31 December 2013

EcoWaste Coalition, Barangays Call for Garbage-Free Fiesta

Environmentalists and local leaders from communities surrounding the Quiapo Church, the home of the venerated image of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (NPJN), have appealed to all devotees and visitors to work for a “ maroon and green” fiesta.

Maroon is associated with the garments of the Black Nazarene, while green is linked with the environment, explained Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

In a joint press release with barangay leaders in time for the start of the nine-day novena to the NPJN  today December 31 until January 8, the EcoWaste Coalition drew the attention of the public regarding the power of combining faith  with action to protect the environment.

“Combining our people’s amazing devotion to the Black Nazarene with action respecting, nurturing and defending Mother Earth will be a powerful force of hope and deliverance against those who trash and ruin the environment,” said Vergara.

“If the millions of devotees who come to Quiapo will simply not litter and avoid waste in all its forms, we’ll have a feast that is pleasing to the eyes and pleasing to the Lord,” she said.

Local barangay leaders aired the same appeal to the huge crowds of devotees and visitors who will throng to Quiapo in the days leading to the re-enactment of Traslacion (the transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from Luneta to Quiapo) on January 9.

“We call on everyone, particularly the devotees, not to leave any garbage behind as they pay their respects to the Black Nazarene and seek His guidance and blessing,” said Joey Uy Jamisola, Chairman of Barangay 306, Zone 30.

For Mariano “Boy Bata” Gopaco, Jr., Chairman of Barangay 307, Zone 30, “the cooperation of government and church authorities, residents, visitors, vendors and others is vital to ensuring a clean and safe fiesta.”

“Keeping Quiapo streets tidy should be everyone’s responsibility. Please do not think that it’s alright to litter because someone else will pick it up for you,” said Reynaldo Moises, Chairman of Barangay 308, Zone 30.

Among the most littered items in past fiestas include cigarette butts, candy and snack wrappers, plastic bags, cups, bottles and straws, Styrofoam containers and bamboo skewers that often cause injuries among barefoot devotees.


30 December 2013

Public Warned Against Air Pollution from Firecrackers and Fireworks


The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network, and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP), an association of pulmonologists, today jointly warned the public about the health hazards posed by firecrackers and fireworks.

Together with Buklod Tao, a community organization, the EcoWaste Coalition and the PCCP held a “Gas Mask Action” at Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City to illustrate the toxicity of gaseous emissions resulting from the massive explosion of pyrotechnic devices to hail the New

Donning gas masks, the clean air advocates warned that the environmental pollution from the use of firecrackers and fireworks pose serious health risks, including respiratory problems such as bronchial asthma, allergic or chronic bronchitis, laryngitis, rhinitis and sinusitis, especially for babies and children and other vulnerable population groups.

“The levels of pollutants in the atmosphere rise to unparalleled levels throughout post-New Year revelries due to the widespread blasting of firecrackers and fireworks shows,” said pulmonologist Dr. Maricar Limpin, former President of PCCP.

“The minute particles, metal oxides, greenhouse gases and other contaminants from the warlike festivities aggravate the air quality, putting the health of the people, especially babies and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those afflicted with chronic asthma, at risk,” she explained.

Community leader Noli Abinales observed that “thick smoke engulfs our neighborhoods as if it’s totally okay for New Year revellers to dirty the air, let people choke on firecracker fumes and get away with it.”

For her part, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, pointed out that “the all-out pollution from the New Year revelry is a brazen violation of our right to breathe clean air, and goes against local and global efforts to curb climate pollution.”

R.A. 8749, or the Clean Air Act, recognizes and guarantees the enjoyment of the people’s right to breathe clean air, she pointed out.

Lucero also called attention to the toxic residual waste from the use of pyrotechnic devices that are either dumped or burned in violation of R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which prohibits littering, open dumping and open burning of discards.

In lieu of firecrackers and fireworks, the groups suggested the use of alternative noise makers that emit no toxic fumes such as torotot, pot and pan covers, empty cans, musical instruments and the like.

They further suggested that the money intended for pyrotechnic devices be given instead to ongoing humanitarian aid and rehabilitation efforts in the Yolanda-stricken areas in the Visayas.


29 December 2013

Pet Animals and Kids Join "Iwas Paputoxic" Drive vs. Pyrotechnics

Environmental, church and animal welfare advocates today assembled together with their pets in front of Malate Catholic Church to call on Filipinos to shun firecrackers and fireworks during the New Year revelries.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Our Lady of Remedies Parish co-organized a friendly, furry and featherly gathering of humans and pets centered on the theme, “Love Animals, Paputok Hurts,” as part of the groups’ “Iwas PapuToxic” campaign.

They were joined by animal welfare groups such as the Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA Welfare Philippines), Dog Breeds and Breeders, Philippine Animal Lovers and WeDogs.

To draw public attention on the traumatic ordeal that animals have to endure amidst ear-splitting explosion to ring in the New Year, the cheerful advocates  donned animal-like headgears as they paraded with their pets from the church to the nearby Plaza Rajah Sulayman
along Roxas Boulevard.

“Our traditional New Year festivities have become unbearably loud for humans and animals alike, but since many animal species have highly sensitive ears, this deafening mayhem becomes an annual rite that tortures them,” lamented Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“As caretakers of nature, we are bound by a common duty not to harm other creatures that inhabit the earth, so please do not make animals suffer from the superfluous blasting of firecrackers and fireworks to herald the New Year,” said Rev. Father Michael "Mickey" Martin of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish who later officiated a special blessing of the gathered animals.

“Cats, dogs, birds and other small animals exposed to the bursting of firecrackers are easily frightened and can suffer from an irreversible hearing impairment, eye damage, and in some cases, heart problems,” said Atty. Heidi Caguioa of AKF.

“Aside from harming their highly sensitive ears, the explosive and random booms, the pungent fumes, and the bright displays of light also hurt the animals’ powerful noses and keen eyesight,” she added.

In addition, the fear and panic caused by firecracker noise can severely stress animals resulting to stomach upset, loss of appetite, and to some extent, decreased sense of direction that can result to animals getting lost or injured, the groups said.

The groups recommended the following tips to help animals survive the firecracker noise and injuries during the New Year’s Eve celebrations:

1. Persuade members of your household to make your home a “no firecracker” zone.

2. Politely tell your neighbors not to light or throw firecrackers near your home.

3. Exercise your pets during the days leading up to the New Year’s Eve and in the next morning when the festivities are over and the smoke has cleared.

4. Give your pets a physical outlet for their pent up energy due to arousal and stress.

5. Manage the environment so it is as relaxing as possible and as less stressful as you can make it.

6. Provide your pets with a safe place to take temporary refuge. If possible, allow them to stay in a quiet room such as a bedroom.

7. Close the windows, put the curtains down and play a relaxing music to neutralize the noise  from the outside to help your pets feel secure.

8. Ensure your pets’ access to drinking water. Make them pee or poo.

9. Do not yell or laugh at your pets when they are cowering or shaking in fear. This is a natural response to a threat that they do not understand and cannot avoid.


27 December 2013

Watchdog Says: Watch Out for Toxic New Year Lucky Charms

With the New Year just around the corner, an environmental and health watchdog reminded believers in good luck charms to be extra careful when buying such auspicious articles.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the reminder after detecting high levels of toxic metals in some of the lucky charms being sold by retail shops and ambulant vendors in Villalobos St. and Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila.

Sold from P10 to P298 each, 20 out of the 20 lucky charms analyzed with a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer were found positive for one or more hazardous substances such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead.

Arsenic, cadmium and lead are listed in the World Health Organization’s “Ten Chemicals of Major Public Health Concern,” which, with antimony and chromium, are also on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ “Priority Chemicals List.”

These chemicals are linked to serious health concerns such as reproductive abnormalities, birth disorders, developmental delays, neurological ailments, cardiovascular diseases, hormonal disruptions, behavioural problems and cancers.

“Lucky charms that are marketed to bring in lasting prosperity, good health and longevity should not contain injurious substances that can make people miserable and sick,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“And if they do, their manufacturers, importers distributors or vendors should be responsible enough to inform and warn consumers,” he said.

Among the samples that showed high levels of toxic metals were lucky bracelets, figurines and mobile hangings, including horse-inspired items celebrating 2014 as the year of the “green wooden horse” according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

13 of the 20 lucky charms had lead in excess of 90 parts per million (ppm) with the following six items having the highest lead levels:

1.  Yin Yang Bagua hanging charm with tassel (big), P58, with 75,900 ppm lead.
2.  Yin Yang Bagua hanging charm with tassel (small), P38, with P45,300 ppm lead.
3.  Horse figurine with Zodiac animals, P50, with 3,731 ppm lead.
4.  Horse figurine (green), P35, with 3,559 ppm lead.
5.  Wood Bagua (yellow), P60, with 3,274 ppm lead.
6.  Horse figurine (beige), P10, with 1,075 ppm lead.

Lucky charms with the highest levels of chromium, antimony, cadmium and arsenic include:

1.  Yin Yang Bagua hanging charm with tassel (big), P58, with 12,300 ppm chromium.
2.  Snake and coins hanging charm, P35, with 4,848 ppm antimony.
3.  Lucky charm bracelet with heart, P50, with 2,334 ppm cadmium.
4.  Lucky charm bracelet with snake, P50, 596 ppm arsenic

Instead of patronizing lucky charms with undisclosed toxic materials, it would be better for luck seekers to go for non-toxic tools to attract positive energy, fortune and happiness, Dizon suggested.

“Displaying lucky plants, preparing 12 round fruits, wearing red and polka-dots, serving ‘tikoy,’ ‘biko” and other sticky delicacies, eating long noodles and healthy meals, cleaning the house prior to New Year,
saying fervent prayers with matching hard work, and boosting positive karma by doing good deeds might just do the trick,” he said.




26 December 2013

Environmental and Health Advocates Marched on the Streets to Campaign for an Injury-free, Garbage-Free and Pollution-Free New Year


With less than a week before a historic year comes to an end, environmental and health advocates from the government and the civil society on Thursday went out on the streets of Tondo, Manila calling on local communities to celebrate New Year in a safe way by avoiding toxic and dangerous firecrackers and fireworks.

The waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition, in partnership with the Department of Health, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection and the Office of Manila 1st District Representative Benjamin “Atong” Asilo, organized a multi-stakeholder campaign entitled “Pamayanang Hindi Nagpapaputok: Buo, Busog at Malusog” a few days before revelers nationwide usher in the New Year with a bang.

From Plaza Hernandez in front of Sto. NiƱo de Tondo Parish, the group paraded through adjacent barangays,  wielding oversized mock triangulos bearing a “skull and crossbones” poison sign marked with the word “Danger!” while blowing eco-friendly torotots and sounding emission-free, home-made noisemakers made from recycled materials amidst the cheering of passersby and community residents.

“Firecrackers are the last thing anyone needs to celebrate the season, especially since these have already been proven to be harmful to humans, animals and the environment,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Lucero explained that “the money saved by not blowing up firecrackers and fireworks can aid ongoing humanitarian efforts in places ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda.”

“By shunning firecrackers and pyrotechnics, our communities and families we’ll come out ‘buo’ (unscathed) from the New Year’s revelry with no severed fingers, ‘busog’ (full) thanks to the bigger Noche Buena budget due to not buying ‘paputok,’ and ‘malusog’ (healthy) with a cleaner and fume-free environment,” she further said.

For his part, Cong. Atong Asilo said: “I join the DOH and the EcoWaste Coalition in their spirited campaign to dissuade the people from lighting firecrackers, which can cause unwarranted injuries, fires and large-scale

“I urge the public to shun firecrackers, greet the New Year with their fingers and eyes unharmed, and with the surroundings clear of toxic smoke and garbage,” he added.

The activity is part of the EcoWaste Coalition’s ongoing “Iwas PapuToxic” drive complementing the intensified efforts of the Department of Health and other agencies’ anti-firecracker campaign to promote public health and safety against the manifold hazards posed by pyrotechnic devices.

Citing data from the Department of Health, the group pointed out that most firecracker-related injuries from December 21, 2012 to January 5 this year involved children aged 5 to 12.

Of the 931 total injuries during the said period, 904 were firecracker-related, 25 were from stray bullets and 2 from the ingestion of firecrackers.

The National Capital Region had the most number of recorded cases at 521, followed by Western Visayas (65 cases), Ilocos Region (73 cases) and CALABARZON (59 cases).  Manila had the most number of cases with 168 in NCR.


24 December 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Hails Lead Control Policy as Best Christmas Gift to Filipino Kids

A new chemical regulation will prevent and reduce childhood exposure to lead in paint and other pollution sources, environmentalists said today.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network of over 150 groups promoting zero waste, chemical safety and climate justice, lauded the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for promulgating a Chemical Control Order (CCO) regulating lead, a cumulative neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure that is exceptionally harmful to young children.

Lead poisoning, described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a "scourge to human health for millennia," is known to cause neurological, reproductive, developmental and behavioral problems that
according to WHO are "irreversible and untreatable by modern medicine."

The DENR Secretary signed the CCO yesterday, December 23, which will take effect one month after publication in the Official Gazette or two newspapers of general circulation.

Among its salient provisions that drew cheers from environmental and children health advocates is the prohibition of lead in paint above 90 parts per million (ppm), the current US standard for lead in decorative paints.

Aside from setting a maximum permissible lead content in paint, the CCO prescribes a phase out period of three years for leaded architectural or decorative paints and six years for leaded industrial paints, including automotive and aviation paints.

According to the UN-established Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP) which includes the EcoWaste Coalition as member, "children can be severely affected by eating lead-based paint chips, chewing on objects, including toys painted with lead-based paint, or from exposure to dust or soil that contains lead from paint."

"We laud Secretary Paje for heeding our long-standing appeal for regulatory action to eliminate lead in paint and halt a major source of lead exposure among children," said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

"Finally, we have a legal framework that is sure to energize the ongoing switch to non-lead paint manufacturing that is broadly backed by the government, industry and civil society, including professional health sector," she added.

"This is a splendid Christmas gift to our children whose exposure to lead even at low doses can result in reduced intelligence and even in reduced economic productivity later in life," she stated.

The work to craft a CCO on lead commenced way back in 2007, but did not move forward until the EcoWaste Coalition in 2011 drew the attention of consumers, policy makers and  industry leaders to the issue through its successive studies on lead in paints and consumer products in the market.

Responding to the demand for regulatory policy, the Environmental Management Bureau organized a series of stakeholders' meetings in 2011 and 2012 that eventually led to the completion of the CCO drafting process this year.

Last October, the EcoWaste Coalition initiated a series of activities in support to the first ever International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, including the release of a EU-funded study that detected lead above 90 ppm in 75 out of 122 paint samples analyzed at a private laboratory in Italy.

The EcoWaste Coalition implements the IPEN Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project in the country, which is funded out of a PHP80 million EU grant for the seven-country project, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines.


Additional Information:

IPEN’s Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project is a project of IPEN, an international NGO working to minimize and, whenever possible, eliminate hazardous toxic chemicals. IPEN’s lead elimination projects are working to eliminate lead in paint worldwide and raise widespread awareness among business entrepreneurs and consumers about the adverse human health impacts of lead-based decorative paints, particularly on the health of children under six years old. The seven Asian countries participating in the project include Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The project includes periodical testing of lead in paints; information to small and medium paint manufacturers, distributors and retailers to help them shift from lead-based to no-added lead paint formulations; third party certification and labelling that includes information on lead; consultation with key government institutions to enact a globally-accepted standard for lead in paints; preparation and dissemination of information, education and communication(IEC) materials, as well as awareness-raising activities about lead paint and its subsequent effects on children, public health, and the environment.

23 December 2013

Public Cautioned against Using Paint Brushes for BBQ

As Christmas parties and reunions are held left and right, an environmental and health watchdog cautioned the public against using paint brushes in food preparations, particularly for barbecuing meat.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the reminder amid the increased demand for meat barbecue on bamboo skewers, a popular appetizer or finger food or “pulutan,” due to numerous Christmas parties and other holiday get-togethers.

“Food caterers and vendors should only use appropriate materials in the preparation of party favorites that will not cause food contamination,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The use of painting brushes as basting brushes for barbecues and other food items may be convenient, but risky in terms of food safety as the handles of these brushes are often coated with lead paint,” he said.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the lead on the painted brush handle may break off due to frequent  use, get mixed with the basting sauce and ingested through the barbecued meat, building up in the body over time.

Paint brushes are commonly used by street vendors to rub barbecue meat with the basting sauce, as well as to grease “bibingka” (rice cake), “puto bumbong” (steamed sticky rice) and corn on the cob with butter or margarine

The group purchased this year a total of 84 paint brushes from small and big hardware shops in Cebu City, Davao City and Quezon City and have them screened for heavy metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence analytical device.

Out of the 84 samples, the EcoWaste Coalition detected lead in 71 samples in the range of 271 parts per million (ppm) to 17,400 ppm, way above the US lead paint limit of 90 ppm.

Traces of other chemicals of concern such as arsenic, chromium and mercury were also found in some of the samples.

According to the WHO publication “Exposure to Lead: A Major Public Health Concern,” lead is “a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

“The potential for adverse effects of lead exposure is greater for children than for adults, because in children 1) the intake of lead per unit body weight is higher, 2) more dust may be ingested, 3) lead absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is higher, 4) the blood–brain
barrier is not yet fully developed and 5) neurological effects occur at lower levels than in adults,” it said.

“Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations,” it pointed out.




21 December 2013

Public Urged: Tone Down on What You Consume and Throw or Have a Garbage-Free Christmas

The unrestricted consumption and disposal during the festive season is sure to choke dump trucks and dumpsites to the brim unless we learn to be “happy with less and pare down to the essentials,” a Zero Waste advocacy group warned as Christmas draws closer.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network promoting waste prevention and reduction, raised the spectre of a garbage-filled Christmas as the most festive time of the year gets underway.

“Bins, lampposts, sidewalks and street corners will again overflow with garbage like in previous years if we do not tone down on what we consume and throw during the holidays,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our insatiable hunger for material possessions, for things that are newer, grander and smarter, is sadly consuming lots of resources and generating tons of discards, which, if not properly sorted for reuse or recycling, will end up getting burned or dumped somewhere,” she said.

“To turn the tide against crass consumerism and the garbage it spawns, we all need to be happy with less and pare down to the essentials,” she added.

Soaring and stinking holiday trash, or ‘holitrash,’ is definitely not the way to observe Christmas in this era of climate change that is already impacting our lives with all the devastating weather events like the intense ‘Habagat’ rains and floods and super typhoon Yolanda, which has killed over 6,000 people, the EcoWaste Coalition insisted.

“During the holidays, we can expect the daily trash generation of almost half a kilo per person to increase to one kilo or more because of the shopping frenzies, the rash of parties and the bursting of toxic firecracrackers and fireworks to greet the New Year,” Vergara stated.

According to the projections of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC),  Metro Manila’s waste generation at over 8,700 tons per day in 2013, of which 52% is biodegradable, 41% is recyclable and 7% is residual waste, will rise to more than 8,900 tons per day in 2014.

To minimize wasting during the yuletide season, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following practical tips:

1.  First assess what you have before going to the shop. Check for things that can be repaired, reused, recycled or repurposed before getting new stuff.

2. Jot down all your holiday needs and take this list when you go to a store to avoid reckless purchase and spending.

3. Say no to plastic bags and bring your own *bayong* or reusable carry bags and containers when you shop.

4.  Go for quality products that are durable, non-toxic and can be repaired, reused, recycled or passed on to other users. Avoid single-use disposable products.

5.  Shun excessively packed items to cut down on packaging waste, and reuse packaging cartons and other packing materials.

6. Choose gifts with minimal or zero packaging.  Use old magazines or newspapers, discarded bandannas or fabric scraps if wrapping gifts is desired.

7.  Do not throw away bags, boxes and wrappers of gifts received.  Keep them neatly stored for reuse next gift-giving season.

8.  Segregate your non-biodegradable discards for repair, reuse and recycling.  Separate the biodegradable discards from your garden, kitchen and parties for composting.

9.  Keep discards containing hazardous substances such as batteries, lamps, paints, insecticides and others safely stored and not mixed with regular trash.

10.  Do not incinerate your discards as this will terminate the resource cycle, and lead to the formation and discharge of toxic fumes and residues causing environmental and climate pollution.




18 December 2013

Public Cautioned against Improper Disposal of Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste

As Filipinos spruce up their homes in preparation for Christmas and the New Year, a waste and pollution watchdog reminded the public against improper disposal of waste fluorescent lamps, which can damage human health and the environment.

The EcoWaste Coalition warned that the inappropriate handling and disposal will cause spent fluorescent lamps to break, releasing mercury in the form of vapor out of the glass tubing and into the air, water and soil, posing serious risk to waste workers,  community members and the environment.

The group issued the reminder on the heels of a newly-promulgated government policy
assigning the lighting industry to establish a systematic collection, transportation and disposal of lamp waste nationwide.

The EcoWaste Coalition in 2010 had sought the help of former Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza to curb the improper disposal of spent lamps that exposes waste handlers and recyclers in dumpsites and junk shops as well as their families and communities to mercury, an extremely toxic substance.

Through Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 2013-09-200 issued by the Department of Energy and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which took effect last October 13, 2013, a system for  Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is to be set up to address the end-of-life disposal of lighting products.

“The EPR system for lighting products, we hope, will lead to a progressive reduction of mercury use in energy efficient lamps, require mandatory mercury warning labels, internalize the environmental costs, and provide for an accessible environmentally-sound mechanism for retrieving and managing spent lamps,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“While waiting for the EPR system to get duly agreed and implemented, we deem it essential for lamp waste generators to manage and store their discards in a safe manner to prevent the occurrence of mercury spills,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We cannot just sit back and allow the usual practice of throwing spent fluorescent lamps alongside regular trash to continue,” he said.

According to the Department of Energy, some 50 million units of mercury-containing lamp wastes are generated in the country per year, with only 1% sent to treatment facilities, 8%  stored, 7% sold to junk shops and 84% disposed of as garbage.

Photo documentation by the EcoWaste Coalition of prevailing lamp waste management in Metro Manila showed that spent lamps are mixed with ordinary household garbage, thrown in garbage heaps or simply left abandoned in sidewalks.  To see some of the photos, please log on to: http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com



17 December 2013

Toxic Lead Found in Plastic Table Covers

Mantel, the plastic table cover used in many homes and eateries, contain lead and other health damaging chemicals that are kept secret to consumers.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, made the disclosure after analyzing 15 samples of mantel bought for P20-P150 each from market vendors in Divisoria, Paco and Quiapo, Manila using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer.

“We tested plastic table covers as part of our campaign to inform consumers about chemicals in products that are enjoying good sales during the holiday shopping season,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“In addition to Noche Buena and Media Noche staples, many consumers buy mantel to replace worn or tattered table covers to add cheer to the holiday meals,” he observed.

“Unknown to many consumers, these common products contain health-damaging chemicals that can build up in our bodies and the environment,” he said.

“Regrettably, none of the samples were duly labeled with facts about their chemical or material content to caution consumers,” he lamented.

Mostly made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, 11 of the mantel analyzed had lead up to ,18,100 parts per million (ppm), while four had cadmium up to 1,298 ppm.

Lead and cadmium are often used as a stabilizer in PVC products, as well as pigment to add color in such products.

Quoting scientific studies, the EcoWaste Coalition warned that “lead impacts brain development, causing learning and developmental problems including decreased IQ scores, shorter attention spans, and delayed learning,” stressing that “scientists have found there is no safe level of lead for children - even the smallest amount effects a child's ability to learn.”

Other chemicals of concern found in the table covers analyzed were antimony, arsenic and chromium.

“As these products are PVC-based, it’s also possible that they contain toxic phthalate plasticizers, which can disrupt normal hormonal processes even at low levels of exposure,” he added.

Dizon identified two main reasons why consumers should be concerned over the presence of these chemicals in plastic table covers:

1.  The toxic chemicals from the PVC table covers may leach out over time into the air, contaminate the surroundings and get absorbed into the household dust that vulnerable children may breathe in or ingest.

2.  Worn or tattered PVC table covers are often disposed of with regular garbage and either burned or dumped dispersing their toxic ingredients into the environment.

“The burning of PVC in dumps or incinerators results in the emission of toxic fumes laden with byproduct chemical wastes known as dioxins and furans, as well as toxic ashes.  Lead, cadmium and other toxicants are also released during the open burning or incineration of the discarded mantel,” Dizon explained.

“Furthermore, the manufacture of PVC products, which involves the use of numerous toxic chemical additives, presents occupational safety and health risks for workers from the production up to the disposal chain,” he emphasized.

As a practical advice, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested the use of cloth or non-PVC table covers as safe alternatives to PVC mantel.

PVC plastic is identifiable with the recycling running arrows with the number 3 or the initials “PVC” and its strong overpowering chemical smell.


15 December 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Finds More Christmas Gift Items Laden with Toxic Chemicals

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and toxic watchdog, has detected hazardous substances in more gift items being sold by bargain retailers in Divisoria, Manila.

Among the goods found loaded with harmful chemicals are common and affordable Kris Kringle or exchange gift items such as toys and mugs in a box, the group noted.

“As Christmas shopping rush gets underway, we went back to Divisoria to check if there are more goods out there that might pose risks for consumers, especially babies and small children,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Much to our regret, we analyzed more items laden with toxic chemicals such as lead that could harm a person’s health and wellbeing,” he lamented.

“To make matters worse, none of the items had proper labels denying consumers with essential tools to make informed choice and effective consumer redress,” he complained about.
“Consumers, regardless of their socio-economic status, have the right to product information and the right to be protected against unsafe products,” he emphasized.

Dizon described some of their toxic discoveries:

a.  A pink glass mug decorated with a “Hello Kitty” character that had 38,200 ppm of lead.

b.  A stool with the image of “Winnie the Pooh and Friends” on the plastic seat cover and with yellow painted legs that had 13,200 ppm of lead
c.  A pair of kiddie boxing gloves with "SpongeBob Squarepants" character with 9,356 ppm lead

d.  A small blue “Superman” backpack that had 7,432 ppm of lead
e. A “Hello Kitty” pair of baby shoes with 3,106 ppm lead

f.  A pink and blue infant bonnet with “Mickey Mouse” with 1,813 ppm of lead

In test buys conducted on December 6, 7 and 14, the group’s AlerToxic Patrol  procured a total of 65 samples of common gift items, mostly from street vendors, with prices ranging from as low as P10 to P150 each. 

Subsequent tests using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence analytical device revealed that 55 of the 65 samples had excessive levels of one or more toxic metals of concern.

53 samples were found to contain high levels of lead above the maximum permissible limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) in US for lead in paint and surface coatings, while 23 samples had excessive cadmium and 22 samples had too much arsenic. 

Lead, cadmium and arsenic are among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Specifically, “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems,” according to the WHO.

“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,” the WHO warned.

Due to its toxic findings, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to be careful when purchasing gift items as it advised givers to look for eco-friendly, health-promoting properly labeled and registered products. 

For earth and budget-friendly Christmas shopping, please see the EcoWaste Coalition’s tips at:



Additional Information:

Examples of items with the highest concentrations of lead as detected by the EcoWaste Coalition include:

A glass mug with pink “Hello Kitty" design with 38,200 ppm lead
A glass mug with “Luck Sloop Cat” design with 30,300 ppm lead
A glass mug with “SpongeBob Squarepants” character with 29,100 ppm lead

A small blue “Superman” backpack with 7,432 ppm lead
A “Despicable Me" bag with 3,839 ppm lead

Another "Despicable Me" bag with 3,022 ppm  lead


A play stool with “Winnie the Pooh and Friends” design with 13,200 ppm of lead
A pair of kiddie boxing gloves with "SpongeBob Squarepants" character with 9,356 ppm lead
A "Pikachu Pocket Bola" with 5,165 ppm lead

A “Hello Kitty” pair of baby shoes with 3,106 ppm lead.
A "Mickey Mouse" slipper with 2,271 ppm lead
A  "Cars" slipper with 2,130 ppm lead


A blue plastic belt decorated with multicolour rings with 7,660 ppm lead
An infant bonnet with “Mickey Mouse” with 1,813 ppm lead
An “Angry Birds” purse with 2,036 ppm lead

EcoWaste Coalition's Earth and Budget-Friendly Christmas Shopping Tips


1. Take stock of what you have. Check for things that can be repaired, reused, recycled or even re-gifted before buying new items.

2. Write down all your holiday necessities and take this list when you shop to avoid impulsive purchases.

3. Organize and plan your trips to the palengke, supermarkets or malls to reduce transportation costs as well as ease holiday traffic jams.

4. Set a holiday budget and avoid straying from it; remember to save enough for post-December expenses.

5. Look out for holiday sales to avail of deep discounts for stuff that you and your family truly need. Watch out and support charity fairs such as those meant to help survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in rebuilding their homes and lives.


1. Bring your own bayong or reusable carry bags when you shop. Drop plastic bags, join the reusable bag bandwagon.

2. Consider buying in bulk to cut on product cost as well as packaging waste.

3. Pick products with the slightest packaging and avoid excessively packed items.

4. Select products made of recycled materials and with the most recycled contents.

5. Seek and buy goods that are durable and can be repaired, reused, recycled or passed on to other users.

6. Patronize locally-produced stuff, support the local economy and lessen greenhouse gas emissions.

7. Save receipts in case you need to return defective goods and wrong sizes and requirements.


1. Think about re-giving gifts that you may have obtained at one time but have not used.

2. Look through your closet and give away clothes and accessories that your relatives and friends might have been admiring for some time like a pretty scarf, a nice jacket, a cute bag, etc.

3. Share books that have been read and stored in your shelf to friends who share the same interest.

4. Write heartfelt messages to family and friends on recycled Christmas cards and include a photo or two you have of them.

5. Cut up old Christmas cards and reuse them as gift tags.

6. Send e-cards in lieu of paper cards. Personalize them with your own graphic designs or choice photos.

7. Share your signature home-made goodies and dishes, especially from “secret” personal or family recipes.

8. Cook Noche Buena dinners for street children or to families who do not have anything to eat on Christmas Eve.

9. Tell your loved ones that instead of giving them gifts this year, you will make donations in their names to charities, orphanages and environmental projects.

10. Draw or paint creative stuff on flat and smooth stones to make paperweights, plain mugs to make pencil holder or bayong or katsa bag to make your shopping bags more "sosyal.”

11. Choose gifts that come with little or no packaging at all such as gift certificates, movie or concert tickets, bus or train passes, raffle coupons, etc.

12. Don’t wrap gifts. If wrapping is really needed, try old magazines or newspapers, discarded bandannas or fabric scraps. You can also use craft paper and jazz it up with colored pencils.

13. Give gifts that grow and restore the environment such as plant and flower seeds or bulbs, kitchen herbs or tree saplings.

14. If you feel that you absolutely have to buy something, then patronize local products such as handicrafts made by indigenous and rural communities, jail detainees and the urban poor, non-toxic
personal care items, organic products from health and wellness groups, reusable bags from women’s and environmental groups, and other gift items from charities and cooperatives.

15. Buy simple notebooks, cover them with attractive used fabrics and write inspirational verses or excerpts from poems and songs at the bottom of every 15th page.

16. When giving toys, choose ones that are free of choking, laceration, strangulation and toxic hazards, age-appropriate and properly labeled.

17. Shun replica guns and other war toys. Go for toys that promote creativity, non-aggressive behavior and social harmony.

18. Gift your barangay by leading or getting involved in a neighborhood project that will serve the poor or preserve the community environment.


13 December 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Joins DOH's "Iwas Paputok" Drive in Cubao, Quezon City

Members of the EcoWaste Coalition join the parade versus firecrackers organized by the Department of Health in Cubao, Quezon City as part of the multistakeholders' campaign for safe Christmas and New Year holidays.

EcoWaste Coalition Launches 'Iwas Paputoxic Drive" for Injury and Pollution-Free New Year

As part of their advocacy for environmental health and chemical safety, the EcoWaste Coalition today launched their annual “Iwas PapuToxic” drive to urge the public, particularly the youth, from blasting firecrackers throughout the holiday season to avoid injuries and deaths, and reduce toxic environmental pollution.

In an effort to boost the campaign, some one thousand Grades I, II and III students from Commonwelath Elementary School in Quezon City, led by Principal Rodolfo Modelo, portrayed how the New Year can be just as festive sans health-damaging and environment-polluting firecrackers by sounding alternative eco-friendly and home-made noisemakers from recycled materials to simulate the countdown celebration to a New Year.

“Iwas PapuToxic,” now on its eight year, is an annual campaign of the EcoWaste Coalition complementing the Department of Health’s firecracker safety drive by promoting safe and eco-sensitive substitutes to deadly and costly firecrackers.

The EcoWaste Coalition held on-the-spot poster and slogan making contests with the theme, “Iwas Paputok, Iwas Disgrasya, Tulong sa Yolanda,” as students with the best anti-firecracker posters and slogans were given rewards.

The most creative noisemakers made from recycled materials were likewise recognized.

“These safety-conscious kids have shown that we can ring in the New Year with sounds from ingeniously recycled noisemakers instead of firecrackers and fireworks,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The use of firecrackers and pyrotechnics to usher the New Year has long been identified as a major source of accidental injuries and deaths, as well as toxic chemical pollution,” she added.

Lucero’s statement came on the heels of the group’s latest findings on the presence of high amounts of toxic metals such as antimony, barium and lead in various consumer fireworks that it purchased last week from street vendors at Juan Luna, M. de Santos, Sto. Cristo and Tabora Streets in Divisoria, Manila.

Joining the students in the “Iwas PapuToxic” activity were DOH Asst. Sec. Dr. Eric Tayag and Miss Philippines Water 2013 Nancy Leonard.

Also present at the launch were representatives from the Department of Education – NCR, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection and numerous environmental groups.

In light of the tragedy super typhoon Yolanda has brought to several provinces in the Visayas last month, where nearly 6,000 people were already confirmed dead and still increasing, the EcoWaste Coalition renewed its appeal to the general public to junk their plans to light firecrackers or conduct fireworks displays.

“We request our fellow Filipinos preparing for their yearly pyrotechnic shows to cancel your plans and instead donate the money you’ll save to help the typhoon victims,” suggested Lucero.

“Aside from minimizing toxic chemicals emission and firework-related accidents and injuries, such kind-hearted and considerate acts will certainly benefit grief-stricken families and devastated communities, and enkindle their hopes for a brighter New Year,” she added.

For a toxics-free New Year celebration, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following eco-friendly and definitely inexpensive noisemakers as alternatives to firecrackers and fireworks. These are:

1. Save a finger, blow a torotot (Pinoy-style trumpets).

2.  Bang cymbals from pot and pan covers.

3. Shake maracas made out of used tin cans.

4. Rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle crowns.

5. Joggle "piggy banks" or "shakers" from paper box or plastic bottles with seeds, pebbles or coins.

6. Tap drums made of big water bottles, biscuit cans or buckets.

7. Create whistling sound or get a whistle and blow it.

8. Beat the batya or palanggana (washbasin) with a ladle or stick.

9. Knock empty coconut shells.

10. Switch on the radio or play your favorite music or musical instruments.

11. Ring the alarm clocks or play ringtones altogether.

12. Honk bicycle or car horns.

13. Clap your hands and stump your feet.

14. Laugh your lungs out and bid your worries goodbye.

15. Do the “Roar” like Dr. Eric Tayag, twerk, twist and shout “Happy New Year!”


12 December 2013

Environmentalists Turn Over Toys and Books to Doctors for Typhoon Yolanda's Child Victims

The EcoWaste Coalition today turned over to the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) donated toys and books for distribution to children affected by super typhoon Yolanda, particularly in Eastern Visayas.

Some 70 boxes and sacks of donations consisting of pre-loved as well as brand-new books and toys were handed over by the EcoWaste Coalition to PPS President Dr. Melinda Atienza at their headquarters in Quezon City.

The PPS, a professional organization of child physicians, and the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network, have joined forces to gift the children who survived Yolanda’s wrath in Tacloban City and adjacent places.

The EcoWaste Coalition sought toy and book donations from the public and had the toys screened for toxic metals using an X-Ray Fluorescence analytical device before turning them over to PPS for distribution to kids through PPS Eastern Visayas Chapter.

Only toys with no detectable levels of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury will be given to the child typhoon survivors.

At the simple turnover ceremony, Dr. Atienza thanked the EcoWaste Coalition for initiating the safe toy drive to meet the special need of children for things to read and play as they recover from their most traumatic experience.

“These toys and books will surely bring joy and hope among the affected kids who must have suffered a lot from the most dreadful calamity and I thank the EcoWaste for their most intuitive response,” said Dr. Atienza.

“May these gifts from bighearted donors cheer up children who are still coping from the loss of their loved ones and the obliteration of their homes and schools due to the monster typhoon,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Among the generous toy and book givers were Brother Mike Velarde and his family, SM Toy Kingdom and many other members and friends of the EcoWaste Coalition, including young children.

The list of toy and book donors includes:

Thomas Marcelo Agana III
Juancho Accazaren
Sylvia Araneta
Kiko and Charlotte Benitez
Deng Ferrer-Carrillo
Maria Luz Catilo
Letty Co
Jaime and Julio Cochon
Marco Lean Dizon
Ayet Enrile
Vincent Joseph Garcia
Kier Gomez
Ace Herrera
Agapita Ibarra
Joie, Joshua and Jenine Illescas
Jeanette Jimenez
Gavin, Scarlet and Kendra Kramer
Anne Larracas
Ma. Victoria Herrera-Lim
Avy Gale Macaraan
Twinky Macaraig
Sonia Mendoza
Rannie Mercado
Anya Nisperos
Doris Novicio
Ofelia Panganiban
Payumo Family
Vanessa Perez
Abby Quiogue
Shine Relova
Isabel Reyes
Tiff and Tyler Reyes
Yolanda Sison Reyes
Chloe and Quad Roman
Velvet Roxas
Alvin and Anna Santos
Glazie Sy
Alene Tan
Grace Tan
Shally Vitan
Carlos Yturralde
Bro. Mike Velarde and Family
Fely Balifford Villamante
Eagle Court residents
Bumblebee & Company
SM Toy Kingdom
EcoWaste Coalition
University of the East Manila, Department of Libraries
University of the Philippines (Diliman), College of Engineering
And other affiliates and friends of the EcoWaste Coalition.