31 May 2013

Green Group Bats for Healthy School "Baon," Urges Government to Protect Children from Unhealthy Food Marketing

An environmental group has made a pitch for nutritious and budget-friendly home-prepared school “baon” that can ease hunger and provide good nutrition as well.
In a statement released ahead of the opening of the new school year this coming Monday, the EcoWaste Coalition gave a thumbs up to simple but healthy “baon” ideas as it drew attention to the risks of consuming food high in fat, salt and sugar, especially for young kids.
“Every child deserves a healthy ‘baon’ that can provide the nutrition needed by her or his growing body and promote full and sound development,” said Ofelia Panganiban, a healthy food advocate and an officer of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“By preparing healthy ‘baon’ under their watchful eyes, parents do help kids in minimizing their intake of nutrient-poor snacks that contain too much fat, salt and sugar,” she said.
“Fostering healthy food choices will lead to healthy weight and lifestyle, while also  preventing children’s  exposure to bacterial and chemical toxins in some food items,” she pointed out.
As for morning or afternoon snacks, Panganiban recommended native delicacies such as glutinous rice cake (biko) and puto (steamed rice cake) and  boiled or steamed banana (saba), cassava, corn, peanut, sweet potato (kamote) and taro (gabi).
She suggested homemade bread spread or jam from popular fruits like banana, mango and papaya, as well as root crops such as purple yam (ube) and sweet potato (kamote) that are available all year round.
For vitamin-rich thirst quenchers, Panganiban suggested making juice from any fruit in season, including ginger lily (kamias) and tamarind (sampalok); creating pretty concoctions such as “Pink Lady” (water from boiled purple camote tops with calamansi juice) or “White Lady” (from blended or mashed star apple) or drinks from boiling lemongrass and  pandan leaves.
At the same time, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the Department of Education and the Department of Health to work with lawmakers of the 16th Congress in drawing up a law that will “protect children from the impact of unhealthy food marketing” as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO at its 63rd World Health Assembly in 2010 adopted a set of  recommendations to discourage and protect children against unhealthy diets, including ensuring that all settings  where children gather are free from all marketing of unhealthy foods.
According to Resolution No. 5, “such settings include, but are not limited to, nurseries, schools, school grounds and pre-school centers, playgrounds, family and child clinics and paediatric services and during any sporting and cultural activities that are held on these premises.”
In line with the recommendations of the WHO, the EcoWaste Coalition requested government and school authorities to take concrete steps to protect kids from the effects of unhealthy food marketing that can lead to overweight and obesity, or the “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.”
According to a WHO factsheet, “childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.”
To reduce overweight and obesity and their related non-communicable diseases, the WHO has emphasized the need for “supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing obesity.”
According to WHO,  people can at the personal level: 1) limit energy intake from total fats and sugars, 2) increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts, and 3) engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes per week for adults).
At the societal level, WHO highlighted the need for sustained political commitment and the collaboration of many public and private stakeholders to ensure people’s access to a healthy lifestyle, including making regular physical activity and healthier dietary choices available, affordable and easily accessible to all - especially the poorest individuals.
The food industry, according to the WHO,  can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by 1) reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods, 2) ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers, 3) practicing responsible marketing especially those aimed at children and teenagers, 4) ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity practice in the workplace.

28 May 2013

DILG Sec. Mar Roxas Urged to Help Break the Supply Chain of Deadly Silver Jewelry Cleaner (Government Asked to Issue New Policy with Teeth to End String of Tragic Deaths)

The EcoWaste Coalition today asked Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas, along with other local government and police officials, to go after the producers and vendors of deadly cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaning products.

This developed as the group went to Binondo, Manila yesterday to condole with the family of a 15-year old mother of a two-month old baby boy who took her own life last Saturday by drinking the fatal cleaning solution.

“The number of cyanide poisoning deaths due to intentional and unintentional consumption of silver jewelry cleaner continues to climb,” lamented Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

From January to May 2013 alone, the EcoWaste Coalition monitored nine reported cases of suicidal ingestion of silver cleaner from the cities of Manila, Navotas and Pasay that included three teenage female fatalities.

Acute poisoning occurs when the cyanide content of the cleaning liquid is absorbed by the body via ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption, blocking the utilization of oxygen at the cell, tissue and organ levels and causing death.

The Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in September 2010 released a joint advisory banning the sale of silver jewelry cleaners containing cyanide and other toxic substances, as well as their importation, manufacturing, distribution and sale without product registration and labeling, but to no avail.

“The DOH-DENR advisory banning silver jewelry cleaner with cyanide is obviously inadequate in preventing such tragic deaths. Now more than ever, we need a stronger policy involving other agencies such as the DILG and one that has teeth to break the nasty supply chain and put the culprits behind bars,” noted Dizon.

“Secretary Roxas and the entire DILG machinery should be in the forefront in this fight against a toxic menace that has already taken so many lives," he added.

Newly elected city and municipal councilors should waste no time in drafting and filing ordinances that will impose severe fines and penalties to violators of the ban on toxic silver jewelry cleaner, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested.

It added that such ordinances to be effective should require information activities targeting businesses and consumers, and incorporate strong compliance monitoring, enforcement and penalty provisions.

Even if local ordinances are not yet in place, the LGUs should immediately take action in line with their responsibility to protect the public health and welfare under the Local Government Code and the Constitution, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed.


Joint DOH-DENR Advisory on “Ban on Silver Cleaning Solution Containing Cyanide and other Toxic Substances,” September 2010:
DOH Health Advisory on Silver Jewelry Cleaners,” July 2010:


1. Jennifer de Guzman, 16, Sta. Cruz, Manila
2. Jacinto de Guzman, 38, Sta. Cruz, Manila

3. Carlo Taure, 27, Navotas City

4. Carlota C. Aure, 26, Navotas City

5. Mark alias “Puti,” 20-25, Tondo, Manila

6. Ernesto Alvaro, 33, Tondo, Manila

7. Janelyn Ulep, 24, Pasay City

8. Kristel Tejada, 16, Tondo, Manila

9. “Nene,” 15, Binondo, Manila
(“Nene” is only 15 at the time of her death. She’s from Binondo, not Tondo, as reported in some news articles.)


26 May 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Bats for Safe Disposal of Busted Lamps Containing Mercury

Quezon City.  An environmental network promoting zero waste and chemical safety again reminded the general public against the improper disposal of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the reminder after visiting 10 public schools in the city of Manila last May 22 and 23 to observe the conduct of this year’s Brigada Eskwela where it found dozens of busted fluorescent lamps dumped in mixed garbage bins and heaps or lying around the school corridors, thereby increasing the threat of lamp breakage.

“We appeal to the public to exercise essential precautions when installing new lamps and discarding busted ones to avoid breakage that will let the elemental mercury vapor to escape from the lamp and  contaminate the surroundings,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We also appeal to the government, particularly to the Department of Energy and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to establish and enforce a system that will ensure the environmentally-sound management of mercury lamp waste, including a take back mechanism for busted lamps, to protect the public health and the environment,” he said.

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

A study prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition and published in a United Nations Environment Programme’s report on heavy metals in products has noted some challenges in the country’s mercury lamp waste management such as the lack of  producer responsibility or take back system for discarded lamps, the lack of mercury information and precaution on product labels, the lack of public education on mercury exposure and emergency response measures, the lack of a functional system for collecting busted lamps, including storage, and the informal recycling of busted lamps in dumpsites and junk shops that releases mercury vapor into the environment.

The “Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste Management” guidebook published by the government has warned that “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic especially to the developing nervous system, which is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.”

“Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, vision loss, sensation loss, and tremors,” the guidebook said.

To prevent mercury exposure from broken fluorescent lamps, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated the following safety reminders:

1.  Handle spent mercury-containing lamps with extreme care as they can easily break.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




24 May 2013

EcoWaste Coalition: Are Our Schools Safe from Environmental Pollutants?

Are our public schools safe from health-damaging environmental pollutants?

A waste and pollution watchdog posed this question as the annual Brigada Eskwela, or the National Schools Maintenance Week, bring to a close tomorrow.

“While fully appreciative of the efforts of school principals, teachers, parents, pupils, janitors and community volunteers, we cannot help but ask if the school environment has become truly healthy and safe for the kids after the cleanup activities,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group raised the question after visiting 20 public elementary schools in Malate, Paco, Pandacan, Quiapo, Sampaloc, San Andres, Santa Ana, Santa Cruz, Santa Mesa and Tondo in the city of Manila.

During the ocular visits conducted on May 22 and 23, the EcoWaste Coalition observed several acts that could have caused the formation and release of some major pollutants into the school environment. Relevant photos can be seen at http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com/

Among these were:

1. The open burning of discards as what the group witnessed at Moises Salvador Elementary School, Trinidad Tecson Elementary School and Doña Aurora Quezon Elementary School. Open burning, which is illegal under Republic Act 9003 (the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), generates toxic byproducts such as particulate matters, greenhouse gases, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, halogenated carbons and volatile organic compounds.

2. The improper disposal of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps at General Maximo Hizon Elementary School, Justo Lukban Elementary School and Santa Ana Elementary School where busted lamps were found mixed up with regular trash. Spent lamps, which are classified as “special waste” under R.A. 9003, should not be simply thrown into the bins to avoid breakage resulting to mercury spill. According to a government-published “Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste Management” guidebook, “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic especially to the developing nervous system.”

3. The popular practice of painting school walls, doors, window sills, chairs and tables as observed in many schools, which raises the issue of lead paint and lead paint removal, which if improperly done will contaminate the surroundings with lead dust.

Zeroing in on lead exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed concern over chipping paint that may contain lead, a potent neurotoxin, in many government-supplied wooden and metal chairs and tables, and even in the balusters and banisters of staircases of most schools.

“Our concern for lead exposure in the school setting is not without basis,”said Lucero.

She recalled that last year her group detected lead up to 13,600 parts per million (ppm) - way above the US permissible limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint and surface coatings - in several chairs and tables from a public elementary school and daycare center in Carmona, Cavite and in Tatalon, Quezon City.

“Children get most of their exposure from lead paint, dust and soil in and around places where they spend most of their time such as in homes, schools and playgrounds. Ingesting lead through their common hand to mouth behavior is the primary route of childhood exposure,” she pointed out.

“It’s high time that the Department of Education as well as local government and school authorities adopt and enforce a ‘no lead paint’ policy. Steps should also be exerted to assess the safety of our schools from lead contamination. For starters, painted school furnishings such as the chairs and tables used by kids in the classrooms, libraries and canteens should be analyzed for lead, so proper remedial measures can be carried out,” she said.

Citing information from the World Health Organization (WHO), the EcoWaste Coalition said that “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.”

WHO has warned that “childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year,” and has recommended risk mitigation measures to prevent childhood lead exposure, including phasing out lead in paints and eliminating the use of lead in homes, schools, school materials and children’s toys.

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.


List of schools visited by the EcoWaste Coalition on May 22-23, 2013:

(Paaralang Epifanio de los Santos); Paco (Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, Justo Lukban Elementary School, Silahis ng Katarungan Elementary School); Pandacan (Bagong Barangay Elementary School, J. Zamora Elementary School); Quiapo (A. Mabini Elementary School); Sampaloc(Dr. A. Albert Elementary School, Gen. L. Geronimo Elementary School, Juan Luna Elementary School, Juan Sumulong Elementary School, Laong Laan Elementary School, Moises Salvador Elementary School, Trinidad Tecson Elementary School); San Andres (Dona Aurora Quezon Elementary School); Santa Ana(Santa Ana Elementary School); Santa Cruz (A. Regidor Elementary School); Santa Mesa (P. Gomez Elementary School, Pio del Pilar Elementary School); Tondo (General Maximo Hizon Elementary School)

22 May 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Urges DA to Ban Rice Sacks with Lead-Containing Markings

The sacks used as primary packaging for rice, the nation’ s staple food, should be totally safe from lead, a toxic chemical.

As the country moves towards rice self-sufficiency as exemplified by the export of some 35 metric tons of aromatic, long-grain and organic black rice to the United Arab Emirates, it is important that our rice and its packaging are safe from contaminants such as lead.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, made this assertion after detecting lead up to 2,605 parts per million (ppm) in the painted markings of 59 out of 125 rice sacks that it obtained from rice dealers in 10 cities last month.

As part of its advocacy against hazardous chemicals in products and wastes, the group bought 125 empty rice sacks for P5 to P10 each, representing 100 brands, from various market vendors in the cities of Caloocan, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Pasay, Pasig, San Juan and Quezon.

Through a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer,  the group found lead in the range of 124 ppm to 2,605 ppm in 59 of the 125 samples (47%), exceeding the US limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint and surface coatings.

The other 66 samples (53%) had low or non-detectable levels of lead, indicating that rice sacks can be designed and labelled without using leaded dyes, inks or paints.

The group promptly alerted Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, as well as Food and Drugs Administration Director Kenneth Hartigan-Go, about its findings and urged the authorities to prohibit the use of lead in rice packaging materials, and to require rice millers to only use unleaded sacks and to observe standard labelling requirements, which should include “no lead dye, ink or paint ”on the label.

In response, the DA through Undersecretary and Chief of Staff  Emerson Palad transmitted the EcoWaste findings to Asst. Sec. Dante de Lima of the National Rice Program, Asst. Sec. Edilberto de Luna of the National Corn Program, Orlando Calayag of the National Food Authority, Eufemio Rasco of PhilRice and Leo Cañeda of the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Product Standards for their “information, guidance and appropriate action.”  

Usec. Palad told the DA officials that “the discovery of lead in food packaging materials causes alarm because of its health hazards, particularly for rice consumers.”

“We should emphasize that lead was detected not only in the outer portions of the sacks, but in the inner sections as well. We should further stress that, in most cases, we also detected traces of arsenic, chromium and mercury in sacks that tested positive for lead,” wrote Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition in their common letter to DA and the FDA.

"Our study is limited to determining the presence of lead in rice sacks, and excludes any analysis of lead in rice grains. As such, our study does not establish any association between the leaded sacks and the grains contained in those sacks,” she clarified.

In their letter, the EcoWaste Coalition elaborated why the government should immediately act on its findings:

1. The lead-painted designs may expose handlers (the pahinante) to lead, posing occupational health risk to the workers and their families as well (i.e., when the worker brings lead dust home with him).

2. The lead-painted markings will come off as the rice-filled sacks are moved from one place to another, potentially spreading leaded paint chips in different areas.

3. Leaded sacks will, in time, be disposed of, contributing to the lead-containing discards in the waste stream that are often dumped in municipal waste dumpsites and landfills.

4. Used rice sacks have a variety of uses, and the use of lead-laced sacks may contribute to some degree of lead exposure.

Rice sacks perform many other uses such as their use as eco-bags, as containers for recyclables and other discards, as storage for disaster relief goods and even as materials for fun games, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, lead exposure affects multiple organ systems and the systems most affected, , include the cardiovascular, developmental, gastrointestinal , hematological, musculoskeletal, neurological, ocular , renal and reproductive systems.

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.


21 May 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Bats for Eco-Friendly Brigada Eskwela

Quezon City. An environmental watchdog today asked Brigada Eskwela organizers and volunteers not to use leaded paint and produce leaded waste as public schools get much-needed sprucing up after the elections.

“Lead in paint, dust and soil is a serious health threat to young children and the prevention of this toxic menace should be on top of every Brigada Eskwela operation,” said Jeiel Guarino, Lead Paint Elimination Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Some enamel paints in the market still contain lead, a chemical toxin that impairs mental, cognitive and behavioral development, and should not be used at all in our schools,” Guarino said.

“Unleaded paint should be the only paint of choice for schools and other places frequented by children,” he stressed.

Guarino also pointed out that improper removal of leaded paint in school classrooms and amenities should be disallowed in Brigada Eskwela activities as this will cause the lead to scatter in dust and soil that children may ingest due to their normal hand-to-mouth behavior. 

Exposure to lead through ingestion, inhalation and sometimes through skin absorption will cause serious health problems that the World Health Organization WHO has described as being “irreversible” and “untreatable.”

To prevent children's exposure to lead-containing paint, dust and soil, the EcoWaste Coalition advised Brigada Eskwela organizers and volunteers not to use leaded paint and not to engage in uncontrolled sanding and scraping practices of painted surfaces that may contain lead.

“We further urge this year’s Brigada Eskwela to shun clean up practices that tend to contribute to environmental pollution,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

For an eco-friendly Brigada Eskwela, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following:

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

2. Say no to open burning or dumping of garbage.

3. Use unleaded paint and observe proper repainting procedures to prevent the spread of leaded dust in the surroundings.

5. Avoid hazardous cleaning agents such as muriatic acid and dichlorobenzene for cleaning toilets.

6. Safely handle and manage busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps and other “special waste.” 

7. Observe “no smoking policy” as embodied by DepEd Order 73-2010, R.A. 9211, the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 and other related policies. 

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

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.



19 May 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Finds More School Supplies Laden with Brain Poison

Quezon City.  With just over two weeks before the start of the new school year, a toxics watchdog urged parents to be cautious about buying school supplies that may contain lead, a chemical that can reduce a child’s intelligence.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the reminder after analyzing additional school supplies bought from retailers in Divisoria, Manila and in Araneta Center and Mega-Q-Mart in Quezon City with an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

“Parents should be extra careful when buying products that are designed to aid a child’s development, but could ironically contribute to reduced intelligence and school performance due to their secret lead content. We should assert the right of our children to school supplies with no hazardous ingredients that can endanger their health,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Lead interferes with the crucial development of a child’s brain and the damage caused by chronic, low-level exposure to lead is irreversible and untreatable with life-long impact.  Studies indicate that damage to a child’s developing brain happens even if there are no obvious signs of lead poisoning.  There is no such thing as safe level of lead exposure for vulnerable kids whose brains and other vital organs are still immature,” Dr. Bessie Antonio, a pediatric toxicologist at East Avenue Medical Center, pointed out.

The group’s latest advisory against lead exposure through some school supplies was triggered by its latest investigation that detected high concentrations of the brain-damaging poison above the US limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint and surface coatings in the following items:

1. Yong Xin two hole puncher, 50,900 ppm
2. Water color set,  45,200 ppm
3. Colored thumb tacks, 38,500 ppm
4. Colored butterfly clips, 26,600 ppm
5. Play magnet set, 19,500 ppm
6. Colored paper clips, 15,300 ppm
7. Play black board, 2,372 ppm
8. Metal ruler with PVC design, 1,722 ppm
9. PVC plastic envelope, 551 ppm
10. Pencil, 266 ppm

The group had earlier reported finding dangerous levels of lead up to 5,752 in kiddie backpacks, up to 3,347 in lunch bags and up to more than 100,000 ppm in reusable water containers.

Health scientists have not determined a level of lead exposure that may be deemed safe for developing children and foetuses, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

The World Health Organization said “there is no tolerable weekly intake for lead.”

Also, the European Safety Authority Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain said “there is no evidence for a threshold for critical lead-induced effects.”

“Since there is no safe level of childhood lead exposure, we must do all in our power to exterminate all  preventable sources of lead.  We have removed leaded gasoline through the Clean Air Act. It’s high time that we act on other sources of lead pollution,” Dizon said.

Aside from lead added to petrol, the WHO has identified other major sources of children’s exposure to lead, including lead-based paints and pigments, lead in products such as toys, lead solder in food cans, lead in ceramic glazes, lead in electronic waste, lead released by incineration of  lead-containing waste and lead in the food chain via contaminated soil.

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 May 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Sounds Alarm over Toxic Chemicals in Tarpaulins, Calls for Ban on Cadmium and Lead in PVC Tarpaulins

Quezon City.  As campaign materials are removed, recycled or disposed of, a waste and pollution watchdog warned that the plastic tarpaulins widely used by most of the 44,448 candidates to lure voters in the recently-concluded elections may have all contained cadmium, a carcinogenic substance.

The group made the supposition after subjecting 200 pieces of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tarpaulins collected from different polling and posting areas to chemical analysis using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

Results indicate total cadmium content up to 1,279 parts per million (ppm) in all the samples (100%), while lead up to 1,704 ppm was detected in 51  samples (25%).

“The results of our chemical analysis provide a valid basis for strong regulatory measures to curb the use of cadmium and lead in vinyl plastic materials such as tarpaulins, which can cause adverse effects to human health and the environment,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The unregulated use of toxic additives in PVC tarpaulins creates a host of health and environmental concerns not only during their production and use, but also during their disposal; hence the need for strong regulations,” he added.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, these regulatory measures could include:

A.  The issuance by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of Chemical Control Orders (CCOs) that will ban the use of cadmium and lead as PVC stabilizers or pigments, require the use of safe alternatives, and  ensure the environmentally-sound disposal of waste PVC.

B.  The amendment of the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 9615 dated January 15, 2013 that will make it mandatory on the part of political parties, candidates and other election stakeholders to use recyclable and environment-friendly campaign materials  containing no hazardous chemicals.

C.  The enactment of “Recyclable and Non-Toxic Campaign Materials Act” by the 16th Congress that will make future elections safe from harmful campaign paraphernalia.

Cadmium is classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) with inhalation as the main route exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Scientific studies have linked long-term exposure to cadmium to high blood pressure, age-related macular degeneration, and cancer of the breast, lung and kidney, which is considered the critical target organ for toxicity of cadmium in humans.  Cadmium is likewise known as an endocrine disrupting chemical contributing to reproductive disorders in men, causing genital deformities and affecting male virility.

According to experts, “children's developing bodies are especially vulnerable to damage from both lead and cadmium, but long-term exposure even at relatively low levels can be hazardous to anyone.” 

Quoting a review of scientific information by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the EcoWaste Coalition said that “products containing cadmium are not typically collected separately from the general waste stream in developing countries. Therefore cadmium discards will end up in municipal waste and disposed of in landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping.”

“Some of the cadmium in these products will be released to the environment, the extent of which depends on disposal method, control technologies applied and other factors,” UNEP said.

In 2011, the European Union banned the use of cadmium in certain plastic materials “to reduce environmental pollution from cadmium.” The 27-nation bloc is currently assessing whether its use in other plastics should be further restricted.

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.



(click pdf document on final review of scientific information re



14 May 2013

Eco-volunteers Hold Post-Election Clean-up, Urge Candidates to Follow Suit

Quezon City. The country’s post-elections have always been accompanied by voluminous trash from all sorts of political discards that the candidates utilized throughout their campaign.

This year was no exemption as the EcoWaste Coalition, together with the Quezon City Government and the Miss Earth Foundation, teamed up in getting rid of political materials at the vicinity of the Quirino Elementary School located in Anonas St., Barangay Quirino 2-B, Quezon City.

Miss Philippines Earth 2012 winners were led by reigning beauty titlist Stephany Stefanowitz who joined the multi-sectoral volunteers in the ecological clean-up drive with the dual purpose of encouraging the immediate removal of campaign remnants and ensuring that the discards are properly segregated to facilitate recycling.

The activity also drew the support of DILG-Quezon City Director, Engr. Juan Jovian Ingeniero, Public Affairs and Information Services Office (PAISO) head, Mr. Gregorio Banacia, and Environmental Protection and Waste Management Department (EPWMD) head, Ms. Frederika Rentoy.

Miss Earth Foundation Executive Director Cathy Untalan echoed the importance of isolating and recovering campaign discards “to avoid reusable and recyclable resources like paper, plastic and wood from being repeatedly wasted through dumping or burning,” at the same time hoping for “leaders who will really prioritize environmental protection.”

Quezon City EPWMD head Frederika Rentoy urged city residents to keep election campaign discards out of dumpsites and landfills and avoid subjecting them to open-burning.

“Time and again, the political ad bonanza has irrefutably defiled our streets and polluted the air, converting them into instantaneous and uncontrolled dumpsites,” Rentoy pointed out.

“The immediate removal of posters and banners after the elections is not enough. It is also important that these materials does not get burned or hauled into various disposal sites, which are already brimming with tons of garbage,” Rentoy added.

Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated their call for an eco-clean-up without resorting to dumping or burning as a solution to post-election garbage problems because of its known hazards to human and the environment.

“If we subject campaign materials to waste dumping or open-burning, these discards may be visually undetected after a typical neighborhood clean-up, but they’re actually far from gone since disposal through non-environmental means can trigger the formation of toxic leachate and noxious gases that can pollute the air, water and soil, including the food supply,” Vergara explained.

During the eco-clean-up, participants removed assorted political materials, mostly made of paper and plastic, plastered on school walls, buildings and establishments, waiting sheds, street posts and cables, after which, the materials were then sorted out, clustered and placed on used rice sacks.

The segregated paper and plastic materials were brought and sold to a junk shop for recycling.

“With this action, we hope to embolden our people to get into the post-election clean-up mode that should be accomplished with urgency and with the health and safety of our communities in mind,” Vergara added.

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.


12 May 2013

EcoWaste Coalition to Voters: Shun Littering, Uphold Clean Democracy

On the eve of the May 13 polls, an environmental network espousing Zero Waste appealed to the voting public to keep schools and other polling places garbage-free.

“We appeal to all voters not to drop any litter as they cast their votes tomorrow,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our right to vote does not in any way give us the excuse to mess up our surroundings,” she pointed out.

“Please be environmentally-responsible, shun littering and commit to a truly clean democracy that our nation can be proud of," she urged voters.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed to the illegal distribution and littering of sample ballots and other campaign materials during the election day as one of the most brazen electoral and environmental offense in past elections.

To avoid adding to the mess, the EcoWaste Coalition urged voters to come to the polling precincts ready with their own “kodiko” (list of bets to vote for) and reject sample ballots that are unlawfully handed out to voters beyond the official campaign period.

Aside from political propaganda materials, the vicinity of polling places are often littered with discarded food containers, snack and candy wrappers, plastic bags and cigarette butts, the EcoWaste Coalition said, prompting the group to appeal to vendors to provide bins for proper waste management.

Littering degrades the environment in clear violation of R
epublic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, a major environmental legislation, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded.

R.A. 9003 prohibits the littering, throwing or dumping of waste matters in public places such as streets, sidewalks, waterways and parks. Violators upon conviction shall be fined between P300 to P1,000 or render community service from 1 to 15 days or both.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier appealed to all candidates
to remove and recycle their campaign materials immediately after voting day.

“Voluntarily making May 14 as a cleanup and recycling day is the best way of finishing off a good fight, the nicest way of saying ‘thank you’ to the electorate, and the quickest way of putting the politically divisive campaign behind us,” Vergara said.

“Cleanup participants should as much as possible retrieve and sort the voluminous campaign discards for recycling. The dumping and burning discards are a big no-no in ecological cleanup,” she stressed.

The EcoWaste Coalition cautioned the public against recycling campaign materials made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for food packaging or for other uses involving young children as their chemical ingredients such as cadmium, lead and phthalates may leach and cause adverse health effects.

Burning chlorinated campaign materials such as PVC tarpaulins is dangerous as this will cause the release of hazardous byproducts, including dioxins, the most toxic of all man-made chemicals, the group also warned.

To encourage candidates to clean up their mess, the EcoWaste Coalition, together with the Quezon City Government and the Miss Earth Foundation, will hold a cleanup drive on Tuesday at the Quirino Elementary School located in Anonas St., Barangay Quirino 2-B, Quezon City.


11 May 2013

Environmental Groups Lament This Year's "Green" Survey Results

The results are in. A survey conducted by environmental groups for the Green Electoral Initiative (GEI)[1] 2013 resulted in a very poor response rate from senatorial candidates. Out of the 33 senatorial candidates, only six -- or a measly 18%-- replied to the survey. Those who sent in their responses to the GEI questionnaire included Samson Alcantara, Sonny Angara, Teddy Casiño, Bal Falcone, Risa Hontiveros and Cynthia Villar.

“We appreciate the efforts of these candidates who took the time to study the issues and respond to the survey despite their busy campaign schedules . It  provides us a good indication of their agenda for the environment if they are elected as legislators, and equally important where they stand on the critical environmental issues of our times. However,  the dismal overall response rate to the survey is itself lamentable. This does not reflect well on the priorities of the country’s aspiring leaders,” said Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The GEI questionnaire lined up the 10-point legislative agenda[2] of environmental groups composed of Greenpeace, EcoWaste Coalition, and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). It sought out the views and plans of senatorial candidates to address today’s most pressing environmental issues including Chemical Pollution and Consumer Safety, Solid Waste, Sustainable Agriculture and Genetically Modified Crops, Climate Change Adaptation, Energy, Oceans and Mining.

Of those who responded, Angara, Casiño, Hontiveros and Villar provided clear categorical answers with concrete plans to pursue legislative solutions or proposals on specific issues. While the four candidates supported an increase in uptake of renewable energy, not everyone agreed to phase out dirty energy sources such as coal and waste-to-energy facilities. Casiño and Hontiveros clearly favoured phasing out coal. All four were also against the recommissioning of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

All respondents agreed that public access to pollution information was crucial in curbing pollution and committed to push for the establishment of Pollutant Release and Transfer Register[3] (PRTR)
Angara, Hontiveros and Villar had very clear positions and plans that would push for the elimination of hazardous chemicals in consumer products. On the issue of plastic bags, Angara, Hontiveros and Villar committed to pursue legislation that would regulate them at a national scale.

All candidates support the reduction of chemicals in agriculture as well as promote ecological agriculture. While all commit to mandatory labelling of genetically engineered products and ingredients, only Angara, Casiño and Hontiveros and agree to a ban field releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Finally, on the question whether they have been involved in or benefited from environmentally destructive projects, Casiño and Hontiveros emphatically stated that they have not.

“This should serve as a guide to voters when they cast their ballots on Monday. If elected, we hope these candidates will follow through on their commitments,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition. “To those who project and package themselves as environmental crusaders, but have not responded to this survey, we challenge them to walk the talk. They should go beyond rhetoric and pursue legislation that would advance the  protection of the environment,” Lucero added.

[1] The GEI is a project of Greenpeace, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the EcoWaste Coalition and its member organizations started in 2007. It is a venue to engage candidates and the voting public on environmental issues. The survey is aimed at drawing out the green agenda of the candidates so that voters are able to choose green candidates.
[3] This policy establishes a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) which allows the public free access to information on hazardous chemicals and is aimed at pollution reduction. 

10 May 2013

Groups Laud DOH's Proposed Measure Banning BPA in Baby Feeding Bottles and Sippy Cups

Children’s health advocates gave the Department of Health (DOH) a pat on the back for initiating a consultative meeting yesterday for a long-awaited policy measure that will prohibit bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC), in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups.

The proposed DOH administrative order (A.O.) got a boost from Arugaan and the EcoWaste Coalition, which are actively seeking to uphold the right of every baby to breastmilk, “the first complete and Zero Waste food,” against false advertising and chemical pollution.  
The groups have long recommended to health authorities to impose a precautionary ban on BPA in baby food and beverage containers citing regulatory actions on BPA by dozens of countries to address growing consumers’ health and safety concerns.
Governments that have banned BPA in baby feeding bottles include the 27-nation European Union, Canada and USA in North America, South Africa, and Australia, China, Malaysia and Taiwan in Asia-Pacific.

“Banning BPA in baby bottles and cups is an important health milestone and we hope that everyone will throw their support behind its speedy approval and subsequent enforcement,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We urge the DOH to consider a more robust and stringent policy that will ban BPA in baby milk powder and baby food containers to further cut childhood BPA exposure through food contact materials,” added Ines Fernandez, Coordinator, Arugaan.

Both groups are seeking a broader ban on BPA in baby food packaging to ensure that defenseless babies and children are adequately protected against exposure to a recognized EDC.

During the deliberations, Arugaan and EcoWaste representatives pushed for consumer right to information via uniform, visible and truthful product labels that will indicate if a product is BPA-free or not.

They expressed support for the inclusion of a provision that will disallow the substitution of BPA with alternatives that can also lead to adverse health effects.
The groups cited Senate Bill 3121 on BPA filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago stating that “manufacturers shall not replace BPA with substances that are known carcinogens, those that have carcinogenic potentials, likely carcinogens, known to be human carcinogens, likely to be human carcinogens, or suggestive of being carcinogens, and those with reproductive toxicants.”

The groups emphasized the primacy of protecting children’s health over profits as they stressed the need to apply the precautionary principle “to inform decisions about exposure to, and risk from, potential endocrine disruptors.”

They supported the immediate promulgation of the ban on BPA-containing baby feeding bottles and cups to ensure that non-compliant products are not imported and dumped into the country.
BPA, a chemical used to manufacture hard polycarbonate plastic containers, is widely used in clear plastic bottles and in food-can liners.

Studies have linked BPA exposure to reproductive, neurological and development disorders, as well as to heart disease, obesity and cancer.