31 March 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Manila Mayoral Bets to Campaign "Clean," Bare "Green" Platform

An environmental watchdog today called on the main contenders for Manila’s mayoral post not to forget about the environment as they hold their respective proclamation rallies on March 31 for former President Joseph Estrada and on April 1 for incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim.

The EcoWaste Coalition appealed to Estrada and Lim to use their kick-off assemblies to demonstrate their commitment to Mother Earth by rolling out a “clean”campaign and by baring a “green” platform.

“As senior politicians with vast experience and influence, we urge both President Estrada and Mayor Lim to campaign clean and to ask their fellow candidates and their supporters to do the same,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“By campaigning clean, we mean no littering, no nailing or hanging of posters on trees, no posting of campaign materials outside designated areas, no excessive noise and, of course, no trash talks and dirty gimmicks,” she explained.

“President Estrada and Mayor Lim, we hope, will agree that political victory should not be at the expense of our fragile environment,” she added.

In addition, the EcoWaste Coalition asked both camps to reveal their “green”electoral platforms pointing out that the public have the "right to know."

“We call upon President Estrada and Mayor Lim to disclose how they plan to address key environmental problems of common concern to Manila’s residents such as waste and sanitation,” Lucero said.

“How do they plan to resolve, for instance, the persistent garbage problem at Onyx and Zobel Roxas Sts. in San Andres or the monstrous plastic garbage in Divisoria, especially during peak shopping season ?,” she asked.

“How do they plan to improve the working and living conditions of the informal waste sector in Tondo and elsewhere who contributes to increased recycling rates and avoided disposal charges at no cost to the city government?,” she also asked.

"How do they plan to manage biodegradable discards, which constitute about half of the waste volume, from households and other major sources such as public markets and restaurants, so these are kept out of dumpsites and landfills to prevent the formation of methane?," she further asked.

The group also urged the mayoral candidates to disclose their positions on burning environment-related controversies and challenges such as the 1) proposed reclamation project off Manila Bay, 2) pollution at Pier 18 Garbage Transfer Station, 3) the toxic impact of unregulated junkshop recycling of electronic waste in San Andres and Tondo, and 4) the illegal sale of lead-tainted toys, mercury-laden cosmetics and cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaners, particularly in Binondo, Divisoria and Quiapo.


30 March 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Lauds and Thanks Waste Pickers, Chides "Alay-Lakad" Litterbugs

An environmental watchdog wasted no time in applauding the role of the informal waste sector, particularly the waste pickers, in minimizing the garbage woes from the annual “Alay-Lakad” penitential walk to Antipolo City.

The EcoWaste Coalition complimented the informal sector for retrieving the corrugated  boxes, newspapers and PET bottles discarded by some of the devotees who thronged the Antipolo Cathedral in large numbers last Thursday and Friday.

“At the shrine of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage and adjacent places, we found waste pickers in the sea of devotees collecting recyclables left by the pilgrims,” said Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector Project Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The collected recyclables were sold to junk shops for P5 per kilo for the corrugated boxes and newspapers, and P20-25 for plastic beverage and water bottles.

The junk shops would later resell the recyclables for use as raw materials by factories here or abroad.

“The waste pickers, which many still hold in low esteem, prevented valuable materials from entering the waste stream. By recycling, they averted the environmental and climate damage associated with garbage disposal, as well as with the production, transportation and consumption of virgin materials,” Palacio said. 

“Not to forget, they have reduced the volume of pilgrim trash at no cost to the church and city authorities,” he added.

“Indeed the informal waste sector contributes tremendously to resource conservation, environmental protection and disposal cost reduction.  We acknowledge and thank them,” he stated.

According to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, “the informal waste sector  are individuals, families, groups or small enterprises engaged in the recovery of waste materials with revenue generation as the motivation either on a full-time or part-time basis.”

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise lauded Antipolo City’s street sweepers for quickly getting trash off the streets.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented the widespread littering that again spoiled the “Alay-Lakad.”

“We regret that the Pope’s environmental plea fell on deaf ears,” the group said.

At his recent inaugural Mass at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Pope Francis urged “all men and women of goodwill (to) be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”

“We hope that his call for environmental protection will strike a chord with the faithful in word and deed, especially during mammoth religious observances and festivities,” the group stated.

“Let nothing be wasted anymore as we carry out our faith-inspired endeavors,” the group emphasized.

Among the most littered items at the "Alay-Lakad," observed the EcoWaste Coalition, were candy and snack wrappers, “suman” palm leaf wrapper, food leftovers, plastic bags, PET bottles, cigarette filters, and the corrugated boxes, newspapers and other improvised sleeping materials.

Littering, reminded the EcoWaste Coalition, is unlawful.  

It is prohibited under Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, as well as in the Antipolo City Ordinance 2008-287, the city’s “Basura Code.”



26 March 2013

Environmental Group Cautions Pilgrims vs "Alay-Kalat," Asks Politicians to Respect "No Campaign" Policy

A waste and pollution watchdog that recently called on the Catholic faithful to heed the plea made by Pope Francis for environmental protection has exhorted those who will join the penitential walk to Antipolo City on Maundy Thursday not to make a repeat of last year’s “trashing” of the annual “Alay-Lakad.”

The EcoWaste Coalition prodded the mostly youth penitents to turn away from what the group described as the most evident “environmental sin” that is often ignored by people of all ages and walks of life.

“Littering is an environmental sin that many pilgrims take for granted as they carry out their penitential walk from their homes to Antipolo City,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The rampant littering during the “Alay-Lakad” in previous years has tarnished what was meant to be a solemn act of reparation for wrongs done and an affirmation of faith to God the Creator, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Let it not be said that the streets leading to Antipolo Cathedral were litter-free before the pilgrims came as if it was an occasion for all-out littering,” she said.

Fearing that some national and local candidates will take advantage of the multitude of voters who will take part in the pilgrimage, the EcoWaste Coalition asked political candidates and groups not to use the solemn affair for partisan campaigning. 

“We appeal to all candidates for the mid-term polls not to distribute leaflets nor hang banners and posters on trees, electric posts and other prohibited spots that will surely add to the garbage woes and lessen the solemnity of the walk,” Vergara added.

Last year, the EcoWaste Coalition decried the unchecked disposal of trash along the Alay-Lakad routes such as the Ortigas Avenue Extension, Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway, particularly in the Cainta and Tikling junctions, and in the vicinity of churches and roadside “Stations of the Cross” where pilgrims briefly halt to pray.

Among the most littered item were food packaging materials, plastic bags, cups and straws, soiled newspapers and corrugated boxes, and cigarette butts, the group noted.

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded the pilgrims that there is no justification for any citizen to defy Republic Act 9003’s ban on littering.
R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits the littering and burning of discards and other acts that could imperil the public health and the environment.

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

On the other hand, open burning is punishable with a fine ranging from P300 to P1,000, or a one to 15-day imprisonment, or both.
For a truly “Alay-Lakad” not ‘Alay-Kalat,” the EcoWaste Coalition has advised the pilgrims to observe the following eco-reminders:

1.  Avoid all acts of arbitrary disposal such as littering, spitting and urinating in public.

2.  Put discards on your pocket or bag until you have found a proper place to dispose of them.

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

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

5. To reduce the consumption and disposal of single-use plastic bags, please bring a reusable carry bag if you plan to bring home any of Antipolo’s favorite pasalubong such as kasoy, kalamay and suman.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.

25 March 2013

Lead above Levels of Concern Detected in Some “Pabasa” Venues in Makati City

25 March 2013, Quezon City.  The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, found lead above levels of concern in some of the "kubol" (hut) that will be used this week for the traditional  “Pabasa” or recital of the “Passion of Christ” in Barangay Poblacion, Makati City.

Based on the screening conducted by the group last Saturday using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, lead above the US limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) was detected in 9 of the 17 “Kalbaryo” set up by various neighbourhood associations.  One kubol had 11,000 ppm of lead.

The “Kalbaryo” by the Samahang Bagong Pag-Asa, Samahang Guardian, Samahang Ilaya Heights, Samahang Iskinita ng Bonifacio, Samahang Kayumanggi, Samahang Magkakapit-Bahay, Samahang Padre Zamora and Samahang St. Paul  had low or non-detectable level of lead, indicating the use of unleaded paints.

The group conducted the screening as part of its ongoing advocacy towards the elimination of lead-added architectural or decorative paints to prevent children’s exposure from lead in such products.
Lead, a heavy metal often used as drier or pigment in paint formulations, is listed as one of the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol initiated the XRF screening that Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. conducted.

“As the ‘Pabasa’ attracts residents of all ages, including young children, we find it crucial that only non-lead paint products are used to decorate the ‘kubol’ where it is held,” said Jeiel Guarino of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Lean Paint Elimination Project. 

“Doctors have identified no safe blood lead level in children.  It is therefore our responsibility to keep their surroundings safe from lead-based paint, a major threat to children’s health, and other sources of lead pollution,” he pointed out. 

Lead is dangerous to human health when inhaled, swallowed or, in some cases, absorbed through the skin, but it is most damaging to young children, Guarino emphasized.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “lead is especially dangerous to children under six years of age and can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.”

“When refurbishing any painted surfaces, essential precaution must be observed to prevent the dispersal of paint dust that could potentially contain lead,” reminded Guarino, “and enter a child’s body through their habitual hand-to-mouth activities.”

The group advised the neighbourhood associations to be extra careful when dismantling makeshift “kubol” after the Holy Week to avoid the possible dispersal of lead chips and dust.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.


23 March 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes "Right to Chemical Safety," Dances "Harlem Shake" for "Toxics-Free Future"

Environmental health advocates gathered today in Quezon City to affirm the people’s “right to chemical safety, right to a toxic-free future.”

At a seminar sponsored by the EcoWaste Coalition, some 45 advocates from various public interest groups expressed support for stronger chemical safety policies and measures that will protect human health and the environment.

“We will promote and support actions that will create increased understanding of the harms caused by toxic chemicals in processes, products and wastes, as well as actions that will prevent chemical contamination of our air, water, soil and food supply that could impair the public health, particularly the health of workers, farmers, women, children and the unborn,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The advocates likewise asked politicians vying for Senate and House seats, as well as local government positions, to recognize the people’s “right to chemical safety” and to make it an integral part of their political platforms.

“Chemical safety is a national concern requiring concerted response at all levels. We therefore urge national and local candidates for the mid-term polls to incorporate chemical safety, as well as zero waste, into their electoral platforms and pledges,” Dizon said.

To dramatize their call, EcoWaste Coalition’s youth volunteers from Eco-Marino performed the latest dance craze “Harlem Shake” against toxics and for chemical safety and zero waste during the event.

Speaking at the seminar, visiting global chemical policy expert Jack Weinberg from IPEN (a civil society network linking chemical safety to sustainable development) and Engr. Ana Rivera from the Department of Health both cited the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) as a useful framework to promote chemical safety, locally and globally.

The overall objective of SAICM is “the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment.”

The said “2020 goal” was adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 as part of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

According to SAICM’s Dubai Declaration, “the sound management of chemicals is essential if we are to achieve sustainable development, including the eradication of poverty and disease, the improvement of human health and the environment and the elevation and maintenance of the standard of living in countries at all levels of development.”

As per DOH Administrative Order 2013-009 on the “National Chemical Safety Management and Toxicology Policy” signed by Health Secretary Enrique Ona, “only 2% of chemicals produced commercially have completed health hazard assessment while only 14% of all chemicals have sufficient information to support event partial health assessment.”

According to IPEN, “many of these chemicals are known to cause birth defects, cancers, learning and neurological disorders, and other human diseases… and most countries still lack adequate laws and enforcement mechanisms to protect people from exposure.”

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal, and is a member of IPEN.



22 March 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Catholic Filipinos to Respond to Pope's Environmental Plea, Proposes "6Rs" for Earth-Friendly Holy Week

A waste and pollution watchdog has appealed to Catholic Filipinos to heed the new Pope’s plea for environmental protection.

In a statement issued ahead of Palm Sunday, the EcoWaste Coalition echoed the call made by Pope Francis last Tuesday for the people to be “protectors of the environment.”

During his inaugural mass at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, the Pope told the faithful: “Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of
the environment.”

“The Holy Week is a timely occasion to affirm our role as stewards of God’s creation,” said Ochie Tolentino, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Regardless of your age, gender, job and possession, you can do something real and beautiful to protect the Mother Earth and help her recover from the ill effects of human excesses,” she said.

“For example, you can start by consuming responsibly such as not wasting rice, not dropping any litter and not dumping or burning your discards,” she pointed out. 

“Let us partake in this common task of protecting our fragile environment from being further degraded, especially during the Holy Week and beyond,” she reiterated.

Towards the path of ecological conversion, the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged the faithful to include the following “6Rs” as “acts of penance and reconciliation with the environment:”

1. Resist the consumption of single-use, disposable products in favor of eco-friendly substitutes that can be reused a number of times.  For example, use a water jug instead of buying bottled water.

2. Refuse plastic bags and proudly use native bayong and other reusable carry bags and containers when you go to your favorite sari-sari store, palengke or supermarket.

3. Reject products packed in excessive paper and/or plastic materials.  Look for and patronize products with less packaging. 

4. Reject all acts of littering from throwing cigarette butts out of car windows, tossing candy wrappers on the streets, spitting on pavements, to not picking up after your dog.

5. Refrain from driving a car for your Visita Iglesia and other Holy Week activities. Save gas: walk, cycle, take the pedicab, jeepney or bus, or car pool in fulfilling your spiritual vows.

6. Reduce electricity and water usage.  Consume less by avoiding wastage and following basic conservation tips such as by turning out lights, unplugging appliances when not in use and fixing
dripping faucets and pipes.

“These ‘6Rs’ are simple starters towards eco-living.  Why not challenge yourself on how much you can do without, and discover just how little you really need.  You and I can definitely do more to lessen our impact on our fragile planet,” Tolentino said.


21 March 2013

Laboratory Tests Detect Toxic Lead in Play Chairs (Watchdog Urges Government to Recall Lead-Tainted Children's Products)


An environmental health organization seeking the prevention of childhood exposure to lead, a chemical that attacks the brain and other vital organs, has cautioned consumers from buying unlabelled play chairs coated with leaded paint.
At a press conference held in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that some play chairs made and sold primarily for use by young children were tainted with dangerous levels of lead.
The EcoWaste Coalition bought the play chairs featuring popular cartoon figures for P120 to P160 each from toy and general merchandise retailers in Divisoria and from a sidewalk vendor in Sta. Cruz, Manila.
Out of the 9 samples that the EcoWaste Coalition sent to Intertek Testing Services for analysis by Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry (AAS), 7 failed the limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for total lead in surface coating as indicated below:
1. SpongeBob Squarepants: 20,680 (Fail)
2. Winnie the Pooh: 18,831 ppm (Fail)
3. Secret Mind: 18,064 ppm (Fail)
4. Angry Birds: 13, 923 ppm (Fail)
5. Smurfs: 13,123 ppm (Fail)
6. Bee: 901 ppm (Fail)
7. Spiderman: 169 ppm (Fail)
8. Hello Kitty: 23 ppm (Pass)
9. Ben 10: <10ppm (Pass)
Except for the red Spiderman chair, all the lead-positive chairs were painted with yellow coatings.
During the event, the EcoWaste Coalition led by its newest eco-warrior dubbed as the “Brain Protector” attached “medals" of skull and crossbones to the items in question to hammer home the message that leaded chairs are not fit and safe for kids.
These lead-tainted chairs are a chemical threat to our children’s developing brains and should not be manufactured and traded at all,” declared Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect. “We have forwarded the laboratory results to both the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry so a formal process of product recall can be initiated at once.”
Jack Weinberg, Coordinator of IPEN’s Global Campaign to Eliminate Lead Paint from US, explained that “surfaces coated with leaded paint will, over time, age, wear out, flake and gather in the indoor dust and outside soils, which are then swallowed by children through their usual hand to mouth behavior, thus increasing the risk of exposure, ”emphasizing “there is no level of childhood lead exposure that is deemed safe.”
Quoting the World Health Organization’s study on “Childhood Lead Poisoning,” paediatrician Dr. Bessie Antonio of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology warns that “the consequences of brain injury from exposure to lead in early life are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruption of behaviour.”
According to WHO,“the human brain has little capacity for repair, these effects are untreatable and irreversible. They cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.”
Lead poisoning can affect virtually every organ system in the body such as the central and peripheral nervous system and the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, renal, endocrine, immune and haematological systems, the WHO said.
The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.


17 March 2013

EcoWaste Coalition: Death of UP Manila Student from Ingesting Silver Jewelry Cleaner a Wake-Up Call for Effective Action vs Cyanide Poison

Environmental health activists have joined the public outrage over the death of 16-year old ‘KT,’ a first year student of UP Manila, due to the deliberate ingestion of silver jewelry cleaner

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has been tirelessly campaigning against the deadly cleaning solution, described the untimely death of the student as a “wake-up call” to effectively enforce the Joint DOH-DENR Advisory, Series of 2010-0001.

The advisory, signed by Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona and Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, bans the sale of silver jewelry cleaning solutions containing cyanide and other toxic substances.

The advisory further bans the importation, manufacturing, distribution and sale of silver cleaners without product registration and labeling.

“We grieve for the untimely demise of ‘KT’ who once dreamed of becoming a doctor. Her death should not go in vain,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, “but catalyze urgent school and market reforms, particularly with respect to the ‘no permit, no exam policy’ and the sale of products laced with hazardous chemicals.”

Her mother told the EcoWaste Coalition that ‘KT,’ whom many say got “beauty and brains,” was severely affected when the school "forced" her to take a “leave of absence” for the current semester due to non-full payment of tuition fee.

She was disappointed that the poisonous silver jewelry cleaner ingested by ‘KT’ was readily available in the market despite the ban imposed by the government to prevent further poisoning incidents, accidental and suicidal, that have already claimed so many lives, the EcoWaste Coalition reported.

“Dapat ay total ban. Patawan ng mabigat na parusa ang nagtitinda at pati na rin ang bumibili,” she told the group who went to the Sanctuary Funeral Chapel in Batangas St., Sta. Cruz, Manila to condole with the family.

The EcoWaste Coalition had repeatedly alerted the authorities about the illicit trade of cyanide-laced silver cleaning agents, sold from as low as P10 to P150, in sidewalks and silver stores in shopping malls.

In their letter to Secretaries Ona and Paje last July 2012, the group expressed dismay over the continued sale of toxic silver cleaner and their use as suicidal potion by persons suffering from emotional, financial, health and relationship issues.

The EcoWaste Coalition requested the Secretaries to convene a multi-stakeholders’ committee to review the implementation of the Joint DOH-DENR Advisory, Series of 2010-0001.

The EcoWaste Coalition also appealed to the authorities to conduct a random inspection of silver jewelry shops in major commercial hubs and shopping malls and decisively apprehend and charge violators of the ban.

The group further asked government regulators to reach out to the management of shopping malls and entice them to help in policing silver jewelry shops doing business in their premises.

Cyanide and its compounds, which are among the 48 substances in the Philippine Priority Chemicals List, are highly toxic to people and marine life even at low concentrations.

Exposure to cyanide through eye or skin contact, inhalation and ingestion can cause irritation, rash, bluish skin color, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, nausea, headache, blindness, suffocation, lung congestion, convulsions, paralysis, coma and death.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.



16 March 2013

FDA Bans 6 More Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Creams, Watchdog Urges Stern Legal Action vs Vendors of "Cosmetoxics"

“It’s better to be brown than sorry.”

Thus declared the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, as it welcomed the move by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to blacklist six more imported skin whitening creams laced with excessive amounts of mercury, an extremely dangerous chemical.

Through DOH-FDA Advisory 2012-018-A issued on March 14, the regulatory agency expanded the list of banned mercury-containing skin whitening products from 71 in November 2012 to the current 77.  Added to the list were:

1. Fruit & Lovely Quickacting Whitener & Speckle Remover Package
2. Yudantang Green Olive and Papaya Natural Essence 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream
3. Spring Return Ginseng and Pearl Natural Pure Plants Whitening Cream
4. Natural Orange Whitening and Anti-Aging Package
5. TVC Spot Remover
6. Yoko Whitening Cream with SPF-15

All the above products, except for Yoko, have not undergone the required FDA’s notification procedures.

“As we laud the FDA’s action to ban additional skin lightening products tainted with mercury, we urge consumers to be on their guard and take highest precautions against 'cosmetoxics' or cosmetics laced with hazardous substances,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Our distinct kayumangging-kaligatan (light brown skin) complexion is beautiful and a source of national pride. But if you still insist on lightening your skin tone, please be very careful with cosmetics laden with mercury and other equally harmful chemicals. It’s better to be brown than sorry,” Lucero said.

FDA Director Kenneth Hartigan-Go had earlier warned that “chronic use reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections,” and that “the transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life.”

The EcoWaste Coalition in December 2012 alerted the FDA about the illegal sale of five of the six products, which the group analyzed using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer and found positive for mercury up to 26,700 parts per million, way above the government’s allowable limit of 1 part per million (ppm).

In February 2013, the EcoWaste Coalition submitted to the FDA additional mercury-containing skin whitening products that the group obtained from test buys at Chinese drug stores in Binondo, Manila for confirmatory analysis.

Consumer products such as mercury-laced skin whitening cosmetics are among the identified sources of mercury, and mercury in such products can also enter and contaminate the waste stream.

“As we seek for safer cosmetics that will not harm users as well as pollute the environment, we urge the national and local authorities to take tough legal action against importers, distributors and sellers of these unlawful products,” said environmental lawyer Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.

“By punishing these vendors of contraband cosmetics to the fullest extent of the law, we send a clear message to the cosmetics industry and the public that our country truly means business when it comes to protecting our people, especially our women and children, and our planet, from further mercury exposure,” she said.

Under R.A. 9711, the FDA Act of 2009, individual violators shall be penalized with imprisonment from one to 10 years or a fine from P50,000 to P500,000, or both. For violators who are manufacturers, importers or distributors, the imprisonment of 5 to 10 years and the fine of P500,000 to P5,000,000 shall apply.

The EcoWaste  Coalition also highlighted the need for the cosmetics industry to institute chemical safety reforms such as:

1. Manufacturing only toxic-free goods sans heavy metals and other harmful substances.
2. Replacing other chemicals of concern with non-hazardous substitutes.
3. Disclosing all chemical ingredients with corresponding net quantity of contents, including additives and impurities, on the product labels and online.
4. Providing hazard labeling for products containing ingredients linked to cancer and other major health issues.
5. Providing warning statements for a) latent complications with other ailments, and b) potential drug complications when used simultaneously with other drugs/cosmetics.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.