07 March 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Protection of Women and the Nation's Future against Toxic Pollutants (Watchdog Thumbs Down Re-Branded Incinerators, Slams Green Washing of Waste Burners)

 In observance of the International Women’s Day, environmental and health advocates belonging to the EcoWaste Coalition today called for the protection of women, bearers of the nation’s future, against nasty pollutants from the incineration of trash.

At a conference organized by the EcoWaste Coalition at the Bulwagang Amoranto of the Quezon City Hall,
women donning “pregnant bellies” and gas masks stood in front of a huge banner that says “Huwag Magsunog” to dramatize the adverse health impacts of burning trash, which can lead to the formation and release of highly toxic chemical byproducts called dioxins that can cause reproductive and developmental impairments, harm the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.

Dioxins, which are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), have been linked to reproductive problems affecting men and women of child-bearing age, with the developing fetus and the newborn being most sensitive to dioxin exposure.

“Protecting our women from being exposed to dioxins and other environmental toxins is our shared responsibility as exposure to these substances can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, birth defects and disorders and other pregnancy complications, impacting both maternal and child health,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Speaking at the conference, Lee Bell, a visiting toxics policy expert from Australia, cautioned the audience against the green washing of waste incinerators, now called “waste-to-energy” or WtE ‘green energy’ power plants,” as he asked them to “retain the far-sighted and ecologically-sustainable” ban on waste incineration under R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act and R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Bell warned that “even when incinerators can ‘control’ most of their emissions with sophisticated scrubbing devices the toxic materials are eventually transferred to the incinerator ash.” 

He also drew attention to n
anoparticles, which are not efficiently captured by air pollution control devices.  Nanoparticles travel long distances, remain suspended for long periods of time and penetrate deep into the lungs.

“To boost sales, incinerator companies have employed a public relations campaign, taking advantage of concerns over climate change, to re-brand waste incinerators as ‘green energy’ power plants and not as waste disposal plants,” Bell said.

“However much of the high calorific value waste material they seek to burn, such as plastics, is based on fossil fuels and cannot be termed renewable. They also destroy the embedded energy of the discarded products they burn,” he explained.

“There are much better ways to maximise recovery of resources from waste while saving energy, protecting the climate, improving agriculture, and creating jobs than to lock your country into decades of waste incineration,” he said.

“Many developed countries have fallen into the incineration trap and are now struggling to break free of it.  You are in a unique position to avoid this dead-end waste policy and move rapidly to a more sustainable society through zero waste practices,” he said.

“We cannot burn our way out of climate change. Ultimately solar, wind and wave energy combined with a zero waste strategy are the solutions to climate change,” he emphasized.

“And for the sake of your children’s future please retain your far-sighted and ecologically sustainable laws preventing the incineration of wastes,” he pleaded.

“You won’t regret it in the long term!,” he concluded.

Bell has a master’s degree on ecologically sustainable development from Murdoch University and is associated with the Alliance for a Clean Environment and the National Toxics Network in Australia, and IPEN, a global civil society network for a toxics-free future.


Additional Information

“Short-term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxins may result in skin lesions, such as chloracne and patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver function. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions.”
Source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs225/en/

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