Hexyl Phthalate (DEHP), Di-Iso-Decyl Phthalate (DIDP),Di-Iso-Nonyl Phthalate (DINP) and Di-N-Octyl Phthalate (DNOP).

In May 2011, DEHP, a probable human carcinogen, was thrown in the spotlight as a result of the global pullout of some beverages and foods from Taiwan that were contaminated with this toxic plasticizer.

While the government has yet to restrict or ban phthalates, the Food and Drug Administration then known as the Bureau of Food and Drugs issued an advisory in 1999 warning against the health hazards caused by phthalates in PVC toys “as these have been found to leach out from the toys when they are sucked or chewed as commonly practiced by children.”

To draw attention to the presence of phthalates in back-to-school items, the EcoWaste Coalition bought five samples from formal retailers and have them analyzed by Intertek, a company providing laboratory testing services.

Out of the five samples, four were found to contain phthalates in excess of the 0.1% limit under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008:

1. A “Dora the Explorer” pink PVC raincoat bought from National Book Store (SM North EDSA) had 35.86 percent DINP.

2. A metal ruler with a rubberized part containing “Smileys” from National Book Store (NBS Superstore, Cubao) had 0.534 percent DNOP and 0.285 percent DINP.

3. A red PVC plastic envelope with images of “Angry Birds” from Expressions (Isetann Mall, Quiapo) had 1.89 percent DINP, 2.21 percent DEHP and 2.86 percent DIDP.

4. A “Princess Mica” PVC lunch bag bought from Expressions (Isetann Mall, Quiapo) had 2.57 percent DEHP, 0.280 percent DBP and 0.189 percent DINP.

No phthalates were detected in the fifth sample, an “Adventurer” plastic envelope. However, lead above the 90 parts per million limit was detected through X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) screening in the envelope’s red and yellow ellipsis design.

Unacceptable levels of lead were also found in the “Angry Birds”plastic envelope and in the "Smileys” of the metal ruler.

“Exposure to cadmium, lead and phthalates can adversely affect a child’s healthy and well-rounded development and should be prevented by all means such as through the provision of school materials that are guaranteed safe for kids,” stated Dr. Bessie Antonio, a pediatric toxicologist from the East Avenue Medical Center and resource person of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“To prevent exposure to phthalates and other toxic additives in school supplies, we urge consumers to insist on their right to product safety and shun all PVC-made products that are marketed for children’s use,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Kami ay nananawagan sa mga mamimiling Pilipino na igiit ang kanilang karapatan sa kalusugan lalo't higit ang kaligtasan ng mga bata laban sa mga produktong maaaring magdulot ng pinsala sa kanila," she emphasized.

-end-

25 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Goes to Cavite for Brigada Eskwela

In a bid to walk its talk, the EcoWaste Coalition today dispatched a team to Carmona, Cavite to promote a toxics-free Brigada Eskwela at a local school.

The group drove from Quezon City to Mabuhay Elementary School in Carmona to participate in the community effort to prepare the school for the reopening of classes on June 4.

“We are happy to lend a helping hand in the ecological cleanup and repair ofthe school,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Project Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group specifically helped in installing simple waste segregation bins called “sack hangers” to encourage members of the school to segregate their discards at source.

“The sack hangers are more than receptacles of things we discard. They are effective educational tools that teach students the values of recycling and caring for Mother Earth,” Vergara added.

The group also facilitated a session on ecological waste management, which highlighted common-sense and low-tech procedures for preventing and reducing the waste volume and toxicity through what is called as “ecological solid waste management.”

During their visit to the said school, the EcoWaste Coalition had the chance of using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer to screen the school amenities for lead, a chemical that is toxic to the brain and the nervous system

The group had earlier recommended the following to minimize waste and pollution from the government-initiated Brigada Eskwela.

1. Segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards for reusing, recycling and composting.

2. No open burning or dumping of garbage, which are both prohibited under R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

3. Use of non-lead paint in the repainting of classrooms and other school amenities.

4. Observance of proper repainting procedures that will minimize the spread of paint dust in the surroundings that could potentially contain lead.

5. Use of non-hazardous cleaning agents. Specifically, non-use of muriatic acid and dichlorobenzene toilet blocks to clean and sanitize toilets.

6. Adherence to safe storage and disposal procedures for busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps and other “special waste.”

7. No smoking inside the school premises, which is banned under DepEd Order 73-2010, R.A.9211, the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 and other related policies.

8. Use of reusable or recyclable containers for volunteers’ beverages and foods.

-end-

22 May 2012

Right to Health and Safety Pushed as Brigada Eskwela Goes in Full Swing

A Zero Waste advocacy group has reminded Brigada Eskwela organizers and supporters nationwide to observe ecological and healthy practices as public elementary and secondary schools get a makeover in time for the resumption of classes on June 4.

“The Brigada Eskwela provides a concrete opportunity for the school community to promote environmental, health and safety consciousness among the participants of the cleanup and repair activities,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Project Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“By being careful on how it will be carried out, we minimize waste and pollution from the Brigada Eskwela, while instilling a collective attentiveness to best practices that are good for human health and the environment,” she added.

Among these best practices that the EcoWaste Coalition strongly advocates for in the ongoing Brigada Eskwela are the following:

1. Segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards for reusing, recycling and composting.

2. No open burning or dumping of garbage, which are both prohibited under R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

3. Use of non-lead paint in the repainting of classrooms and other school amenities.

4. Observance of proper repainting procedures that will minimize the spread of paint dust in the surroundings that could potentially contain lead.

5. Use of non-hazardous cleaning agents. Specifically, non-use of muriatic acid and dichlorobenzene toilet blocks to clean and sanitize toilets.

6. Adherence to safe storage and disposal procedures for busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps and other “special waste.”

7. No smoking inside the school premises, which is banned under DepEd Order 73-2010, R.A. 9211, the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 and other related policies.

8. Use of reusable or recyclable containers for volunteers’ beverages and foods.

“We hope that this year’s Brigada Eskwela will also pay greater attention to the establishment or restoration of materials recovery facilities (MRFs) in schools,” Vergara said.

MRFs, also known as “ecology centers,” are key components in the recycling and composting of discards as well as in the promotion of community hygiene and sanitation, according to the group.

EcoWaste Coalition members will participate in the Brigada Eskwela activities at Mabuhay Elementary School headed by principal Jean Tolentino in Barangay Mabuhay, Carmona, Cavite.

Together with Carmona’s Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office, the EcoWaste Coalition will assist in the repainting of the school building’s exterior walls and in the installation of waste segregation bins in the school.

-end-

21 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Bares "Toxic Truth" in Some School Supplies, Calls for Action to Avoid Childhood Exposure to Harmful Chemicals

As the resumption of classes draws closer, a toxics watchdog pressed for heightened consumer vigilance to prevent children from being exposed to health-damaging chemicals in some school supplies.

At a press briefing conducted at its office in Quezon City today, the EcoWaste Coalition bared the “toxic truth” about harmful substances creeping around some “back-to-school” children’s products, particularly polyvinyl (PVC) school supplies, that the group bought from formal and informal retailers, mostly from Divisoria.

These harmful substances include lead (a potent neurotoxin that damages the brain and the nervous system), cadmium (a renal toxin and a known human carcinogen) and phthalates (a group of endocrine disrupting chemicals that includes di-ethyl hexyl phthalate or DEHP, a suspected human carcinogen).

Based on the three-phase investigation it conducted, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed the following findings:

For Phase I, nine of 25 diverse samples of school supplies purchased on May 8 and screened with X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer on May 9 had lead from 229 parts per million (ppm) to 3,863 ppm.

For Phase II, 11 of 14 rainwear samples bought on May 14 and analyzed with XRF on May 15 had lead ranging from over 90 ppm to 9,475 ppm of lead, while 3 samples had cadmium up 254 ppm.

For Phase III, four of the 5 different samples procured in late April and subjected to independent laboratory analysis via Gas Chromatographic-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) from May 10 to 15 failed the phthalate limit, with one sample having 35.86% of di-iso-nonyl phthalate (DINP).

Under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the limit for total lead concentration is 90 ppm and 75 ppm for soluble cadmium, while the limit for phthalates is 0.1 % by total weight (or 1,000 ppm).

“We find this worrisome as the market is teeming with PVC school supplies and consumers are unaware of the dangers posed by their secret toxic ingredients,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Kaya naman kami ay nananawagan sa mga mamimiling Pilipino na igiit ang kanilang karapatan sa kalusugan lalo't higit ang kaligtasan ng mga bata laban sa mga produktong maaaring magdulot ng pinsala sa kanila," she emphasized.

Dr. Bessie Antonio, a pediatric toxicologist from the East Avenue Medical Center, said that “exposure to cadmium, lead and phthalates can adversely affect a child’s healthy and well-rounded development and should be prevented by all means such as through the provision of school materials that are guaranteed safe for kids.”

During the press briefing, the EcoWaste Coalition drew attention, among others, to the hazards posed by phthalates, the synthetic chemical additives used in the production of PVC plastics to increase their softness, elasticity and durability.

Because phthalates are not chemically attached to plastics, they can disperse or leak into the environment over time, and interfere with endocrine or hormone functions.

Birth defects in baby boys, premature breast development in girls, male genital abnormalities, low sperm quality and testicular cancer are among the harmful consequences of exposure to phthalates.

Based on the Intertek laboratory analysis of the five samples, four samples were found to contain phthalates above the 0.1% limit:

1. A “Dora the Explorer” pink PVC raincoat bought from National Book Store (SM North EDSA) had 35.86% DINP.

2. A metal ruler with a rubberized part containing “Smileys” from National Book Store (NBS Superstore, Cubao) had 0.534% DNOP and 0.285% DINP.

3. A red PVC plastic envelope with images of “Angry Birds” from Expressions (Isetann Mall, Quiapo) had 1.89% DINP, 2.21% DEHP and 2.86% DIDP.

4. A “Princess Mica” PVC lunch bag bought from Expressions (Isetann Mall, Quiapo) had 2.57% DEHP, 0.280% DBP and 0.189% DINP.

The five samples sent to the laboratory were also screened for lead using an XRF spectrometer and lead over the 90 ppm limit was found in three samples: the “Smileys” in the ruler, the painted “Angry Birds” in the red plastic envelope and the ellipsis design in the “Adventurer” plastic envelope.

Because of their adverse health effects, especially to young children, the European Union, the United States of America and other countries have imposed restrictions or bans on some phthalates, including BBP, DBP DEHP, DIDP, DINP and DNOP.

While the Philippines has not phased out or banned phthalates, the Food and Drug Administration (formerly Bureau of Food and Drugs) as early as 1999 has issued a warning on health hazards caused by phthalates in PVC toys “as these have been found to leach out from the toys when they are sucked or chewed as commonly practiced by children.”

At the press briefing, the EcoWaste Coalition put forward these calls to action:

To Consumers:

A: Insist on your right to information: look for and read the label carefully and be inquisitive.
B. Avoid PVC school supplies that may contain toxic additives such as cadmium, lead and phthalates.
C. Refrain from buying products with strong chemical smell and painted parts or designs that could later chip off.
D. Ask for receipt or any proof of purchase.

To Sellers:

A. Obtain a certification from suppliers that their goods are safe from hazardous chemicals.
B. Only offer goods that are certified "non-toxic"' and adequately labeled.

To Manufacturers:

A. Only produce and market certified toxics-free children’s products.
B. Ensure full disclosure of product information, including chemical ingredients and their potential health effects.

To the Government:

A. Assign product safety inspectors and consumer complaint officers in Divisoria and other market hubs for school supplies.
B. Enact and enforce a law that will prohibit the use of cadmium, lead, phthalates and other major chemicals of concern in children’s products.

-end-

References on lead, cadmium and phthalates:

http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/lead..pdf

http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/cadmium.pdf

http://www.ewg.org/chemindex/term/480

17 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Lauds QC's Action to Turn City's Parks into "Lead-Free" Zones

The EcoWaste Coalition today welcomed the action by the Quezon City Government to mitigate health hazards from lead-containing playground equipment at the Quezon Memorial Circle (QMC) and other city-operated parks.

The QC government swiftly initiated lead paint remediation in response to a toxics investigation conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition last April 23, 2012, which showed high levels of lead in some of QMC’s physical fitness and playground equipment.

The findings prompted the EcoWaste Coalition to urge QC Mayor Herbert Bautista to “initiate lead hazard assessment and remedial action” at QMC and other public facilities frequented by children.

“Heeding your appeal, the QMC management (embarked on) urgent start-up remedial measure to address these concerns,” wrote Engr. Zaldy de la Rosa, QMC Assistant Administrator, to the EcoWaste Coalition.

As a pilot test on lead paint remediation, QMC personnel removed the lead-laden paint of several physical exercise equipment and then coated them with a certified lead-free paint, de la Rosa said.

At the request of the QMC management, the repainted equipment were inspected by the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxicPatrol on May 16 and were screened for lead using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

“If the remedial measure proves to be successful as certified by the toxics watchdog, the physical fitness and playground equipment not only at QMC, but all over the city will have their old paint scraped and treated with lead-free paint,” de la Rosa wrote to the EcoWaste Coalition.

“This for sure, will make the QMC and other city-operated parks, lead-free zones, to ensure that all forms of toxic exposure within public parks are proactively prevented,” he emphasized.

While the lead contents detected during the May 16 inspection were significantly lower than the previous screening on April 23, the repainted equipment still showed unacceptable levels of lead that could be attributed not to the new paint applied, but to the residual lead-based paint in the equipment, according to the EcoWaste Coalition.

For his part, Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, commended the QC Government for committing to make QMC and other parks under its jurisdiction safe from lead-based playground equipment.

“We laud Mayor Bautista, Engr. de la Rosa and the park personnel for taking swift action to minimize children’s exposure from lead-tainted equipment. This action for public health should be emulated by other local government units,” Dizon said.

“It is our hope that all lead hazard control measures to be carried out by the QC Government,including repainting jobs, will be safely done to contain the lead dust and prevent occupational exposure for the workers,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier suggested to the QC Government to refer to the manual published by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, entitled “Lead Paint Safety: A Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance and Renovation Work,” on proper removal of lead-based paint.

-end-

16 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Discovers High Levels of Lead and Cadmium in Chidren's Rainwear


As “back-to-school” shoppers swamp Divisoria ahead of the school reopening, a toxics watchdog today announced that it has bought and screened 14 children’s raincoats and found dangerous levels of harmful chemicals in 13 of them.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the disclosure as the group steps up its effort to raise consumer awareness on chemicals of concern to watch out in some school supplies as the resumption of classes on June 4 nears.

The group last week uncovered excessive levels of lead, a potent brain poison, in 9 out of 25 school supplies, including 3 backpacks, 2 pencil cases, a plastic envelope, a rainwear, a pair of girl shoes and a water canteen.

“We decided to screen additional raincoats to check if these products, which are supposed to protect kids from getting wet and sick during the rainy season, are safe for their health,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Lucero revealed that out of the 14 raincoats the group bought from retailers and wholesalers in Divisoria on May 14, 11 were found to contain lead levels up to 9,475 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm limit under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

While three samples had no detectable levels of lead, two of them had high amounts of cadmium, a probable human carcinogen that scientists say are worse than lead in many ways.

A portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer was used to screen the samples for heavy metals on May 15.

“We are concerned about lead and cadmium in raincoats and other school supplies as these toxic substances are unavoidably released as toxic dust as the products deteriorate, and could be transferred to a child’s hands and ingested through repeated handling and use,” she said.

Some of the major deleterious effects of exposure to lead and cadmium includere productive disorders, birth defects, behavioural problems, learning disabilities, permanent IQ loss and diminished school performance.

The raincoats, sold from P55 to P180 per piece, were bought from shops located along Juan Luna St. in Divisoria, Manila and were mostly made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and decorated with Disney, Justice League and other popular cartoon characters.

The following samples registered with the highest levels of lead:

A. 9,475 ppm of lead in a “Disney Cuties” PVC raincoat bought for P140 at Summit Superstore, Divisoria.

B. 4,368 ppm of lead in a “Disney Mickey Mouse” raincoat bought for P180 at Shirts and Print Trading Corp., Divisoria.

C. 3,595 ppm of lead in a “Winnie the Pooh” PVC raincoat bought for P170 at New China Bazaar, Divisoria.

D. 1,482 ppm of lead in a “Mickey Mouse” raincoat bought for P120 at Will Top Marketing, Divisoria.

E. 1,440 ppm of lead in a “Pretty as Princess” PVC raincoat bought for P170 at New China Bazaar, Divisoria.

F. 1,136 ppm of lead in a “Disney Tigger” PVC raincoat bought for P180 at Shirts and Print Trading Corp., Divisoria.

To avoid potential childhood exposure to lead and other harmful chemicals from raincoats, the EcoWaste Coalition advises parents to look for non-PVC rainwear and avoid those with painted designs unless labeled with a verifiable"lead-free" or "non-toxic" guarantee.

Aside from the health risks associated with the production and consumption of PVC-based school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition is also concerned with the extreme difficulty of recycling or disposing them because of their toxic additives.

PVC should be treated as “special waste” containing hazardous chemicals,should not be mixed with regular household discards and should not be burned to prevent the formation of dioxins, a class of highly toxic byproducts of combustion.

-end-

10 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Harmful Chemicals in Some School Supplies


Quezon City. With school reopening just around the corner, a toxics watchdog urged consumers to be watchful and alert against toxic chemicals lurking in common school supplies.

The EcoWaste Coalition pressed for consumer vigilance after finding chemicals above levels of concern in nine out of 25 school supplies bought from street vendors and bargain stalls in Divisoria, Manila and from a major bookstore chain.

The EcoWaste Coalition screened the samples for heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

According to the latest toxics screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition:

A. The amount of lead detected in 8 out of nine tainted samples, including a water canteen, exceeds the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in children’s products under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008;

B. The levels of lead found in the samples range from 229 ppm to as high as 3,863 ppm.

C. The presence of cadmium, a known human carcinogen, in one sample at 443 ppm is an added hazard.

Health authorities have stated that there are no safe levels for lead exposure among children even in very low doses, the group emphasized.

Lead is classified as a neurotoxin or a substance that is capable of damaging the central nervous system, including the brain, causing behavioural, body movement, emotional and intellectual disorders.

Childhood exposure to lead, among other effects, may lower a child’s intelligence quotient (IQ) and decrease her/his school performance and educational accomplishment.

“All of the lead-containing products are clearly designed and marketed for kids as we can see from the attractive and colourful patterns featuring cartoon characters popular among children. This is bad news for our children and their future,” observed Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Lead in school supplies is a real threat to our children’s health as lead can be released as toxic flake, chip or dust as the products age and deteriorate,” she emphasized.

“The good news is we found non-detectable levels of lead in 16 products, indicating the availability of products with low or no lead in the market. However, it will be extremely difficult for consumers to determine which products are really okay because of inadequate product safety certification and labeling,” she said.

The nine school supplies containing toxic metals above levels of concern include:

1. A yellow Dora the Explorer water canteen (price P219.75) with 3,863 ppm of lead, 2,514 ppm of chromium, 605 ppm of arsenic and 17 ppm of mercury

2. A blue Naruto backpack (P100) with 1,361 ppm of lead

3. A yellow and blue Ben 10 backpack (P100) with 711 ppm of lead and 520 ppm of antimony

4. A green and yellow child raincoat (price P100) with 579 ppm of lead and 443 ppm of cadmium

5. A pink backpack with shiny printed design (P150) with 538 ppm of lead

6. An Adventurer Music in the Ears plastic envelope (P65) with 356 ppm of lead

7. A red Mickey Mouse pencil case with magnetic lid (P50) with 274 ppm of lead

8. A black girl school shoes with Angry Birds design (P150) with 229 ppm of lead

9. A red X power sports car pencil case (P20) with 1,559 ppm of chromium

-end-

06 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Decentralized Composting to Ease Garbage, Toxic and Soil Woes

An advocate for zero waste resource management today urged the government and the citizenry to rally behind a proven solution to society’s chronic problem with stinking garbage, toxic gases and depleted soils: decentralized composting.

The EcoWaste Coalition gave a big push to the biological breaking down of organic discards as the International Composting Awareness Week is observed from May 6 to 12.

“The intensive composting of biodegradable discards at all areas and levels of waste generation can dramatically reduce the volume of discards assigned for disposal by at least 50 per cent in most cities and municipalities,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Project Officer, EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, the entire country generates some 35,430 tons of waste per day, of which some 8,000 tons come from Metro Manila.

Of these, 50% are food and other organic discards, 25% plastics, 12% paper, 5% metals, 3% glass, 1% hazardous waste and 4% residual waste.

“Decentralized composting will translate to millions of savings for our cash-strapped local government units (LGUs) due to avoided disposal costs,” she pointed out.

“By separating organic discards at source, we reduce the risk of contaminating recyclable materials and, as a result, increase the value of recyclables and make them safer for waste workers to handle and recycle,” she added.

“Composting further reduces the emission of greenhouse gases such as methane, which is about 70 times stronger than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat, by keeping food, garden, farm and other organic discards out of dumpsites and landfills,” she said.

The country has over a thousand waste disposal facilities, including 1,027 open and controlled dumpsites long forbidden by Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, as well as “sanitary” landfills, cement kilns and incinerators, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.NG

Citing information from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized the benefits of applying compost as fertilizer in agriculture.

According to the UNESCAP’s Sustainable Urban Development Section, compost:

1. Lightens heavy soils, allowing better infiltration of both air and water.

2. Enhances and improves the soil’s structure, so that it becomes less subject to erosion by either water or wind.

3. Adds nutrients and trace materials to the soil, stimulating biological activity and encouraging vigorous plant rooting systems.

4. Enables soil to retain nutrients and moisture, preventing them from being leached out of the soil and into the ground water.

“With composting, we lessen our dependence to chemical farming and agriculture, while producing safe organic food for our people,” Vergara said.

"It will surely boost the implementation of the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, especially in rural areas, provided the compost is clean and free of toxics," she added.

-end-


http://compostingcouncil.org/icaw/

http://swapp.org.ph/attachments/article/283/1%20AGUINALDO_Swm%20national%20status_FINAL.pdf

http://www.unescap.org/esd/suds/swm/documents/Decentralized-composting.pdf

03 May 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Finds More Toxic Slippers in the Market


A toxics watchdog today reported detecting excessive levels of lead in some fake as well as branded slippers sold in Divisoria, the country’s number one bargain center, and in Shoe Mart (SM), the country's number one store chain.

Following the initial investigation it conducted in March 2012 that saw nine of the 20 samples positive for lead, a potent neurotoxin, the EcoWaste Coalition expanded its probe on toxins in slippers by screening 23 new samples.

Fifteen of the 23 samples were imitation products from Divisoria’s bargain stalls and eight were original products bought from Robinsons Place, Manila and in SM "Clearance Outlet" in Quiapo, SM Manila in Ermita and SM North EDSA in Quezon City.

A handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer was used to screen the samples for heavy metals such as lead.

Out of the 23 samples,12 pairs were found to contain lead in excess of 90 parts per million (ppm), the limit for lead in painted surfaces under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Out of the 12 lead-positive samples, seven were counterfeit slippers bought from vendors at Juan Luna St. and Recto Ave. in Divisoria and carrying brand names such as “Havaianas,” “Nike,” “Puma,” “Storm” and “Tattoo” with lead content up to 1,462 ppm.

The five other lead-positive samples were original Caribbean slippers bought from SM stores that had lead between 2,438 ppm to 22,900 ppm. The “Beard,” “Gary,” “Harper,” “Neptune” and “Zed” styles of Caribbean slippers also had antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium above levels of concern.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted that four pairs of bogus “Havaianas” (costing P35 to P50 per pair) and two pairs of fake "Crocs" (costing P100 and P150 each), all from Divisoria, were found to contain low or non-detectable levels of lead.

An original Havainas costing P995 had non-detectable lead. The item was purchased at the Havaianas shop in Robinsons Place, Ermita.

An original Banana Peel flip flops from SM had no detectable lead content, but was found to contain 194 ppm of chromium.

An original Planet slippers, also from SM, had no detectable level of toxic metals.

“The additional data we generated only underscore the need to get rid of lead-containing consumer products like slippers in the market to avoid potential human exposure to this brain poison,” observed Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“This is a serious health and environmental concern and we ask the government, particularly the Department of Trade and Industry, to take swift action,” he pointed out.

Aside from directly exposing the users to lead through dermal contact, the lead can scatter into the environment as the soles rub on the ground and as the slippers wear out and then later disposed of, Dizon explained.

Based on its latests findings, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the SM management to stop the sale of lead-tainted Caribbean flip-flops.

“In the higher interest of consumer health and safety, we urge you to immediately halt the sale of Caribbean flip-flops and to press your suppliers to only offer safe items with no lead and other toxic metals added,” wrote the EcoWaste Coalition in their letter dated May 3, 2012.

Lead, a brain-damaging chemical, has been linked to reproductive, developmental, behavioral and neurological problems, including birth defects, attention deficit disorder, language and speech difficulties and lower IQ.

Lead exposure occurs through the ingestion, inhalation or skin contact with air, water, food, soil and consumer products containing lead.

-end-

02 May 2012

Cheap Leather Coin Purses Contain High Levels of Chromium






Cute leather coin purses that sell for only 10 pesos each in Quiapo could in the end cost more for human health and the environment.

The EcoWaste Coalition made this observation after finding extremely high amounts of chromium, a heavy metal, in 10 out of 10 leather products that the group bought from vendors in Carriedo St.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the waste and pollution watchdog detected chromium up to 20,200 parts per million (ppm) in the samples.

Chromium exists in two principal forms. Trivalent chromium or Chromium III is an essential element for nutrition in humans. However, hexavalent chromium or Chromium VI is a known human carcinogen. High levels of chromium raise concerns because under certain conditions, each form can convert to the other.

Since the XRF could not identify the form of chromium present in the products, the EcoWaste Coalition sent five of the samples to a private laboratory to determine if they contain Chromium VI.

“While the XRF and the subsequent laboratory analysis were not able to confirm the presence of Chromium VI in the five samples, we still find the extremely high levels of chromium in the products very alarming,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.

“Our concern is based on the fact Chromium III can convert to Chromium VI during use and when the products become wastes and enter the environment or are burned,” he said. “If a product contains very high levels of Chromium III, even low rates of conversion can form amounts of Chromium VI that raise concerns.”

Citing scientific information provided by scientist Dr. Joe DiGangi of IPEN to the EcoWaste Coalition, Dizon noted that Chromium III can oxidize to Chromium VI in the environment, leading to the contamination of the groundwater and the subsequent contamination of plants which absorb the chromium and accumulate it.

“The potential formation of Chromium VI during leather tanning, consumer use, and when products become wastes underscores the importance of considering the entire lifecycle of consumer products and phasing out hazardous chemicals so that products are safe for workers, consumers, and the environment," DiGangi said.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), exposure to chromium occurs from ingesting contaminated food or drinking water or breathing contaminated workplace air.

Chromium VI can cause dermatitis and ulceration of the skin and chronic inhalation or oral exposure can cause cancer, decrease lung function, and affect the liver, kidney and immune systems.

In 2011, the California Environmental Protection Agency set a public health goal for Chromium VI in drinking water of 0.02 parts per billion (ppb) due to findings in China of increased rates of stomach cancer in humans exposed to high levels of Chromium VI in drinking water.

Studies show that chromium exposure may also occur through skin contact with certain consumer products containing chromium such as some wood preservatives, cement, cleaning materials, textiles and leather tanned using chromium and via cigarette smoke.

-end-

Reference:

http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts7.pdf