31 July 2013

Waste Pickers Frame Common Agenda, Fight for Right to Socio-legal Recognition

Davao City. National initiatives toward continuing clamor for waste pickers to gain social and legal recognition as respectable workers, as well as their expansion and integration into the solid waste management system, have sustained heat as more than 40 people from various waste picker groups, NGOs, and government agencies from Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, General Santos City, and Butuan City attended an awareness-raising workshop with the purpose of advancing waste pickers’ socio-legal rights.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in cooperation with local-based groups Kinaiyahan Foundation, Inc.; Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS); Philippine Island Kids International Foundation, Inc.; Mamamayan Ayaw Sa Aerial Spray (MAAS); Soroptimist International of Davao City; and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) – Davao City, has organized a two-day regional training workshop for waste pickers at the UCCP Shalom Center in Davao City.

The two-day activity, which concludes today, has gotten the support of Davao City Councilors Hon. Joselle D. Villafuerte, Chairperson of the City Council Committee on Health, and Hon. Marissa Salvador-Abella, Vice-Chairperson of the City Council Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

According to the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), waste pickers are either “individuals working and rummaging through garbage on dumps, informal private collectors selling recyclables, or organized sorters tied with unions, cooperatives and associations.”

“The workshop intends to establish a mutual understanding regarding the current solid waste management (SWM) systems, analyze the present and emerging threats of such systems that neglect recyclers, and examine solutions and legal provisions that will pave the way for the inclusion of waste pickers into the prevailing SWM models,” said Betty Cabazares, Executive Director of Kinaiyahan Foundation.

In 2010, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) approved the National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Solid Waste Management through NSWMC Resolution No. 47 to formalize the incorporation of the informal waste sector into the SWM system by “providing them with a favorable policy environment, skills development and access to a secured livelihood, employment and social services.”

Cabazares clarified that the NSWMC Framework Plan has been successfully enforced in some areas, but its implementation in various portions of the country needs to be strictly carried out, “particularly in localities where LGUs are subcontracting waste collection and segregation to private companies, and in so doing, imperils the livelihood of waste pickers whose daily work entails collection, segregation and selling of recyclable throw-outs.”

The government pushes for the adoption of “green technologies” such as waste-to-energy plants, as a primary solution to the country’s worsening garbage problems. This move tends to neglect the more realistic green technology that most people working in the informal recycling sector does for their living – inclusive recycling with social, legal and labor rights recognition.

“Amidst incessantly growing joblessness, the government should uphold pro-poor projects and legislations that will improve occupational health and safety of waste pickers, secure their employment and encourage more unemployed Filipinos to enter the recycling industry,” said Thomas Kellenberger, Founding President of the Philippine Island Kids International Foundation, Inc.

Kellenberger, a former Swiss policeman who abandoned his job years ago three years ago and moved to Cagayan de Oro City to work full-time for his foundation and help children rummaging in garbage dumps and their families out of poverty.

“Since the first time I visited the country in 2007, waste pickers in the Philippines remain undignified as they struggle for the government’s attention with respect to their social and occupational rights. They often live in dire conditions, have very low incomes and were considered of low social status,” observed Kellenberger.

There is no doubt that people in the informal waste sector toil under an apathetic state policy and governing environment. Despite their pragmatic fiscal, societal and ecological impact to the communities they live in, the government has yet to institutionalize marginalized-inclusive policies and regulations that will defend waste pickers’ rights and guarantee occupational stability and social protection.

In order to advance their rights, the repeatedly cold-shouldered waste pickers need to have a voice that will represent them in local and national policy, regulatory and collective bargaining committees.

For his part, Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector (IWS) Project Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, says that one of the workshop’s objectives is to “reinforce local waste pickers’ organizations to support their individual and sectoral concerns and advance the improvement of their working conditions, which yield reliable incomes and continuous decent employment.”

“The consultative workshop allowed partakers to tell their stories of progress and improvement, as well as challenges being chanced upon as they make a living from waste. Some of these challenges include secure access to discards; exposure to health and safety risks and hazards due to presence of toxic, hazardous and infectious wastes in the disposal facilities; and inadequate government support. To take on these challenges, the participants need to have stronger organizations that will pro-actively fight for their social inclusion and improved economic conditions,” Palacio added.

On July 24 and 25, a similar activity was held in University of Cebu – Banilad, where more than 50 individuals from several local community groups and NGOs from Cebu City, Mandaue City and Bacolod City took part in an awareness-raising training and consultation workshop.

-end-

References:

30 July 2013

Groups Expose Illegal Sale of Mercury-Laced Cosmetics in Davao City




Davao City/Quezon City.  Skin whitening cosmetics containing dangerous levels of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, are being sold in Davao City in brazen violation of the law.

The Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) and the EcoWaste Coalition, which are based in Davao and Quezon Cities, respectively, made the discovery after obtaining 7 skin lightening products with mercury up to 6,633 parts per million (ppm), way above the 1 ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

Ann Fuertes, IDIS Executive Director, deplored the sale of mercury-tainted cosmetics as “a direct affront to the right of consumers to non-hazardous products,” stressing that “stopping such illegal trade will help in reducing the amount of mercury that gets into our bodies and the environment.”

“We therefore urge the local government and police authorities to get to the bottom of this wicked trade of poison cosmetics in the city and bring violators to justice,” she said.

Fuertes added that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) should actively disseminate its recall advisories to inform and guide cosmetics vendors and consumers, as well as help law enforcers in performing their duties.

For her part, Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition National Coordinator, prodded the public to be extra careful when buying cosmetics promising fairer skin complexion and reject unauthorized and insufficiently labeled ones, including those that do not truthfully disclose their chemical ingredients.


She pointed out that “brown is beautiful” and that the quickest way for consumers to avoid mercury exposure in cosmetics is for them “to be satisfied with their natural skin tone and not to use synthetic means to whiten the skin.”  

The groups procured the 7 skin whitening cosmetics, costing P75 to P150 per product, from several shops located at Chinatown and other places in test buys conducted on July 28-29 in Davao City.

In addition, the groups also obtained a number of cheap skin whitening products sold for P20 each that have no market authorization from the FDA.  

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device that can measure the concentrations of heavy metals in consumer products and other media, the groups detected high levels of mercury in the following products:

1)  Erna Whitening Cream with 6,633 ppm
2)  Jiaoli Miraculous Cream with 5,508 ppm
3)  S’Zitang (golden yellow box) with 4,828 ppm
4)  Jiao Li 7-days Specific Eliminating Preckle AB Set with 4,071 ppm
5)  S’ Zitang 7-days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set with 3,409 ppm,
6)  White Magnolia Powerful Spot Remover Repair Essence with 3,406  ppm,
7)  Jiao Li Speckle-Dispelling & Whitening Cream with 3,042 ppm
The FDA has yet to ban Erna and White Magnolia, while Jiaoli and S’Zitang are among the 93 skin whitening products banned by the agency for containing mercury above the allowable limit.


According to the FDA, “there have been cases of adverse health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetic products, such as kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring. Chronic use reduces the skin's normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections.”

“The transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life,” the FDA warned

The manufacture, importation, selling or offering for sale of cosmetics without FDA approval or found to contain harmful or toxic substances is in direct violation of Republic Act No. 9711 , the Food and Drug Administration Act, and  Republic Act No. 7394, the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

-end-
Reference:

29 July 2013

Davao: Paint Brushes Used as Basting Brushes for BBQ Not Safe Due to Lead Content

 Paint brushes with lead levels above 90 ppm (above) and those with low or non-detectable lead (below).



Environmental organizations today cautioned food preparers and vendors against using paint brushes for basting or greasing barbecued or grilled meat.

The Kinaiyahan Foundation based in Davao City and the EcoWaste Coalition based in Quezon City jointly aired the warning after detecting lead, a toxic chemical, in paint brushes that are commonly used as basting brushes.

“The lead-containing paint of the brush handle may chip off due to repeated use,  get onto the basting sauce, then to the barbecued or grilled meat and finally into the body when it is eaten.  Lead enters our body each time we ingest or inhale something that contains lead, which builds up in the body over time and causes permanent health damage, especially among young children,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“In the interest of food safety and consumer health, we appeal to Davaoeños to heed our warning and only use non-toxic food-grade utensils to reduce any possibility of lead exposure via contaminated food.  As doctors would say, prevention is better than cure,” said Betty Cabazares, Executive Director of Kinaiyahan Foundation.

As part of the groups’ advocacy to protect the public health and the environment, 40 samples of paint brushes were obtained from hardware stores located at Center Point Plaza, Gaisano Mall, NCCC Mall, Robinsons Abreeza Mall, SM City Davao, Victoria Plaza Mall and Unitop General Merchandise Inc.

The samples, costing P8 to P95 each, were then subjected to chemical analysis using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

Out of 40 samples, 33 were found to contain lead on the painted handles of the brushes in the range of 271 parts per million (ppm) to 8,609 ppm, exceeding the US limit of 90 ppm for lead in paints and surface coatings.

The 33 samples of Boerdun, Camel, Croco, Eterna, Globe, Lotus, Hippo and Stanley paint brushes were found to contain excessive amounts of lead, with the following having the highest levels:

1. Camel Paint Brush, (2"), 8,609 ppm
2. Croco Utility Paint Brush, (1"), 8,342 ppm
3. Croco Utility Paint Brush, (2"), 7,713 ppm
4. Camel Paint Brush, (1/2"), 6,151 ppm
5. Hippo Utility Paint Brush, (2"), 5,773 ppm
6. Camel Paint Brush, (1"), 5,703 ppm
7. Boerdun Paint Brush (2 1/2) 4,183 ppm
8. Lotus Paint Brush (2”), 3,882

The seven Greenfield, KYK and Stanley paint brushes were found to contain low or non-detectable levels of lead.

In light of their findings, the Kinaiyahan Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition both urged the Davao City Government to take urgent measures to educate the public about the risks of misusing paint brushes for food purposes and to forbid such prevalent practice to safeguard consumers’ health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has described lead as “a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

“After  it  enters  the  body,  lead  is distributed  to  organs  such  as  the kidneys, liver, and bones.  The body stores  lead  in  the  teeth  and  bones where  it  accumulates  over  time,” the WHO said.

“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 emphasized.

-end-

Reference:

27 July 2013

Illegal Dumpsite in Pier 18 to be Investigated

 
 
(Photos courtesy of Greenpeace)
The illegal dumpsite at Manila Bay’s Pier 18 will be investigated, according to EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace. This pronouncement followed the four-hour shutdown of the facility by activists from Greenpeace Southeast Asia and crew for the ship Esperanza.

Early this morning the activists, aboard rubber boats, blocked the facility with mooring lines, temporarily stopping the barge operations of the polluting facility. The activists pulled out of the blockade after their peaceful protest was threatened by armed security who pulled out their guns in order to continue their waste transfer operations via their barges. Greenpeace and Ecowaste believe that Pier 18 operations put people and the environment in triple jeopardy: first, with the illegal waste dump right beside Manila Bay, second, with waste transfer operations that heightens the risk of spilling trash in the bay, and third, with the dumping of garbage in a new site, victimizing other communities.

“Today EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace stopped, albeit temporarily, the operations of this illegal waste dump,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition. “We are confident that this has started the process for this dumpsite’s permanent closure. days are numbered.”

EcoWaste Coalition has been compiling a body of evidence to initiate legal proceedings against the operations in Pier 18. During today’s activity, together with Greenpeace, they have sent notice to the Office of the Manila City Mayor, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Metro Manila Development Authority, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Office of the Environmental Ombudsman and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

“Together with concerned government agencies and local government units, we are committed to helping them uphold our laws,” said Lucero. “Waste dumps are illegal and Pier 18 is just one of the worst examples of such facilities. The permanent shut down of this dump should be just the beginning if the government is serious about implementing the Solid Waste Management Law (RA 9003) and managing our waste and resources effectively.”

Early this morning, Senator Loren Legarda reiterated her call for the strict enforcement of RA 9003, in support support of the joint call of the environmental groups Greenpeace and the EcoWaste Coalition for the cleanup of Manila Bay. In a statement, Senator Legarda said that she will “push for an environmental audit to see the rate of compliance with our environmental laws, including the Solid Waste Management Act, and examine together with our lead implementing agencies what impedes the strict enforcement of these laws.”

Senator Miriam Santiago is also set to file a resolution to look into the operations of Pier 18. Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition welcome both moves.

“We believe the government has no choice but to close the waste dump at Pier 18,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Otherwise, its continued existence will be a monument to government failure, which will continue to proclaim how, despite strong laws, our mandated agencies are helpless to protect our waters, and secure our health and livelihoods.”

“The closure of Pier 18 is an important step in cleaning up our coastlines and rehabilitating Manila Bay. The closure of all other illegal dumps located near water bodies will be a big step in rehabilitating all our country’s seas,” he added.

26 July 2013

Cebu BBQ Vendors Cautioned vs. Use of Lead-Tainted Paint Brushes

 
 
Environmental groups promoting public safety from lead paint hazard today warned against the improper use of paint brushes as basting brushes for barbecues and other food preparations.  

Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center and Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition sounded the alarm on potential lead contamination of the city’s famous sinugba (barbecue) after finding vendors in the Larsian and Carbon areas applying basting sauce on chicken, pork, hotdog and isaw barbecues with paint brushes that are supposed to be used for applying paints, not for rubbing barbecue basting sauce. 

To verify if paint brushes sold locally are lead-safe, the groups obtained 19 samples of paint brushes sold at P5 to P119 each from 6 hardware stores in the city.

With the help of a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, the groups examined the paint brushes for total lead content.

Out of 19 samples of paint brushes, 16 were found to contain lead in the range of 309 parts per million (ppm) to 10,500 ppm, way above the US limit of 90 ppm for lead in paints and surface coatings.

“Our joint investigation with PEJC proves that paint brushes often used for greasing barbecues contain elevated levels of lead,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“This raises the possibility of the basting sauce being contaminated with lead from the paint brushes, especially if the brushes have started to flake due to frequent use,” he said. 

“The results of our probe should prompt the authorities to initiate an information drive regarding the hazards of misusing lead-containing products, especially for food preparations,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Coordinator of the PEJC. 

“We also hope that our findings will induce hardware stores to demand lead-safe paints and paint brushes from their suppliers in order to safeguard the public health,” she added.

The top nine paint brushes that showed the highest levels of lead include:

1.  Lotus Utility Paint Brush (2 1/2”), 10,500 ppm
2.  Panclub Utility Paint Brush (2 1/2”), 9.801 ppm
3.  Camel Paint Brush (2 1/2”), 6,400 ppm
4.  Lotus Utility Paint Brush (3”), 3,271 ppm
5.  Camel Paint Brush (1 1/2”), 2,384 ppm
6.  Panclub Utility Paint Brush (1 1/2"),  2,153 ppm
7.  Globe Paint Brush (2”), 2,087 ppm
8.  Globe Paint Brush, (2 1/2”), 1,924 ppm
9.  Globe Paint Brush (3/4 “), 1,495 ppm

Three samples of Mayon paint brushes had non-detectable levels of lead.

The groups observed that none of the leaded paint brushes indicated they had lead, and none provided lead warning labels.

Also, none of the leaded paint brushes gave any precautionary statement that such brushes should not be utilized for food purposes.

As a preventive measure, the EcoWaste Coalition and PEJC advised barbecue vendors to shun paint brushes, and instead use safe and hygienic materials such as improvised brushes made of banana pandan or tanglad leaves.

The groups also urged the local Sanggunian to immediately craft an ordinance that will ban the use of paint brushes for food applications as a precaution against lead contamination, which could result to adverse health effects, especially among children.

Citing information from the World Health Organization (WHO), the groups warned that lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurological, haematological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and renal systems.”

WHO emphasized 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.”

Echoing WHO’s suggestion, the groups said that “primary prevention (i.e. the elimination of exposure to lead at its source) is the single most effective intervention against childhood lead poisoning.”

-end-

Reference:

25 July 2013

Waste Pickers Unite For Rights, Gain Support From Diverse Sectors

Cebu City.  A significant step towards on-going national initiatives of the informal waste sector to gain recognition and legitimization as decent workers, as well as their development and integration into the solid waste management system, has gained momentum as over 50 individuals from several local community groups and NGOs from Cebu City, Mandaue City and Bacolod City took part in an awareness-raising training and consultation aimed at raising occupational consciousness regarding waste pickers’ rights.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in partnership with local groups Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), and the University of Cebu – Banilad, has organized a two-day regional training workshop for waste pickers at the University of Cebu, Banilad Campus in Cebu City.

The two-day activity, which culminates today, also gained the support of Cebu City Councilor Nida Cabrera, Chairperson of the City Council Committee on Environment, as well as Engr. Ricardo Mendoza, Director of the Mandaue City Solid Waste Management Board.

According to the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), waste pickers are either “individuals working and rummaging through garbage on dumps, informal private collectors selling recyclables, or organized sorters tied with unions, cooperatives and associations.”

“The workshop aims to develop a common understanding about the present solid waste management (SWM) systems, discuss the current and emerging threats of such systems that tend to exclude waste pickers, and identify solutions and legal provisions that will allow the mandatory inclusion of waste pickers into the existing SWM models,” said PEJC Coordinator Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.

In 2010, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) adopted a National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Solid Waste Management via NSWMC Resolution No. 47 in the hope of integrating waste pickers into the SWM system by “providing them with a favorable policy environment, skills development and access to a secured livelihood, employment and social services.”

Atty. Ramos explained that the NSWMC Framework Plan has been carried out successfully in a few areas, but still needs strict implementation in many parts of the country, “especially in places where localities are outsourcing waste collection and segregation to private entities, thereby threatening the jobs of waste pickers whose bread and butter includes collection, segregation and retail of recyclable discards.”

In the midst of several plans to adopt “green technologies” such as waste-to-energy plants, the government undermines the real eco-friendly technology – comprehensive recycling with social justice and labor rights recognition.

“In light of continually rising unemployment, the government should promote programs and legislations that will uplift working conditions of waste pickers and sustain their livelihood in the recycling industry as opposed to advocating supposed “green technology” projects and policies that expel large number of workers,” Atty. Ramos added.

Indeed, for decades now, Filipino waste pickers still fight for a dignified livelihood as they struggle for their occupational rights to be recognized and their working conditions to improve; and despite their positive economic, social and environmental impact to the communities they live in, the government, in general, still lacks supportive and inclusive policies and laws that will safeguard waste pickers’ rights and ensure occupational stability and social protection.

In order to advance their rights, the marginalized waste pickers need to have one solid voice that will represent them in local and national policy, regulatory and collective bargaining bodies.

For his part, Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector (IWS) Project Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, says that one of the workshop’s objectives is to “strengthen local waste pickers’ organizations to assist their individual concerns and facilitate the improvement of their working conditions, which results to guaranteed earnings and sustained decent employment.”

“The workshop allowed participants to share their stories of growth and development, as well as challenges being encountered as they make a living from waste. Some of these challenges include secure access to waste; exposure to health risks and hazards due to presence of toxic, hazardous and infectious wastes in the disposal facilities; and insufficient government support. To take on these challenges, the participants need to have stronger organizations that will pro-actively fight for their social inclusion and improved economic conditions," Palacio added.

-end-
References:


http://www.rrcap.ait.asia/projects/awmap/Final%20IS%20Report%2007152009%20%20%28NSWMC%29_.pdf?docid=2637

24 July 2013

Toxic Lead Detected in Cebu Ukulele Souvenirs (Groups Urge Ukulele and Other Souvenir Makers to Switch to Unleaded Paint)

It’s not fun to play with colorful toy ukuleles if these are coated with leaded paint, two environmental health groups jointly declared today.

The Cebu City-based Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) and the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition made the common statement after detecting lead, a toxic chemical used as drier or pigment in some enamel paints, in toy ukuleles bought from musical and souvenir shops located in Cebu and Lapu-Lapu Cities.

The groups bought the unlabeled samples for P100 to P200 each on July 22-23 and consequently analyzed for heavy metals using a device called the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

The limited sampling of toy ukuleles being sold in Cebu is part of the groups’ ongoing advocacy to promote safe children’s products without harmful chemicals that can bring about adverse health effects.

The six ukulele samples were found to contain lead levels above the limit of 90 parts per million (ppm)  for lead in paints and surface coatings under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Sample one had 13,900 ppm of lead, sample two 10,100 ppm, sample three 7,321 ppm, sample four 2,417 ppm, sample five 2,192 ppm and sample six 649 ppm.
Aside from lead, traces of other toxic metals such as arsenic (up to 2,113 ppm), cadmium (up to 69 ppm), chromium (up to 9,849 ppm) and mercury (up to 63 ppm) were likewise detected on the painted designs of the popular souvenir items.

“Cebu-made toy ukuleles are among the top picks for local and foreign tourists as nice and affordable giveaways to kids.  It’s essential that such a popular memento does not present any lead paint hazard to child users,” said law faculty Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Coordinator of PEJC. 

“We urge our ukulele and other souvenir makers to ensure only unleaded paint is used on their products,” she said.

“The leaded paint on the ukulele will, after a while, come off and get mixed with dust that gets into a child’s hands and into her or his mouth, thus resulting to the unintentional ingestion of lead,” explained Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“There is no level of childhood exposure to lead that is considered safe,” he emphasized.

To assist consumers, particularly tourists, in making informed choices, both the PEJC and the EcoWaste Coalition insist that ukulele makers provide “non-toxic” labels on their products after due laboratory analysis and certification.

Lead is considered one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO).

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

“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 warned.

All preventable sources of childhood lead exposure should be minimized, if not eliminated, for children's health and safety, the EcoWaste Coalition and the PEJC said.

-end-

Reference:

23 July 2013

Cebu Vendors Defy Ban on Mercury-Containing Cosmetics (Groups Urge the Authorities to Charge Violators, End Impunity)


Imported skin whitening products banned by the national government for containing mercury are being sold in broad daylight in Cebu City in clear defiance of the law.

The Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) and the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition, revealed the “toxic truth” after obtaining five forbidden cosmetics in test buys conducted on July 22 at shops located in Pres. Osmeña Blvd. and Sanciangko Sts., Cebu City.

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has so far recalled 93 skin whitening cosmetics for containing excessive levels of mercury and for having no market authorization from the agency.

“We deplore the illegal sale of these mercury-added cosmetics by vendors who bag profits at the expense of their customers’ health,” said environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Coordinator of the PEJC.

“Our local government and police officials should take firm action to put a stop to such unlawful trade and make law breakers accountable,” she insisted.

For his part, Thony Dizon, Project Protect Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, cautioned consumers against patronizing unauthorized cosmetics that are supposed to result in fairer skin complexion.

“Please don’t buy cosmetics that are not duly authorized by the FDA and often with labels that are not understandable as this may spell trouble for you,” he said.

“Repeated applications of mercury-laden cosmetics onto the skin can actually harm your skin as well as your brain and kidneys due to direct and extended exposure,” Dizon warned.

Chemical analysis through a handheld  X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer showed high concentrations of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, in all the five products in violation of the regulatory limit of one part per million (ppm) under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

The Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set had 10,700 ppm of mercury.

The Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening & Anti-Aging Cream had 5,176 ppm of mercury.

The Huayuenong 12-Day Whitening & Speckle Removing Wrecking Set had 4,371 ppm of mercury.

The Miss Beauty Magic Cream had 3,847 ppm of mercury.

The Flower Woman 7-Day Whitening & Spot Day & Night Cream had 3,766 ppm of mercury.

Huayuenong was among the 16 skin whitening products banned by the FDA last week, while the Flower Woman, Sara and Miss Beauty were banned in 2011, and Jiaoli in 2010.

According to a fact sheet prepared by the World Health Organization, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”
“Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections,” the WHO said.

WHO explained that “mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into wastewater. The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish.”

“Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children,” the WHO further said.

-end-

Reference:

http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/mercury/en/index.html

21 July 2013

Statement: FDA Lauded for Taking Public Health Action vs. Dangerous Cosmetics


Fifteen of the 16 unauthorized beauty products recently recalled by the FDA (not included is “Zyiang Day Cream”).
The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental and health watchdog working towards a zero waste and toxics-free society, applauds the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for its latest public health action banning the following 16 unauthorized skin whitening cosmetics that pose imminent danger or injury to consumers. 

1. Baiyansu Three-in-One Whitening Set;
2. Beauty Girl Green Cucumber 6 Days Double Whitening Soft Essence Cream;
3. Bihuayn Whitening Day Cream;
4. Care Skin Strong Whitening and Spot Removing Package;
5. Gakadi Freckle Removing Cream;
6. Hengxueqian Whitening Set;
7. Huayuenong 12 Days Whitening and Speckle Removing Wrecking Set;
8. White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L-Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream;
9. Yudantang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence;
10. Yudantang Green Olive and Papaya Natural Essence 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream;
11. Yudantang Sea Pearl and Papaya 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream;
12. Yudantang Sheep Essence and Green Cucumber and Ginseng 10 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot and Double Whitening Sun Block Cream;
13. Yudantang 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence (with picture of cow and papaya);
14. Zyiang Day Cream;
15. Whitening Cream, with the rest of the label in Chinese characters); and
16. Label in Chinese characters, gold package with picture of red flower with three green leaves.

Chemical analyses conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition this year on samples of the 16 banned products showed outrageous levels of mercury reaching up to 63,800 parts per million (ppm) in blatant violation of the permissible limit of one ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.  Mercury, a potent poison that can permanently damage or injure the brain, kidneys and the skin, should not be present in consumer products such as cosmetics that are directly applied onto the skin.

To date, the FDA has since 2010 banned a total of 93 skin whitening cosmetics, mostly coming from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.  To our knowledge, the Philippines ranks number one among importing countries that have recalled the most number of mercury-laden cosmetics to protect the public health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury in such products.

Among these 93 banned skin whitening cosmetics were 42 products that the EcoWaste Coalition procured from Chinese drug stores and herbal and beauty product stalls during its test buys in Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City, screened for mercury using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, and subsequently disclosed to the public through the mass media to alert both the authorities and the consumers.

While commending the FDA for their action, particularly the Office of the FDA Director Kenneth Hartigan-Go and the Center for Cosmetic Regulation and Research, we appeal to other governmental agencies to weigh in on the ongoing drive to bring the unlawful trade in dangerous cosmetics containing mercury and other harmful substances to a close.

In particular, we request the Bureau of Customs to stop the unrelenting entry of such contraband goods into our country’s ports, and the Department of Interior and Local Government to mobilize local authorities,  specifically the Mayors and Chiefs of Police of LGUs in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas, to effectively enforce the FDA recall orders.

We ask cosmetics manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to abide by the requirements of R.A. 9711, the Food and Drug Administration Act and R.A. 7394, the Consumer Act of the Philippines, and ensure that only duly authorized and labelled non-toxic cosmetics and personal care products are offered for sale to Filipino consumers.  

In line with its goal of promoting the consumer right to information on chemicals in processes, products and wastes, especially the right of children, women and other vulnerable groups to be protected against toxic chemical trespass and harm, we reiterate our commitment to work with the FDA and other stakeholders in the public and private sectors in achieving chemical safety for all.

Aileen Lucero
Acting National Coordinator
EcoWaste Coalition
21 July 2013

 

Cheap Children's Jewelries Loaded with Toxic Metals, Congress Urged to Act vs Health Threat from Toxic-Laden Children's Products

Cheap and cute jewelries for young girls and boys may be easy on the pocket, but dangerous to a child’s health because of their undisclosed chemical poisons.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for children’s protection against harmful chemicals in commerce and the environment, made the warning on the eve of the Joint Session of the 16th Congress in a bid to draw lawmakers’ attention on the lingering health threat from the marketing of toxic-laden children’s products.

“The problem with toxic chemicals lurking in children’s products such as toys, school supplies, jewelries and accessories has gone unabated to the detriment of Filipino kids who are easy prey for some callous  manufacturers,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Lawmakers of the 16th Congress have the opportunity to correct this chemical injustice against defenseless children by enacting a robust law that will eliminate toxic substances in products marketed to children,” she said.  

“We ask our politicians to rise to the challenge and consider such vital legislative measure a priority,” she added.

The group bought some 100 units of low-cost kiddie bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings – with prices ranging from P3 to P25 each -  from retailers at 168 Shopping Mall, 999 Shopping Mall and at the bargain section of the posh Lucky Chinatown Mall.

The samples were procured on July 19 and 20 and analyzed for toxic metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

Out of the 100 samples of cheap children’s jewelry, 78 items (78%) were found to have harmful chemicals, particularly lead and cadmium, above levels of concern.

Lead, a toxicant that primarily affects the developing brain and the central nervous system, was found in 72 samples with the painted guitar pendant of a P25 “Huangbin” necklace registering the highest level of lead at 132,900 ppm. 

Thirteen of these 72 items, mostly earrings with “Hello Kitty” designs that sell for as low as P12 per set, had lead over 100,000 ppm.

Metal rings featuring “The Avengers” heroes and villains and costing just P3 each were found to contain 16,300 ppm to 39,600 ppm of lead.

Cadmium, a cancer-causing substance, was found in 24 items in the range of 204 ppm to a sky-high 220,700 ppm that was detected on a P13 earring with a yellow star design.

During the past two years, the EcoWaste Coalition had generated solid evidence illustrating the widespread trade of unlabeled and unregistered toys loaded with excessive levels of toxic metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.

Arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury are among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” according to the World Health Organization.

In 2012, 313 of the 518 toy products tested by the EcoWaste Coalition had one or more toxic metals above levels of concern.

In 2011, 121 of the 435 toy samples analyzed by the group were found to contain toxic metals above permissible levels.

-end-

16 July 2013

Environmental Groups Push Mercury Warning Labels for Fluorescent Lamps and Other Mercury-Added Lamps



Quezon City.  Environmental and health advocates today pressed the government to ensure that compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and other mercury-containing lamps sold in the market bear mercury warning labels.

In a common letter sent to the Departments of Trade and Industry, Energy and Environment and Natural Resources, the EcoWaste Coalition and 17 other groups insisted that such lamps must have “Contains Mercury” disclosure on product labels.
 

Signing the letter addressed to Secretaries Gregory L. Domingo, Carlos Jericho L. Petilla and Ramon J.P. Paje were the EcoWaste Coalition, Alaga Lahat, Arugaan, Buklod Tao, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Interface Development Interventions, International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology-Philippines, IPEN, Kinaiyahan Foundation, Kinablangan Elementary Alumni Association, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Partnership for Clean Air, Philippine Earth Justice Center, Sagip Pasig Movement and Soljuspax.

“Consumers have the right to know that fluorescent lamps and other kinds of lamps contain mercury and should be handled with extreme caution, from the point of purchase to disposal, to avoid breakage and release of mercury vapor,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin of special concern for the brain development in unborn and growing children, and also for consumers or workers, particularly waste handlers and informal recyclers, who may be exposed to mercury vapor from broken or crushed lamps, Dizon said.

Busted or spent mercury-added lamps are considered hazardous waste under R.A. 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act and classified as “special waste” under R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, thus requiring special management and disposal separate from ordinary trash, the groups reminded.

Based on a recent market monitoring conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, all the 12 brands of CFLs that it bought from major supermarkets and hardware stores contain no mercury warning labels, and none provided information about the amount of mercury each product contains.

Among these 12 CFL products were Akari, Amarflex, Delta, Firefly, GE, Luxen, Omni, Osram, Panasonic, Philips, Sylvania and Toshiba.

While providing energy efficiency information and other labeling requirements, the  CFLs may be deemed mislabeled under Article 91 of R.A. 7394 for failing to provide mercury warning information and other pertinent facts, the groups observed.

Citing  R.A. 7394’s Article 91, the groups said that a product containing hazardous substances is   deemed mislabeled if it fails to state conspicuously the common name of the chemical contributing to its harmfulness and the signal word “warning” or “caution.”

The said law further requires “a clear statement as to the possible injury it may cause if used improperly,” “precautionary measures describing the action to be followed or avoided,” “instructions for handling and storage,” and the words “keep out of reach of children,” among other requirements.

Aside from the health and safety considerations, specifying the mercury content on the packaging and the lamp itself will facilitate proper identification and inventory of certain CFLs to be phased out by 2020 under the Minamata Convention on Mercury to be signed in October 2013, the groups said.

Under the Mercury Treaty, the manufacture, import or export  of CFLs equal to or less than 30 watts with more than 5 mg of mercury per bulb shall not be allowed by 2020.

Also to phased out by 2020 are triband phosphor linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) less than 60 watts with mercury content exceeding 5 mg per lamp, and halophosphate LFLs less than or equal to 40 watts with mercury content exceeding 10 mg per lamp.

In the case study on CFLs prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition and included in the UNEP 2011 “Study on the Possible Effects on Human Health and the Environment in Asia and the Pacific of the Trade of Products Containing Lead, Cadmium and Mercury,” the group put forward several recommendations to safeguard the public health and the environment from mismanaged CFLs that often end up in waste heaps, bins and dumps.

Among their recommendations to the government were the following:

1. Adopt and enforce a deliberate policy to allow only the importation, distribution, sale and use of low-mercury CFLs and with proper labeling.

2. Reiterate the legal classification of spent CFLs as “special waste” that should be appropriately treated as hazardous waste in an environmentally-sound manner, and not simply dispose of in dumps or landfills along with residual trash.

3. Introduce Extended Producer Responsibility policy or a mandatory take-back scheme that will make manufacturers, importers, retailers or distributors responsible for the management of CFLs after their useful lives.

-end-

Reference:

http://dtincr.ph/files/LawsAndPolicies-ConsumerAct.pdf

http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Portals/9/Lead_Cadmium/docs/Trade_Reports/AP/UNEPLeadPb-CaicedoCompilation110601.pdf

http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Mercury/Negotiations/INC5/INC5Report/tabid/3496/Default.aspx