27 February 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Urges LGUs to Enforce the Ban against Open Burning, a "Silent Killer"

As the Bureau of Fire Protection gears up for the annual "Fire Prevention Month," an environmental watchdog urged local government units (LGUs) and the public to uphold and enforce the national ban against the open burning of trash.

In a statement, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated the hazards of open burning, a clear environmental offense under R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act, and R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which can also set off accidental fires.

"Despite the explicit prohibition by two of the nation's foremost environmental legislation, this 'silent killer' continues to haunt our communities in the cities and in the countryside. We therefore appeal to all LGUs to enforce the ban," observed Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

LGUs’ heightened action against open burning will support the ongoing Integrated Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Project being implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau, with support from the Global Environment Facility through the World Bank, that seeks to reduce dangerous emissions from the burning of trash, the group said.

"Open burning produces loads of dangerous byproduct pollutants that are linked to a long list of health issues from headaches, eye, throat and skin irritation, asthma and heart attacks to cancers," she warned.

Some of these byproduct pollutants belong to a family of extremely harmful chemicals known as POPS, including cancer-causing dioxins and furans resulting from the burning of chlorinated materials.  Dioxins and furans are known to be toxic at extremely low doses.

Apart from POPs, open burning generates other nasty contaminants, including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, heavy
metals like cadmium, lead and mercury, and particulate matter or PM.

"Microscopic PM, in particular, can be absorbed deep into the lungs, causing coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath and exacerbating respiratory and heart diseases," Vergara said.

"Open burning does not only pollute our bodies, but also our food sources," she pointed out.

Byproduct pollutants, Vergara said, are deposited on leafy plants eaten by farm animals and ingested by fish, contaminating the food chain.

For example, dioxins and furans are released into the environment, accumulate in the food chain, particularly in the fatty tissue of animals and are passed to humans through the consumption of dairy products, eggs, meat and fish, she explained.

Vergara likewise emphasized that open burning terminally razes resources that could have been repaired, reused, recycled or composted. Fallen leaves and yard trimmings, for instance, could be
turned into compost to nourish depleted soils.

To avoid health-damaging pollution and fires from the open burning of trash and contribute to resource conservation, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the public to consume responsibly, waste less and recycle more.

To prevent and reduce the generation of trash, the group invited the public to observe the following eco-reminders:

1.) Reduce garbage to the minimum and avoid noxious odors and pest problems by segregating discards at the point of generation.

2.) Reuse and recycle non-biodegradable discards such as papers, bottles and cans as many times as you can.

3.) Turn your biodegradable discards such as kitchen and garden trimmings into compost that can enhance soil fertility and health.

4.) Use second-hand, repaired and recycled products whenever available.

5.) Check for things that can be repaired or reused before deciding to purchase new ones.

6.) Bring bayong or other reusable carry bags when shopping; refuse plastic bags.

7.) Reduce unnecessary packaging by buying in bulk or choosing items with the least packaging.

8.) Avoid throw-away items. Choose products that can be washed, stored and used again.

9.) Repair rather than throw or replace broken things.

10.) Give away unwanted stuff to neighbors or charities instead of putting them into the waste bins.


23 February 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Slams Sale of "Small but Terribly Dangerous" Skin Whitening Product Banned since November 2013

The EcoWaste Coalition deplored the rampant sale of a “small but terribly dangerous” skin whitening product loaded with mercury, a highly toxic chemical, in Chinese drug stores in Manila and on the Internet.

In test buys conducted last February 20, the toxics watchdog group was able to purchase Erna Whitening Cream from 10 Chinese drug stores located in Divisoria, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Erna Whitening Cream was banned by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) three months ago on November 20 for containing mercury above the maximum allowable limit of one part per million (ppm).

The product, reportedly imported from Indonesia and Malaysia, sells for P60 to P80 each and is packed in small white plastic jar with the words "Erna Whitening Cream" printed in gold.  No other information is provided on the product label. 

The free online classified ads websites sulit.com.ph and ayosdito.ph offer Erna Whitening Cream for as low as P10-18, depending on the quantity purchased.   

"We abhor the unlawful sale of this small but terribly dangerous cosmetic in Chinese drug stores and over the Internet in blatant contempt of the government’s health warning and product ban," said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

"We ask Chinese drug store owners and online dealers not to ignore the law, desist from selling toxic cosmetics and instead help the authorities in bringing the illegal trade to a close," she further said.

“We likewise ask buy-and-sell websites to remove entries advertising the prohibited product in line with their rules,” she added.

Mercury was detected in all 12 samples in the range of 2,948 ppm to whopping 11,400 ppm, or an average of 6,847 ppm, based on the chemical screening performed by the group using an X-Ray Fluorescence device.  

The samples were obtained from New World, Pan Pacific and Vita Green Chinese Drug Stores in Divisoria;  East Asia, Golden Dragon, Hong San and JDA Chinese Drug Stores in Quiapo; and Beauty Essential, Faith Hope and New Era Chinese Drug Stores in Sta. Cruz.

The FDA through Advisory 2013-053 banned "Erna Whitening Cream" and 14 other skin lightening products for containing "violative levels" of mercury or for failure to obtain prior market authorization from the agency.

According to the advisory, "adverse health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetic products include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring."

"Chronic use reduces the skin's normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections," it said.

"Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy," it added.

The FDA has also warned that "the transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life."



Link to FDA Advisory 2013-053

Link to Erna Whitening Product advertisements at sulit.com.ph

21 February 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Welcomes Filing of Smuggling Complaint vs Importer of Garbage from Canada

Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Customs
The rapid filing of smuggling charges by the customs authorities against persons responsible for the botched importation of hazardous garbage from Canada drew positive reaction from a waste and pollution watchdog group.

The EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the legal action taken by Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner John Sevilla against Adelfa Eduardo, owner of the Valenzuela City-based Chronic Plastics and Leonora Flores and Sherjun Saldon, the company’s licensed customs brokers.

The three were charged yesterday before the Department of Justice for violations of the Revised Penal Code, the Tariff and Customs Code and Republic 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990, which bans the importation of hazardous waste into the country.

“Importing hazardous trash in the guise of recycling is not only totally devious and criminal, but a direct affront to our nation’s dignity, health and sovereignty.  It is one of the most heinous of environmental crimes that must never happen again,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We therefore welcome the filing of charges against the offenders and urge the judiciary to mete out the maximum punishment possible to send an unambiguous message to waste smugglers and traders that the Philippines is not and will never be the landfill to the world,” she declared.

“We will keenly monitor the case as its outcome could help in preventing future attempts to bring hazardous waste into our shores,” she stated.

Lucero announced that the EcoWaste Coalition will create an ad hoc group to specifically follow the proceedings and observe the delivery of justice.

As the case is heard, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to ensure the immediate return of the intercepted 50 container vans of garbage to Canada at the expense of Chronic Plastics.

“The BOC is our nation’s frontline defense against the dumping of dangerous products and wastes, and we expect our customs inspectors to foil all smuggling bids and keep our economy and environment safe, especially from biological and chemical hazards,” she stated.

To help the BOC effectively repel hazardous waste dumping, the EcoWaste Coalition renewed its call for the government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment.

While Canada and the Philippines are parties to the Basel Convention, neither has ratified the Basel Ban Amendment, which bans the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries for recycling, disposal and other purposes.

Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment will protect the Philippines from being a dumping group by shifting the burden of preventing toxic waste exports to toxic waste generators like Canada, the EcoWaste Coalition said.


15 February 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Applauds INC for Litter-Free Charity Walk


"The EcoWaste Coalition is delighted to find the route of the Iglesia ni Cristo's charity walk for Yolanda disaster victims devoid of unsightly and filthy trash. We commend the organizers and participants for manifesting their solidarity  with the victims in an earth-friendly way.  Luneta was litter-free as it should be. Wala ring umiihi sa pader kaya di mapanghi.  We hope other faith and non-faith groups conducting outdoor events will follow suit and ensure that the surroundings are kept clean and tidy as they gather for fun, leisure, politics or worship." - Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition

14 February 2014

Local, Canadian Envi Groups Blast Illegal Waste Importation

Local and Canadian environment and zero waste advocates today express disgust over the attempted importation of mixed hazardous waste deceitfully declared as plastic scraps that were fortunately intercepted by the Bureau of Customs.

"We condemn in strongest possible terms this unabashed attempt to dump hazardous waste misrepresented as recyclable plastic into our country," said Romy Hidalgo, an official of EcoWaste Coalition and NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, reiterating that "we are not a garbage dump.”

"This botched illegal importation violates our Constitution and our major environmental laws, including R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which prohibits the importation of toxic waste disguised as ‘recyclable’ or ‘with recyclable content,” he pointed out.

“It further undermines complementary efforts of LGUs and Congress to reduce waste, specifically plastic waste.  On one hand, here we are uniting to address our increasing plastic waste problems, while on the other, there are efforts like this that aggravate the situation," he added.

Presently, more than 90 LGUs around the country have enacted plastic bag bans, and a national ban is currently being drafted in the legislative department.  Waste audits conducted by environmental groups over the years has revealed that about 75% of detritus found in Manila Bay is composed of plastic waste, 25% of which are plastic bags.

For their part, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternative's Shalimar Vitan lamented that, "countries like Canada may be beginning to think that the Philippines is the mythical 'away' of their 'throw-away' culture.  No community, let alone a country, deserves to be unjustly treated as a dumping ground.  No community is disposable."

"Our national government should sustain vigilance to ensure this does not happen again," she added.

In support of their Filipino counterparts, Canadian activists also expressed their dismay over the illegal importation of those 50 container vans of waste.

Buddy Boyd of Zero Waste Canada added that, "we as people of Canada are deeply embarrassed at how government policies here have caused such bad behaviour by some towards the environment and the good people of the Philippines.  This is a disgrace.  The governments of Canada have created such horrible collection methods that the materials collected are often so badly contaminated many of the greedy haulers think they can export our mess onto other nations.  We stand with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines who care about the environment and we apologize as some governments here [in Canada] see the planet as a 'toilet' and our many neighbouring countries as merely a 'cheap dumping ground'.  Something is terribly wrong here in Canada."

On the other hand, Atty. Richard Gutierrez of BAN Toxics demanded that, "while we commend the Bureau of Customs for catching the illegal shipment, we urge the Philippine government to address the issue in a holistic manner by ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment to include all hazardous waste and exports for recycling in the prohibition."

Activists from Whitby, Ontario in the Durham Region in Canada, the alleged source of the shipment, echoed the sentiments of their Filipino allies.  "Whitby and Durham Councils and the Province of Ontario for that matter should press the federal government to ratify the said amendment to prevent Canadian/Ontario entities from shipping out unwanted discards to developing countries, including potentially hazardous mixed plastic scraps disguised as recyclable plastics," said Linda Gasser of Zero Waste for Zero Burning Canada.

Basel Convention is an international treaty designed to reduce traffic of hazardous waste between and among nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.  While Philippines and Canada are signatories to the convention, both have yet to ratify the Basel Amendment which expanded the ban of shipments to wastes meant for recycling.

Aside from urgently returning this illegal shipment to their sender, the groups also demanded that the DENR notifies its counterpart Environment Canada for the violation and press proper charges against the Canadian shipper and Philippine consignee.  

“We will closely monitor how our government will respond to this incident,” concluded Hidalgo of the EcoWaste Coalition.


FCAP Remembers Roy Alvarez

"Our deepest condolences to all and to Roy's family.  We remember him for his devout commitment to make this world a clean and healthy place to live.  We especially remember Roy for his participation in our fight to keep our citizens free from the clutches of addiction and pollution created by tobacco products, and particularly its lethal harm to human health.  May his light always shine among us." - Rommel Arriola, on behalf of Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control - Philippines (FCAP) and its partners.

13 February 2014

Maraming Salamat sa mga Luntiang Ala-Ala Roy

Nieves and daughter Mirren receive a photo collage and a certificate of appreciation for Roy Alvarez's invaluable contributions to the work of the EcoWaste Coalition in defense of public health and the environment. 

Tributes to Roy Alvarez, Actor, Environmentalist, Zero Waste Champion

“The officers, members and staff of the EcoWaste Coalition express sadness for the untimely departure  of Roy Alvarez, our former President (2010-2012), whom we hold in high esteem for his animated commitment to the pursuit of Zero Waste, a vision of a restored ecological order where nothing is wasted dumped or burned.  As Zero Waste Champion, Roy traveled across the country, propagating the values of “waste not, dump not, burn not” in countless community and school gatherings and spreading respect and love for Mother Earth.  With his powerful voice and creative presence, Roy contributed in many ways to our quest for a litter-free and Zero Waste nation.  He led us in a parade in Quiapo urging the people to go for “bayong” and drop the plastic bag habit.  In one event, he stood in silence in front of the Quiapo Church, along with the women of Buklod Tao, holding a miniature image of the Black Nazarene to seek public support for a garbage-free fiesta.  Wearing an “AlerToxic Patrol” shirt, Roy spoke with Chinese drug store owners and sellers in Binondo to ask them not to sell illegal skin whitening products laden with mercury.  On three occasions, he spoke before hundreds of young students at Claret School, Kamuning Elementary School and Marcelo H. del Pilar Elementary in Quezon City to persuade them to usher in the New Year sans injurious and polluting  firecrackers.  And with actress Chin Chin Gutierrez, Roy pushed a wooden cart carrying an ailing Mother Earth in an unprecedented march to the Commission on Human Rights to exhort the agency to uphold the Filipino people’s right to be protected against harmful chemicals and wastes. As we honor the memory of Roy, a gem in the Zero Waste movement, we pray for the eternal repose of his soul and extend our heartfelt sympathies to his loving wife Nieves and daughter Miren for their loss. Thank you Roy!” – Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition

“Yes, thank you sincerely for letting me know about Roy's passing. I have very fond memories of the Penang meeting, particularly the skit and most especially my director, Roy Alvarez.  I'm sure I join you and many, many others in gratitude for Roy's warm and wonderfully creative presence ... and wishing for that we'd had many more years with him. Together in  commiseration, gratitude and sadness.” – Pat Costner, USA
"As one activist passes on, more will step up to the challenges of leadership. Salamat Sir Roy for paving the way and for inspiring a new generation of environmental activists.  Knowing Sir Roy in a span of several campaigns, I'm sure he would prefer us to celebrate the joyful encounters with him, celebrate a life of commitment, passion and love for the environment and community." – Lodel Magbanua

“May Roy bask in green heaven.” – Ceres Doyo, Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer

“Green Convergence expresses its deep sympathies to the family of Roy, to Ecowaste Coalition and to all environmentalists who worked with Roy.  We all felt his sincerity and commitment in spreading love and passion for God's creation.  Rest in peace, Roy.  Pray for our continuing work on earth.” -
Dr. Angelina P. Galang, President, Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy

“Peace and love to our dear Roy, our friend, our fellow traveler for a better and safer world. We extend our sincere condolences to Roy's family.”
– Merci Ferrer, Executive Director, Health Care Without Harm

“Roy is now in the bosom of the Father. Roy, please continue to help us in our work for the environment, which you loved very much.”
- Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, Mother Earth Foundation

“I saw and spoke to him about 3 weeks ago at Italianni’s in Greenhills. He was taking his usual veggie dinner and looked fine and healthy.  Kaya shocked ako when Froi texted me the
sad news.” – Baby Reyes, Mother Earth Foundation
“It is with deep sadness that I learn about the untimely demise of our dear friend and fellow Eco-spiritual partner Mr. Roy Alvarez.  He has been an inspiring celebrity in his earnest love for the environment and sincere passion to steward Mother Earth.  He will be sorely missed together with Tita Odette.  I pray for the smooth passing of his soul from this life to the next.  Please continue to guide us, Roy.” - Victoria M. Segovia, Executive Director, Partnership for Clean Air 

“Roy's work for the environment will be remembered. May he rest in peace.” – Rene Pineda, President, Partnership for Clean Air

“Our prayers and condolences to the family of Roy, a dear comrade in the fight to restore sanity in this consumption-driven world we are in.” – Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Philippine Earth Justice Center

“Condolences and sympathy from the PRRM family.” - Gani Serrano, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement

“We will pray for his soul in our community.” - Bro Martin, BSMP, Chairman, Save Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc.

“Lubos kaming nakikiramay sa mga naulila ni Roy. Mananatili ang kanyang mga ala-ala.” - Rey Palacio, Sining Yapak

12 February 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Mourns the Demise of Roy Alvarez, Zero Waste Champion

EcoWaste Coalition Mourns the Demise of Roy Alvarez, Zero Waste Champion
12 February 2014
The officers, members and staff of the EcoWaste Coalition express sadness for the untimely departure  of Roy Alvarez, our former President (2010-2012), whom we hold in high esteem for his animated commitment to the pursuit of Zero Waste, a vision of a restored ecological order where nothing is wasted dumped or burned.  As Zero Waste Champion, Roy traveled across the country, propagating the values of "waste not, dump not, burn not" in countless community and school gatherings and spreading respect and love for Mother Earth.
With his powerful voice and creative presence, Roy contributed in many ways to our quest for a litter-free and Zero Waste nation.  He led us in a parade in Quiapo urging the people to go for "bayong" and drop the plastic bag habit.  In one event, he stood in silence in front of the Quiapo Church, along with the women of Buklod Tao, holding a miniature image of the Black Nazarene to seek public support for a garbage-free fiesta.  Wearing an "AlerToxic Patrol" shirt, Roy spoke with Chinese drug store owners and sellers in Binondo to ask them not to sell illegal skin whitening products laden with mercury.  On three occasions, he spoke before hundreds of young students at Claret School, Kamuning Elementary School and Marcelo H. del Pilar Elementary in Quezon City to persuade them to usher in the New Year sans injurious and polluting  firecrackers.  And with actress Chin Chin Gutierrez, Roy pushed a wooden cart carrying an ailing Mother Earth in an unprecedented march to the Commission on Human Rights to exhort the agency to uphold the Filipino people's right to be protected against harmful chemicals and wastes.
As we honor the memory of Roy, a gem in the Zero Waste movement, we pray for the eternal repose of his soul and extend our heartfelt sympathies to his loving wife Nieves and daughter Miren for their
Thank you Roy!

11 February 2014

Pre-Valentine Warning: Lipstick Could Spell Trouble for Lovers and the Environment, Too


Be cautious on what you put on your lips as there may be poisons lurking in your lipstick.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued this pre-Valentine warning against lipstick products that may contain health-damaging chemical ingredients and impurities such as arsenic, lead and mercury, which are listed in the “top ten chemicals of major public health concern” and the “dirty dozen list of endocrine disruptors.”

Joining the environmental health advocates in today’s press briefing entitled "Poison Kiss" were Miss Philippines Earth 2013 Angelee Claudett de los Reyes and Miss Philippines Earth-Fire 2013 Miss Alma Cabasal.

 “Arsenic, lead and mercury in lipstick may be absorbed or ingested when you lick or wet your lips, drink and eat while wearing a tainted lipstick, or when you kiss or lock lips with someone wearing one,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“While instant adverse effect is not expected, be forewarned that chronic long-term exposure to toxic metals even at low doses could harm a person’s health,” she emphasized.

“Hazardous chemicals in lipstick and other cosmetics take their toll on the environment, too, as these are washed down the drain and into the water system,” she added.
In its latest bid to promote chemical safety and healthy lifestyle, the toxics watchdog screened 70 pieces of lipsticks costing P7 to P80 each that were purchased on February 7 from 13 discount shops in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila City, and in  Baclaran in Parañaque and Pasay Cities.

The samples were screened for toxic metals with a portable X-Ray Fluorescence device using the following allowable limits under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive as reference: 1 part per million (ppm) for mercury, 5 ppm for arsenic and 20 ppm for lead.

At the press briefing, the EcoWaste Coalition reported that 27 of the 70 samples of lipstick (39%) were found to contain detectable levels of one or more heavy metals above the ASEAN limits.

I.  Lead in Lipstick

The top 10 samples with the highest levels of lead were Baolishi #20 (green case) with 18,500 ppm, Baolishi #20 (golden case) 15,600 ppm, Baolishi #20 (yellow case) 14,000 ppm, Baolishi #20 (red case) 3,337 ppm, Baolishi #20 (yellow case) 3,258 ppm, Monaliza #20 (pink case) 2,796 ppm, Monaliza #20 (golden case) 2,613 ppm, Monaliza #20 (with cartoon case) 2,142 ppm, Kiss Beauty #7 383 ppm, Kiss Beauty #8 208 ppm and Miss Beauty #7 with 72 ppm.

Lead, the EcoWaste Coalition warned, could build up in the body over time and that leaded lipstick applied several times a day, combine with lead from other sources such as lead paint and dust, could add up to considerable exposure levels.

Lead exposure among women has been linked to miscarriage, premature birth, reduced fertility, menstrual irregularities and other reproductive disorders.  Lead easily traverses the placenta and enters the fetal brain, obstructing normal development. 

II. Mercury in Lipstick

Mercury, another potent neurotoxin like lead, was found the highest in Popa #12 with 90 ppm, Kaixi Beauty #60 with 85 ppm and Chanleevi #04 with 88 ppm. 

Pregnant women are very much at risk from the toxic effects of mercury, which a mother can pass to the developing fetus.  Mercury is known to concentrate in the fetal brain, disrupting the brain development and causing lifelong health problems.

III.  Arsenic in Lipstick

High levels of arsenic, a human carcinogen, was detected in Baolishi #20 (green case) with 497 ppm, Baolishi #20 (golden case) 450 ppm and Baolishi #20 (yellow case) with 421 ppm.

Exposure to arsenic over a long period can result to chronic arsenic poisoning and associated health problems such as skin lesions, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
Subsequent check at the website of the Food and Drugs Administration showed that none of tainted samples are listed in the agency’s list of notified cosmetics.

To prevent exposure to toxic metals in cosmetics such as lipstick products, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to:

1.  Assert your right to information and refrain from buying and using inadequately labeled lipstick.  A duly-registered lipstick will provide the following information in English: product name, ingredients, net content, instruction on usage, batch number, special precautions if any, and country of manufacture/importer.

 2.  Visit the FDA website (
www.fda.gov.ph) to see if the lipstick has market authorization from the agency.
3.  Limit use of lipstick (and other cosmetics like make-up, nail polish and perfume) to special occasions to minimize exposure to disclosed (as well as undisclosed) product ingredients.




07 February 2014

Banned China-Made Skin Whitening Product with Mercury Sold in Manila (California's Health Alert Prompted Toxics Watchdog to Conduct Fresh Market Surveillance for Banned Jiaoli Miraculous Cream)

Quezon City.  An imported skin whitening product banned by the health authorities on February 9, 2010 for containing mercury levels above the allowable limit of one part per million (ppm) has resurfaced in Quiapo, Manila.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, issued the warning after purchasing five boxes of China-manufactured Jiaoli Miraculous Cream and subsequently screening them for mercury, a highly toxic chemical, using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer.

The forbidden items were procured for P80 to P100 per box from three retailers in Manila's Quiapo District, namely, New Era Chinese Drug Store (1604 C.M. Recto Ave.),  Water Dragon General Merchandise (652-A Carriedo St.) and from a street vendor at the corner of R. Hidalgo St. and Quezon Blvd.)

Based on the XRF screening, the average level of mercury in the five samples of Jiaoli Miraculous Cream was 3,049 ppm for the day cream and 4,196 ppm for the night cream.

"Jiaoli Miraculous Cream was banned in 2010 in the interest of protecting consumer health and safety, and four years later we still find retailers selling it in callous disregard for the public good," lamented Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

"Mercury-laden cosmetics and personal care products pose real threats to human health and the environment throughout their life cycle, from production to disposal, and should not be made and traded at all," she said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory 2010-002 banned Jiaoli Miraculous Cream and two other Jiaoli skin whiteners stating that "cosmetic products containing (mercury) impurities/contaminants that are way beyond the allowable limit clearly pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public."

The EcoWaste Coalition’s latest market surveillance was prompted by a recent Health Alert by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) warning the American public not to use Jiaoli Miraculous Cream and Monsepa Bleaching Express Peeling that have tested positive for high levels of mercury.

Last January 9, 2014, the CDPH advised consumers to discontinue the use of such products as "regular or prolonged exposure can result in mercury poisoning."

As per CDPH, "symptoms of mercury poisoning include irritability, depression; nervousness, difficulty concentrating or remembering; fatigue; tremors, shaking or weakness; tingling or numbness in hands, feet or around the mouth."

To address the persistent problem, particularly in the city of Manila, the EcoWaste Coalition urged Mayor Joseph Estrada, Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno and the City Council to expedite the enactment of a city ordinance filed by District II Councilor Numero Lim to stop the illegal sale of injurious mercury-containing cosmetics.

If enacted, the said ordinance, consistent with R.A. 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, will penalize individual violators with imprisonment from one to 10 years or a fine from P50,000 to P500,000, or both.

For violators who are manufacturers, importers or distributors, the imprisonment of 5 to 10 years and the fine of P500,000 to P5,000,000 will apply.

"The stiffer penalties, we hope, would make it unprofitable for recalcitrant manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to engage in the illicit trade," Lucero

In addition, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the Bureau of Customs,  the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Philippine National Police and other relevant government institutions to support the FDA’s drive against illegal cosmetics, stressing that “interagency cooperation backed by the industry, civil society, media and the consumers” is key to getting dangerous mercury-laden cosmetics off the market and ensuring the environmentally-sound management of recalled or seized stocks.



CDPH 2014 Advisory:


FDA 2010 Advisory:


05 February 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Detects Lead in Some Disposable and Reusable Bags

Quezon City.  Following the issuance by the government of a groundbreaking policy to prevent human exposure to lead, including its ban on packaging for food and drink, a waste and pollution watchdog revealed the presence of the highly toxic chemical in some disposable as well as reusable carry bags.

The EcoWaste Coalition stated that its discovery of lead in both disposable and reusable bags should prompt the packaging industry to align its manufacturing practices with the recently approved “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds” issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and for the latter to promptly craft the standards as provided in the said order. 

“The use of lead and lead compounds shall be strictly prohibited in the production/manufacturing of packaging for food and drink,” says Department Administrative Order 2013-24 signed by DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje last December 23, 2013.

“Based on the screening we conducted, lead was detected in some carry bags that are used to pack food and non-food items.  This practice should now cease given the known hazard of lead-containing products throughout their life cycle from production to disposal,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“All carry bags will, over time, deteriorate.  Wear and tear could liberate the lead out of the bag, causing it to leach to the food or get dispersed as dust.  The leaded bags will eventually be disposed of in dumpsites or landfills or our rivers and seas, posing further problems to humans, other life forms and ecosystems,” she explained.

“While reusable bags are better alternatives to disposable plastic bags, manufacturers of these products should also see to it that they are free from lead,” she emphasized.

Lead, a potent neurological, reproductive and developmental toxin and an endocrine disrupting chemical, is one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” according to the World Health Organization.

In an unprecedented investigation on lead in packaging materials, the group revealed that its portable X-Ray Fluorescence device detected lead on many samples of bags used for carrying food and non-food items:

1.  FOR DISPOSABLE BAGS: 2,300 of the 4,300 samples (53%) of yellow sando bags had lead  from 106 to 5,680 parts per million (ppm).

2.  FOR REUSABLE BAGS: 52 of the 205 samples (25%) of assorted reusable bags made of natural and synthetic materials had lead from 106 to 7,308 ppm.

Overall, 2,153 of the 4,505 samples of disposable and reusable carry bags (48%) showed low or non-detectable levels of lead, indicating the technical feasibility of producing lead-safe bags.

The presence of lead is attributed to the use of leaded colorant, ink or paint  on the bag designs and markings, or the use of lead-containing polyvinyl chloride plastic, the EcoWaste Coalition explained.

The EcoWaste Coalition further said that:

a.  Reusable bags made of natural materials such as indigenous plants and trees were found to be devoid of toxic metals except when leaded ingredients are intentionally used in the product designs.

b.  Among the lead-safe reusable bags found were made of bamboo, banana, buri and water hyacinth woven into “bayong” and baskets, bags and pouches from recycled paper, and various tote bags made of canvas, used flour sacks, worn out clothes and pillow cases.

c.  Aside from being lead-safe, the EcoWaste Coalition finds these nature-inspired reusable bags better than the plastic-based ones, which are derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource whose extraction, manufacturing and use generate greenhouse gases causing the climate to heat up.

d.  The sampling shows the availability of  a wide variety of natural as well as synthetic reusable bags that the business and consumer sectors are already using to replace single-use plastic bags.

“If synthetic reusable bags are preferred, consumers should choose those that are not made of PVC plastic and those without painted markings unless certified lead-safe,” Lucero said.

“While some plastic bags were found to contain low or non-detectable levels of lead, these single-use, disposable bags as far from being eco-friendly as these bags use and deplete natural resources and energy and spawn pollution, while reinforcing wasteful, throw-away behaviour,” she added.




02 February 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Lead in Painted Turumpo (Boys Cautioned on Toxic Turumpo)

Playing turumpo, the cone-shaped whipping toy that is very popular among young boys these days, may bring harm instead of fun, an advocacy group against toxic chemicals and for children’s health said today.

The EcoWaste Coalition aired the warning after screening 25 new wooden tops for toxic metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer and finding lead, a highly toxic substance, in 19 of them.

The Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last December prohibits the use of lead in the production of toys.

The said policy also sets a threshold limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paints, which is also the US federal standard for lead in paint and surface coatings.

The turumpo samples, all unlabeled, were obtained for P15 to P20 each from stores close by the Santo Niño Elementary School and in the Marikina Public Market in Marikina City, and shops at the back of Doña Josefa Elementary School in the Murphy Public Market in Quezon City.

The screening indicated the presence of lead up to 7,193 parts per million (ppm) in 19 tops.

All the 19 leaded tops also screened positive for arsenic up to 1,073 ppm and chromium up to 4,593 ppm.

“Not all turumpo are created equal, and it’s not only with the way they spin and swirl,” declared Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Nowadays, there are tops coated with leaded paints and there are tops covered with unleaded paints,” he said.

“Aside from eye damage and other bodily injuries due to improper use, kids should be wary about the paint coatings on their turumpo,” he said.

Dizon explained that the paint will break off as the turumpo is hit and damaged by opponents during top targeting that is well-liked by players.

“Top targeting disturbs the paint on the surface of the turumpo, causing the lead in paint to turn into toxic lead dust that kids unknowingly inhale or ingest.  Children are most susceptible to lead exposure due to their common hand-to-mouth activities,” he added.

Lead is a neurotoxicant or a chemical poison that harms the brain and the nervous system, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded.

Studies have linked lead exposure early in life to lowered IQ, speech and language difficulties, hearing loss, decreased bone and muscle growth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage, behavioral problems and even aggressive and violent behavior.

Lead is also an endocrine disrupting chemical that may interfere with the body’s natural hormones, causing adverse developmental, neurological, reproductive and immune effects in humans as well as wildlife

The World Health Organization has included lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

"Since kids and even adults would have no way of distinguishing which ones are lead-safe, it’s safer to simply pick plain turumpo with no coatings and be extra careful when playing with it,” Dizon pointed out.