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.