29 May 2014

Laboratory Analysis Detects Dangerous Levels of Lead in Some School Supplies

A chemical known to damage a child’s developing brain even at low exposures was discovered in some children’s products as consumers scramble for back-to-school supplies.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, revealed that nine assorted school supplies that it had sent to a private laboratory for analysis detected lead up to 140,000 parts per million (ppm) in palpable violation of Philippine and US government regulations on lead.

As part of its ongoing “waste-free, toxic-free” back-to-school campaign, the group bought the items for P7.50 to P599.75 each from formal and informal retailers in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila City and Makati City and had them examined for total lead content by SGS, a global testing company.

The DENR Administrative Order 2013-24 strictly prohibits the use of lead in the manufacturing of school supplies, among other control measures on lead and lead compounds, while the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) prohibits lead in concentration greater than 90 ppm in paint or any similar surface coatings of children’s products. 

The US law also sets a limit of 100 ppm of total lead content in any accessible component part of a children's product such as zippers of school bags.

As per laboratory test results, the samples were found laden with lead, a toxic metal notorious for interfering with the developing brain and causing irreversible damage to a child’s health and development.

“The lead levels found in the samples using required test methods are atrociously high, and should provoke immediate removal of such dangerous products from the market,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As some consumers may have already purchased them, the manufacturers, distributors and retailers of the leaded products should take these products back, replace with unleaded substitutes or offer cash refund instead,” he added.

“Parents should insist on their right to safe products, a basic entitlement for all consumers,” he emphasized.

For her part, pediatric toxicologist Dr.  Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center pointed out:  “while lead is harmful to everyone, it is most of all dangerous to young children because their growing bodies absorb and keep more lead than adults do,” adding that “the damage to their budding brains and nervous systems is often irreversible, but fully preventable.”

The lead levels of the following school supplies were found way above the threshold limits under the US CPSIA:

1.  Standard Office Plus yellow thumb tacks (P24.75), 140,000 ppm
2.  “Ronron” backpack (P100), 120,000 ppm
3.  “Princess” backpack with yellow zipper (P150), 97,000 ppm
4.  Yellow stainless steel vacuum flask (P100), 78,000 ppm
5.  “Artex Fine Water Colors” (P50), 37,000 ppm
6.  Blackboard (P35), 32,000 ppm
7.  “Luck” giant paper clip with Angry Bird décor (P7.50), 16,000 ppm
8.  Transparent backpack with orange zipper (P299), 13,000 ppm
9.  Creative Gear “Fashion Girl” backpack (P599.75), 170 ppm

None of the above products indicated the presence of lead as ingredient on the label to inform and warn consumers.

The fact sheet
“Lead Poisoning and Health,”published by the World Health Organization (WHO) categorically states “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

“At lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms, and that previously were considered safe, lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems,” the fact sheet said.
“In particular lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioural changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behaviour, and reduced educational attainment,” the fact sheet emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition therefore advises back-to-school consumers to observe the following shopping tips:

1.  Look for and read the product label carefully.
2.  Avoid PVC school supplies, which may contain lead and other toxic additives.
3.  Refrain from buying products coated with paints unless certified “lead safe.”
4.  Avoid buying products with strong chemical smell.
5.  Ask for receipt or any proof of purchase.

28 May 2014

Green Groups Say Visit of Pope Francis Should be Waste-Free, Include Informal Recyclers

Photo: Pope Francis greets Sergio Sanchez, "cartonero" from Argentina
Although church authorities have yet to issue an official announcement about the reported plan of Pope Francis to visit the Philippines in January next year, environmental groups were excitedly quick to propose that organizers should plan early on how to prevent and reduce trash during the papal visit.

“If his visit pushes through in January 2015 as reported by the media, Pope Francis will be here as the entire nation observes the first ever ‘Zero Waste Month’ as proclaimed by President Aquino,” said Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator, Cavite Green Coalition.  

“The splendid coincidence offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our people’s admiration and respect for Pope Francis, acknowledged as  a ‘green pope,’ by taking preventive steps to ensure a waste-free itinerary, most especially during outdoor public assemblies,” she stated.  

Through Proclamation No. 760 signed last May 5, the President declared
every January as “Zero Waste Month.”

The Proclamation states that “zero waste  is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”

“As a well-known champion of the informal recyclers in his home country Argentina, Pope Francis will surely be delighted to see the active participation of our waste pickers in any effort to make his visit waste-free,” added Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector Liaison, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Not only that, it will be good to use the next six months prior to his visit to scale up national and local efforts to uplift the living and working conditions of the waste pickers, including their integration in formal ecological waste management programs and services,” he suggested.

According to reports, Pope Francis has kept a warm relationship with the “cartoneros” (literally “cardboard people” as the informal recyclers of Argentina are called), saying that “their work is dignified and good for the environment.”

In a video recorded last December 2013 while meeting with his Argentinian compatriots from the “Excluded Workers’ Movement” Pope Francis said:  “We cannot afford the luxury of looking down on leftovers. We are living in a throw-away culture where we easily throw out not only things, but people too.”






25 May 2014

Back-to-School Project Promotes Lead-Safe, Non-Toxic Zippers for School Uniforms

Used school uniforms got a new lease of life through a practical “back-to-school” initiative involving a vibrant parish community, a toxics watchdog group and the world’s largest zipper manufacturer.

Through a collaborative project that brought together the Our Lady of Remedies Parish, EcoWaste Coalition and YKK Philippines, over 500 zippers of school shorts, pants and skirts that have seen better days were replaced with non-toxic and eco-friendly YKK Zippers at no cost to the delight of more than 100 mothers.

Dubbed as the “Palit Zipper na Ligtas sa Tingga,” the project sought to 1) draw public attention on the lead hazard in some zipper products, 2) encourage consumers to patronize quality lead safe zippers, and 3) help poor families cut their back-to-school expenses by offering to replace worn out zippers of school uniforms.  The event was held Sunday at the Remedios Training Center.

"Back-to-school expenses can be a real challenge for many families living on a shoestring budget. Most will rely on cheap, low quality items that may contain harmful substances. Mothers who took advantage of this 'palit zipper' initiative can now breathe a collective sigh of relief for two reasons: first, they are learning another way to protect their children, and second, they know for certain that the zippers on their children’s clothes are safe from lead, a hazardous chemical,” said Fr. Leo Distor, Parish Priest, Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila. 

“We are pleased to assure our customers that our zippers are compliant to standards and are globally accepted.  By ensuring our proven product quality and safety through rigorous tests conducted by ourselves and via third party inspection, we give our customers a peace of mind and a real value for their money,” said Mr. Tadashi Koshio, Executive Vice-President for Sales and Marketing, YKK Philippines Inc.

“Zippers containing high levels of lead on the surface coating or the substrate should be kept out of reach of children who may be unwittingly exposed to such neurotoxin when they touch the puller and slider of lead-containing zippers of clothes, bags and accessories,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“There is no known amount of lead exposure that is considered safe, especially for a child’s developing brain.  It is therefore imperative to get rid of all preventable sources of lead in a child’s environment, including lead paint and dust, and lead in school supplies, toys and other children’s products,”Dizon added.                           

According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.”
“Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600 000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities every year.”

“Lead exposure is estimated to account for 143 000 deaths per year with the highest burden in developing regions.”

Last December 2013, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, which prohibits, among other things, the use of lead in the production of school supplies and toys and sets a threshold limit of 90 parts per million for lead in paint.

While the said policy does not explicitly mention about zippers and other fastening devices, it is a fact that these items are accessible parts of things that children normally use such as bags and garments and should be lead safe, the groups insisted.

22 May 2014

Environmentalists and Teachers Push for Eco-Friendly Brigada Eskwela

22 May 2014, Quezon City.  Environmentalists and teachers made a pitch for an eco-friendly Brigada Eskwela as the week-long  clean up, repair and renovation of the country’s  public schools gets underway.

 In a common press statement, the Philippine Public School Teachers  Association (PPSTA) and the EcoWaste Coalition expressed support for  the National Schools Maintenance Week, an annual program led by the Department of Education, as both groups reminded organizers and volunteers to avoid practices that may endanger their health and cause environmental pollution in the school and the adjacent communities.

“We call upon our fellow teachers and every Brigada Eskwela participant to be mindful of unsafe and unhealthy practices that we often take for granted.  These practices pose real risks to human health and the environment and should be avoided,” said Dr. Kahar H. Macasayon, President, PPSTA.

Some of these unsafe and unhealthy practices include the burning of biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards, the inappropriate handling and storage of busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps and the improper removal of paints and coatings that may contain lead, a potent neurotoxin.  

Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition explained that “open burning, aside from being an unlawful act, generates loads of environmental toxins such as dioxins and particulate matter.” 

“The reckless handling of fluorescent lamps may cause the glass tube to break and release the health –damaging mercury vapor inside, while dry sanding or scraping of lead paint will scatter toxic chips and dust that kids may inhale or ingest through their normal hand-to-mouth behavior,” she added.
The EcoWaste Coalition and the PPSTA both recommend the following eco-friendly guide to be observed during the Brigada Eskwela and beyond:

1.  Keep the residual trash to the minimum.

2.  Separate biodegradable waste from non-biodegradable waste.  
3.  Do not set discards on fire.

4.  Turn bio-waste such as grasses, leaves and twigs into compost, and reuse and recycle the rest.

5.  Spruce up the school’s  ecology center or materials recovery facility (MRF).

6. Choose lead safe paints and observe lead safe procedures to prevent the dispersal of lead dust in the surroundings.

7. Opt for safer cleaning agents and avoid hazardous ones such as muriatic acid and dichlorobenzene for cleaning toilets.

8. Properly handle and manage busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps and other “special waste.”

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

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

The PPSTA is the largest professional association of public school teachers in the country, while the EcoWaste Coalition is a public interest environmental network active on  waste, climate change and chemical issues.

The EcoWaste Coalition has launched a "waste-free, toxic-free back-to-school" campaign to promote zero waste and chemical safety in the nation' schools.


Baclaran Street Vendors Found Selling Toxic Water Colors

Some street vendors of school supplies in Baclaran’s bargain district, like their counterparts in Divisoria, are selling a brand of locally-manufactured water color sets containing high levels of lead, an extremely hazardous substance that can irreparably damage a child’s developing brain.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, has confirmed that Artex Fine Water Colors are being sold in Baclaran for P65 to P85 per set after conducting a market surveillance along F. B. Harrison Street and Taft Avenue Extension in Parañaque and Pasay Cities on Wednesday, May 21.  The group had earlier found bargain retailers selling the said product at street stalls in Divisoria, Manila.
Samples of Artex Fine Water Colors that the group had sent to SGS, a global testing company, for laboratory analysis were found positive for lead in the range of 5,900 to 37,000 parts per million (ppm), specifically on the yellow block.
“The presence of high levels of lead in Artex Fine Water Colors warrants automatic product recall, which, sorry to say, has yet to happen,” lamented Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“We first notified the manufacturer Venus Commercial Co. and then our health and trade regulators about this threat to children’s health, but we have yet to hear an order from either the company or the government withdrawing Artex from the market,” he said.
“It’s no wonder that vendors still sell Artex, which uninformed consumers buy,” he added.
In line with its ongoing “waste-free, toxic-free back-to-school” campaign, the EcoWaste Coalition  exhorted the national and local authorities to act with speed and resolve to stop the rampant sale of the lead-laden water color sets.
“As parents go on a back-to-school shopping spree, we appeal to both the national and local authorities to take immediate and decisive steps to rid the market of dangerous and substandard school supplies like Artex Fine Water Colors.  Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?,” he pointed out.
The Department of Health – Food and Drugs Administration (DOH-FDA) had confirmed with the Department of Trade and Industry – Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection (DTI-BTRCP) that Venus Commercial Co. has  “no valid license to operate (LTO) nor has pending application for issuance of LTO,” and that Artex Fine Water Colors “is not registered/notified nor is there pending application for registration/notification.”
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.”
“Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, anemia and, in rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death,” as stated by the US EPA.


19 May 2014

"Waste-Free, Toxic-Free" Brigada Eskwela in Payatas School Draws Throng of Supporters

School officials, teachers and students, community residents, and environmental advocates have joined forces to support the cleanup and renovation of Payatas C Elementary School in Quezon City.

The Commonwealth Elementary School (Metro Manila’s grand slam winner for the 2013 search for sustainable and eco-friendly school for elementary level) and the EcoWaste Coalition (an environmental network) have adopted Payatas C Elementary School as partner for this year’s Brigada Eskwela.

At the festive launch of the “waste-free, toxic-free” Brigada Eskwela, principal Rosemarie V. Salvador warmly welcomed all volunteers from near and afar who came to lend a hand in the school cleanup and repair.

She drew attention to “bayanihan,” the time-honored spirit of communal unity and action that the annual Brigada Eskwela seeks to rekindle, as vital to making schools conducive for children’s learning, growth and development.

Speaking on behalf of the environmental volunteers, Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, underscored the advantage of “waste-free, toxic free” clean up and renovation activities, especially to children’s health.

“By steering clear of practices that squander resources, create trash and pollute the environs with toxins, we make our schools a safe and healthy place for young children to study, grow and have fun as well,” she said.

“Children are very susceptible to all forms of contaminants in the surroundings, particularly lead dust, hence the need to employ environmentally-sound practices during the cleanup,” she added.

Joining the delegation of the EcoWaste Coalition were volunteers from the Alyansa ng Mamamayan sa Payatas - Sanlakas (a local community organization) and the Payatas Alliance Multi-Purpose Cooperative (an association of waste pickers) and other concerned groups and individuals.

Armed with rags, broomsticks and dustpans, paint brushes and rollers, nails and hammers and alternative cleaning agents such as baking soda and vinegar, the Brigada Eskwela volunteers gaily did their chores amid the scorching heat.

Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc. provided cans of lead safe paints that the EcoWaste Coalition used to paint classroom walls, furniture and fixture.


18 May 2014

Groups Assail Tobacco Advertising in Makati Barangay Fiesta

Health and environmental groups slammed tobacco advertising through fiesta banderitas at a barangay in Makati City as a deceptive marketing practice in violation of the country’s tobacco regulation law.

In a press statement, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP) and the EcoWaste Coalition deplored the buntings of Mighty Corporation, maker of Mighty cigarettes, whose corporate office is located in Sultana St., Barangay Olympia, Makati City.

Republic Act No. 9211, or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, which regulates the packaging, use, sale, distribution and advertisements of tobacco products, specifically bans outdoor advertising materials beginning 1 July 2007, except inside the premises of point-of-sale retail establishments.

Tobacco advertising, under R.A. 9211, “specifically refer(s) to any messages and images promoting smoking, the purchase or use of cigarette or tobacco trademarks brand names, design and manufacturer's names.”

"Such evident breach of the tobacco advertising ban undermines our nation’s efforts to prevent tobacco use and addiction that is killing 10 Filipinos every hour.  It is totally disgusting and unconscionable,” said pulmonologist Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director of FCAP.

According to FCAP, Philippines has an estimated 17 million smokers and an average of 10 tobacco-related deaths every hour from diseases such as cancer and emphysema.

“With these shocking figures of bad health and death, we need to ensure that the law is faithfully enforced and public health is prioritized and upheld over and above commercial profits,” Dr. Limpin emphasized.

A photo investigation conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that Abeja, Barasoain, Colmena, Constancia, Hiwaga, Honradez, J.B. Roxas, Kakarong, Malolos, Novaliches, Obrero, Pateros, Sultana and Trabajo Streets in Barangay Olympia are decorated with “Mighty” buntings in time for the barangay fiesta on May 18.

“Like FCAP, we abhor this blatant use of the barangay fiesta for tobacco advertising in residential streets that obviously seek to promote tobacco consumption by people of all ages and gender for increased sales,” said Aileen Lucero,National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Apart from the repulsive use of the festive occasion to advertise tobacco, we reject single-use buntings that only add to the volume and toxicity of post-fiesta garbage,” she added.

The groups urged the Civil Service Commission to look into the matter to determine possible breach of the CSC-DOH Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2010-01, which seeks to protect the bureaucracy against tobacco industry interference.

The groups further urged the Department of Interior and Local Government to issue a circular that will reiterate and remind local government units to comply with the ban on tobacco advertising and the CSC-DOH Joint MC 2010-01.




Groups Promote Lead Safe Work Practices as Brigada Eskwela Commences

An environmental network and a paint industry association reminded Brigada Eskwela organizers and volunteers to apply lead safe work practices as schools are cleaned, repaired or renovated in time for the school re-opening.

In a joint reminder, the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, Inc. (PAPM) and the Ecological Waste Coalition of the Philippines, Inc. (EcoWaste Coalition)  said that renovation activities, especially those involving repainting, should be done safely to prevent lead paint chips or dust from spreading out.

Both groups are active participants of an ad hoc alliance of stakeholders in the Philippines seeking to eradicate lead-added decorative paints, which is part of a seven-country Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project supported by the European Union.  

Applying lead safe work practices will be consistent with the instruction given by the Department of Education (DepEd) regarding the implementation of this year’s Brigada Eskwela tasking school principals to “take the lead role in planning activities to promote a safe school environment,” the PAPM and the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The two organizations are in the forefront of the ongoing effort to eliminate lead paint in the country in line with the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last December 2013.

“The lead dust that may be created as a result of school renovation activities can cause serious health problems for the Brigada Eskwela participants, with the children at highest risk of exposure,” said Henry So, President of PAPM.

“It is therefore important for everyone to observe proper procedures in renovation activities to prevent and reduce lead-based paint hazards,” he emphasized.

“Disturbing a surface previously coated with lead paint by dry sanding or scraping will produce huge amounts of lead-containing dust particles and should be avoided,” he added.

For her part, Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, warned that “children may ingest the lead paint chip or dust through normal hand-to-mouth activities as they move, eat and play around the classroom, hallway or school ground.”

“Ingesting or breathing into lead dust has the potential of permanently damaging a child’s developing brain and nervous system, causing learning disabilities and decreased intelligence as measured by IQ scores,” she said, stressing that health authorities have identified “no safe blood lead levels for children.”

Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year, according to the World Health Organization, which has listed lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

Towards a lead safe Brigada Eskwela, the EcoWaste Coalition and the PAPM have recommended the following basic precautionary steps:

1.  Use lead safe paint for school interiors, exteriors, furniture and fixtures.

2.  Keep children and pregnant women out of the work area (lead is very hazardous to unborn children).

3.  Do not disturb lead painted surfaces in good condition.

4.  Cover cracked or deteriorated surfaces with lead safe paint. Do not dry sand or dry scrape painted surfaces.

5.  Wet sand or wet scrape if desired or needed.  Use a spray bottle or wet sponge to keep the surface damp and the airborne dust levels low.

6.  Do not eat, drink or smoke in the work area.

7.  Work clean: create little dust as possible, clean up thoroughly and dispose of paint waste properly.

8. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after any repainting work.

9. After a repainting job, change clothes before going home, set aside in a sealed reusable bag and wash separately.


For a more comprehensive information about lead safe work practices, please refer to any of the following resources:


14 May 2014

Divisoria Vendors Urged Not to Sell Lead-Tainted Water Colors (Group Launches "Waste-Free, Toxic-Free Back-to-School" Campaign)


An environmental watchdog asked vendors to desist from selling a lead-laden brand of water colors as stalls selling school supplies began sprouting in Divisoria, the famous hub for bargain hunters and low budget shoppers.

To fire up its month-long “waste-free, toxic-free back-to-school” campaign starting May 15, the EcoWaste Coalition urged Divisoria’s discount retailers to stop selling “Artex Fine Water Colors” after the group’s AlerToxic Patrol found the product being sold at sidewalk stores in Juan Luna Street and Recto Avenue for P65 to P68 per set.

Laboratory analysis commissioned by the group had confirmed the presence of elevated levels of lead up to 37,000  parts per million (ppm) in Artex Fine Water Colors in downright violation of a government’s regulation aimed at protecting the public from being exposed to lead, a toxic chemical linked to permanent cognitive and behavioral problems.

The Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds promulgated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) strictly prohibits the use of lead in the manufacturing of school supplies, among others.

“This appeal is the opening salvo in our campaign to raise public awareness and action against products and practices that pose health and safety hazards, especially to kids who are set to enter or return to school.  Experts have warned that even low levels of lead in blood can result to a child’s decreased intelligence and school performance, as well as aggressive behavior,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We direct this appeal to the vendors of school supplies after our plea for the local manufacturer of Artex Fine Water Colors to voluntarily recall their lead-tainted product had fallen on deaf ears,” he explained.

“At the same time, we ask the authorities to issue a cease and desist order against the manufacturer to   compel it to halt the distribution and sale of the said product and bring about their removal from the market,” he added.

Dizon recalled reaching out to Venus Commercial Co., maker of Artex Fine Water Colors, via letters, phone calls and visit to their office in Malabon City, to request the firm to withdraw its leaded product from the market, switch to non-lead  materials and duly mark reformulated products as “non-toxic” and/or “no lead added”  to assist consumers in making informed choice.

Lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems,“ as per fact sheet by the World Health Organization (WHO), which categorizes lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”
According to WHO, “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.”

Based on the examination conducted by SGS (a global testing company) using inductively coupled plasma – atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES/AAS), the three samples of Artex Fine Water Colors submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition for analysis had total lead content of 5,900 ppm, 17,000 ppm and 37,000 ppm on their respective yellow lump.

Armed with the laboratory results, the EcoWaste Coalition duly informed key government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and DENR.

In response to the report filed by the EcoWaste Coalition, the DTI - Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection (DTI-BTRCP) contacted other regulatory agencies for appropriate action.

According to the action report submitted by the DOH – Food and Drugs Administration (DOH-FDA) to the DTI-BTRCP, Venus Commercial Co. has  “no valid license to operate (LTO) nor has pending application for issuance of LTO.”

With respect to Artex Fine Water Colors, “the product is not registered/notified nor is there pending application for registration/notification,” the DOH-FDA action report said.





13 May 2014

US-Based Filipino Scientist Proposes Biomonitoring of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) in Pregnant Women

"There is a need for biomonitoring endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in pregnant women because there is a growing body of evidence that exposure to EDCs in the womb has long term health consequences." - Dr. Roy Roberto Gerona, 13 May 2014, Quezon City.
A visiting Filipino scientist drew public attention to environmental chemicals that are finding their way to human bodies, especially among pregnant women who may pass these substances to their budding fetuses through the placenta.

At a “Science Talk” held today to mark the Safe Motherhood Week, Dr. Roy Roberto Gerona, who is a clinical toxicologist based at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of California in San Francisco, USA, spoke about the importance of determining such toxins in pregnant women and how environmental biomonitoring can provide a window to the maternal-fetal unit.

Organized by the EcoWaste Coalition (a waste and pollution watchdog), Philippine Pediatric Society (a professional association of pediatricians) and Arugaan (a breastfeeding advocacy and support group), the “Science Talk” drew over 50 participants from the healthcare sector, the government and the civil society, including community women.

Among these environmental toxins are endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, that are structurally similar to endocrine hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, insulin and thyroxine, and which can mimic and interfere with their normal functions, Dr. Gerona explained.

These EDCs, Dr. Gerona said, comprise most consumer products as he cited bisphenol A (BPA) in polycarbonate reusable drinking bottles, baby feeding bottles, carbonless thermal papers, rust-protection resins in canned drinks and foods; phthalates used as plasticizers in toys, medical devices, adhesives and glues, enteric coatings of capsules; perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in Teflon and Scotchgard; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) used as flame retardants in polyurethane foams, electronics, furniture, and textiles.  He added that these EDCs are also found in some pesticides such as glyphosate (Roundup), DDT, and atrazine.

“Endocrine hormones regulate the homeostatic (steady state) function of our bodies, including reproductive health, cardiovascular health and digestive and metabolic health, among others.  Thus, chronic exposure to
EDCs disrupts hormone action and is associated with various clinical endpoints including higher predisposition to cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and metabolic syndrome,” he explained.

“Because the levels of hormones in our bodies are also quite low, low level exposures to EDCs affect their function,” he pointed out.

“Because the correct balance of hormone levels is crucial at specific time points in fetal development, the fetus is more vulnerable to the effects of EDCs,” he added.

“Pregnant women’s exposure to EDCs is transmitted to the developing fetuses in their wombs through the placenta. Some EDCs and their metabolites (breakdown products) cross the placenta,” he said.

Exposure of the fetus to EDCs during its development has been associated with immediate pathological effects such as crytorchidism (undescended testicles) and hypospadias (delayed penile shaft opening) or long-term
epigenetic effects manifested in higher predisposition to various clinical endpoints such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer later in life, Dr. Gerona said.

Environmental biomonitoring, Dr. Gerona said, is the process of determining the body burden of toxic substances and their metabolites in human samples such as blood, urine, breast milk, etc.

This entails measuring the levels of environmental chemicals using modern analytical instrumentation including gas chromatography- mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography- mass spectrometry (LC-MS), he explained.

At the “Science Talk,” Dr.  Gerona also spoke about “non-targeted analysis” of EDCs and how newer LC-MS technologies can help in understanding environmental toxins in pregnant women, including the identification of previously unmeasured chemicals that can be of concern to the nascent fetus.


Additional Information on Non-Targeted Analysis of EDCs:

Newer LC-MS technologies such as quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (QTOF/MS) allow chemical profiling of biological samples. Instead of just measuring a few environmental chemicals in biological samples, QTOF/MS allows complete mass spectrometric profiling of all potential chemicals in biological samples simultaneously. Applying this technology to maternal serum and cord blood facilitates profiling of all potential EDCs that are present in either compartment. This also allows discovery of novel EDCs that needs to be biomonitored in pregnant women which may be of considerable concern to the developing fetus. The talk will provide pilot data on non-targeted analyses of a group of EDCs in maternal serum and cord blood in a cohort of pregnant women in Northern California.

10 May 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Hails "Zero Waste" Mothers, Cites Women as "Green Heroines"


In celebration of Mothers’ Day, the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, paid tribute to Filipino women who are in the frontline of the nation’s struggle against waste and pollution.

“As key adherent of the Zero Waste vision, we say ‘thank you’ to our ‘nanays’ and ‘lolas’ for showing us how to manage our families and households where nothing is wasted,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“They are our first Zero Waste teachers who taught us a lot - from nourishing our babies with breastmilk, the first Zero Waste food, to appreciating hand-me-down clothes, books and toys, to making fried rice and  recipes from common leftovers, and to recycling things that would have been thrown away,” she pointed out.

“In our homes, our mothers were the first to remind us not to dispose of used containers such as the versatile ‘garapon,” which can be ingeniously reused countless times,” she added.

“Their maternal instinct to spend money wisefully and save for the future has, without doubt, helped in reducing the volume of trash that goes to the bins and ultimately to dumpsites or incinerators,” she pointed out.

“We see Zero Waste mothers in our communities creatively turning discards and scraps into functional or decorative items that are sold to generate extra family income,” she said.

Lucero cited how magazines, newspapers, “Yellow Pages,” condiments sachets, juice packs,  fabric scraps,  flour bags, rice sacks, tarpaulins and even plastic sando bags are transformed by Zero Waste mothers into useful products such as bags, purses and accessories.

“Even in the environmental movement, we see our Zero Waste “nanays” and “lolas” actively taking part,  inspiring and leading,” Lucero said,  citing environmentalists Elsie Brandes-De Veyra, Merci Ferrer, Ines Fernandez, Angelina Galang, Annie Guerrero, Neneng Joson, Maricar Limpin, Marie Marciano, Sonia Mendoza, Tessa Oliva, Esther Pacheco, Ofelia Panganiban, Annette Papa, Leah Paquiz, Irma Percela, Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Lyn Ramos, Baby Reyes, Velvet Roxas, Luz Sabas, Eileen Sison, Chi Tulao, Shally Vitan and many others for their green activism.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s recognition of the Filipino women as green heroines came on the heels of a presidential proclamation supporting ‘Zero Waste.”

President Benigno S. Aquino III on May 5, 2014 signed Proclamation No. 760, declaring every January as “Zero Waste Month.”

According to the said Proclamation, “zero waste  is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”

It added that “zero waste is an advocacy that promotes designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, and to conserve and recover all resources, and not indiscriminately dispose or burn them.”