30 September 2014

EcoWaste Coalition: Lead-Tainted Chinese Flu Medicine Banned in US, Sold in the Philippines

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group promoting chemical safety and public health, urged consumers of Chinese medicines to pay attention to an advisory issued by US health authorities against a lead-containing anti-flu product.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday, September 26, warned parents and caregivers against purchasing or providing “Bo Ying Compound” to infants and children due to potential lead poisoning.

“Bo Ying Compound,” manufactured by Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong) Ltd., is sold locally in Binondo, Manila as confirmed by the EcoWaste Coalition during a test buy conducted yesterday, September 29.  The product is sold for P580 per can which contains six small bottles of the powdered Chinese medicine.

The product is not on the list of duly registered drugs as per website of the Philippine FDA.

“We urge consumers providing Bo Ying to babies and kids to follow the US FDA health warning and to report any adverse reactions to the Philippine FDA that may be related to the consumption of Bo Ying,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Childhood lead poisoning can be fully prevented with the involvement and support from all sectors,” he added.  

As per the product information, Bo Ying can “dispel wind and clear away heat, eliminate phlegm and tranquilize the mind,” and is recommended to relieve babies’ cough, fever, indigestion, influenza, nasal discharge, poor appetite, restlessness and crying at night.

The US FDA took action against Bo Ying after the product was tested and found to contain high levels of lead by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  

The US FDA had received one adverse event report of lead poisoning involving an 18-month-old child who was given the Bo Ying product.

According to the US FDA, “exposure to lead can cause serious damage to the central nervous system, the kidneys, and the immune system. In children, chronic exposure to lead, even at low levels, is associated with impaired cognitive function, including reduced IQ, behavioral difficulties, and other problems.”

The EcoWaste Coalition has already alerted the Philippine FDA about its discovery that the Bo Ying product is available locally.

- end-



29 September 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Environmentally-Sound Recycling of Waste Lamps as Nation Observes Consumer Welfare Month

The EcoWaste Coalition, a public interest network promoting zero waste and chemical safety, appealed to all consumers of energy-efficient but mercury-containing fluorescent lamps to properly
manage waste lamps to reduce risk to public health and the environment.

The group called for the environmentally-sound recycling of waste lamps as the country marks the Consumer Welfare Month held every October pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 1098. The Department of Energy (DOE) chairs this year’s celebration focusing on the theme “Sapat na Impormasyon: Susi sa Wastong Paggamit ng Enerhiya.”

“Improper disposal of waste lamps will cause the glass tubing to break and release mercury vapor, exposing waste workers and the general public to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, which can endanger public health and the environment,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

As per the United Nations Environment Programme, "when products containing mercury are discarded into the general waste stream, the mercury pollutes the environment - in waterways, wetlands, and the air - and endangers people both locally and globally."

In March this year, the group released a report entitled “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps” showing how waste lamps are indiscriminately disposed of in Metro Manila’s 17 local government units where busted or spent lamps are by and large discarded as ordinary trash, often dumped on the sidewalk, vacant lots and waterways.

As it pushed for the safe disposal of waste lamps, the EcoWaste Coalition called upon concerned stakeholders to support DOE’s goal to get the envisaged Lamp Waste Management Facility (LWMF) up and running by December 2014.

The LWMF, which the DOE intends to turn over to the lighting industry or to a local government unit, will receive waste lamps “to recover mercury and other by-products (to) avert residual mercury from entering the food chain through landfill leaching into ground water.”

“The effective operation of the LWMF will be in step with the country’s commitment to implement the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which recognizes the need for action to minimize and eliminate mercury emissions and releases to safeguard human health and the environment,” Dizon said.

The treaty which Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje signed in October 2013 in Kumamoto, Japan on behalf of the government requires parties to take measures to ensure the environmentally-sound management of mercury waste.

As the DOE scouts for an eligible operator of the LWMF from the private or public sector, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the government, the industry and the civil society to undertake systematic measures to ensure the safe collection, storage and recycling of waste lamps.

Such measures should include extensive massive public information, waste workers' education, establishment of drop-off points for waste lamps, provision of incentives to encourage proper disposal, and safe and secure storage of collected waste lamps for non-polluting recycling, Dizon said.




28 September 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Government to Curb the Sale and Use of Brass Water Faucets with High Lead Content

A toxics watchdog group has urged the government to ensure that only lead-safe water faucets and other plumbing fixtures are sold in the market to reduce the potential for lead exposure in drinking water.
The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group campaigning to prevent and reduce, if not eliminate, human exposure to toxic lead, drew attention to the unrestricted sale of brass or chrome-plated  brass water faucets with high lead content.
A chemical screening conducted by the group using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device showed that the  five brass water faucets that it bought from plumbing supplies stores at Soler St., Sta. Cruz, Manila for P120 to P300 each had total lead content ranging from 14,500 parts per million (ppm) to 84,700 ppm.
“The Chemical Control Order (CCO) issued by the government banning lead in the production of water pipes, among other prohibitions, should  apply to water faucets and should be strictly enforced,” said chemist Jeiel Guarino, Lead Poisoning Prevention Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“We ask manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to voluntary abide by the CCO as lead-containing plumbing products that are in contact with water may contaminate drinking water,” he added.
Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje promulgated last December 2013 the said CCO prohibiting the use of lead in the manufacturing of water pipes, cosmetics, fuel additives, packaging for food and drink, school supplies, toys and paints exceeding the 90 ppm threshold limit.
“While ingesting and inhaling lead paint chips and dust remain the top routes for childhood exposure to lead, we must look at all sources of lead contamination, including lead in drinking water, and eliminate the preventable ones as there is no known safe level of lead exposure for a developing fetus or child,” Guarino said.
US environmental and health authorities confirmed that “water sitting for several hours or overnight in a brass faucet can leach lead from the brass faucet interior which may produce high lead levels in the first draw of drinking water.”
“Pregnant women and small children such as babies who consume milk formula prepared with lead-tainted water will be at a higher risk,” Guarino said
As stated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.”
The EcoWaste Coalition cited the fact sheet published by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) explaining that “exposure to lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects, especially in children and infants. Their exposure to high levels of lead in drinking water can result in delays in physical or mental development, reduced intelligence, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage.”
“For adults, high levels of exposure to lead in drinking water can result in kidney problems, high blood pressure, nerve disorders, fertility problems, muscle and joint pain, irritability, memory and concentration problems. Furthermore, pregnant women can pass lead contained in their bodies to their fetuses,” the DTSC said.
The EcoWaste Coalition also cited the US Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2011 requiring that, by January 2014, all wetted surfaces of water pipes, fittings and fixtures, including faucets, must not contain a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead.

26 September 2014

EcoWaste Coalition, Obando People Rush to CA to Express Grief Over Landfill, Plead for Justice

Manila City. Zero waste and climate justice advocacy network EcoWaste Coalition together with a group of concerned citizens of Obando rushed to the Court of Appeals today to express extreme grief over the CA decision favoring a landfill in the Manila Bay-Obando area and to demand due justice.

To express their agony and grief over the ruling that allowed the resumption of the construction and operation of the Obando Sanitary Landfill, members of the EcoWaste Coalition, Obando Kami ay Para sa Iyo (OKAPI) and other ObandeƱos, picketed the CA carrying a symbolic coffin to plead for environmental justice.

Donned in mourning garments, black veils with clinging rubbish, and carrying lighted candles, the groups portrayed the agonizing situation the CA decision has brought to the people of Obando and the environment.

“We are here to show the CA the sort of death verdict it has imposed upon our people and the environment,” said Emineth Bartolome of OKAPI, who lamented that “the landfill will trash the fishing communities, damage the people’s livelihood, harm the remaining mangroves and wildlife and spoil an area rich in history.”

"With due respect to the CA, we find it hard to accept how dumping of garbage in a waste facility in a seaside barangay of Obando and the destruction of a mangrove forest can help clean up Manila Bay as the decision stated," she added.

For her part, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition said, “we sympathize with the people of Obando knowing full well the injustice and utter lack of ethics and morality in hauling tons of daily garbage from big cities and dumping the same into the waters that served as source of living and life of a small town, simply because they lack power to resist this.”

Since construction and cutting of mangroves began in the landfill site, activism in Obando has been raging, prompting concerned citizens to petition the Supreme Court in October 2011 to issue a writ of kalikasan, which the court granted in February 2012.

The petitioners believed that the construction of a landfill in the Obando River would cause extensive damage not only to the town, but to adjoining municipalities and the Manila Bay in general. The petitioners also sought to prevent the destruction of mangrove forests in the area.

The groups noted that the recent CA decision junking the petition in favor of the controversial project reinforced the anti-Obando Landfill sentiments and the accompanying movements in Obando that go in various names, such as No to Obando Landfill or simply NOLF, Save Obando, and OKAPI, now a community organization.

“Through renewed activism against the landfill among the people of Obando, with support from environmentalists elsewhere, we hope to convince the court to hear the affected communities, both vocal and silent, and reconsider its decision,” Bartolome said.

The CA ruling, issued on 29 August, claimed that the ill-sited landfill in the small historical town of Obando, bordering Manila Bay “will significantly facilitate the clean-up of Manila Bay, in direct response to the SC’s continuing mandamus.”

“No amount of twisting ones logic would lead to such a fantastic claim that barging in garbage from Manila to a landfill in Obando will help in the rehabilitation and clean-up of Manila Bay,” Lucero snapped.

“If they say they will safely store all these garbage in a lined landfill, take it from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which says that all landfills eventually will leak! Imagine the havoc it would cause!” she exclaimed in conclusion.



“EPA says all landfills leak, even those using best available liners”:

24 September 2014

Green groups urge MMDA chief to drop incineration proposal

Quezon City, 24 September 2014. Alarmed by the recent statement by Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman, Francis Tolentino, pushing for incineration to address perennial garbage and flood woes, green groups today asked the MMDA chief to abandon any such plan, as this violates the law and is an environmental and health risk.

In a counter statement, zero waste and chemical safety advocates belonging to the EcoWaste Coalition, Mother Earth Foundation and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives said that “waste incineration is a way of cutting corners and taking an easy, not to mention highly toxic and expensive, way out of our waste problems.” 

No less than the US Environmental Protection Agency, the groups said, had admitted that compared with source reduction, reuse and recycling, waste incinerators contribute far higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions throughout their lifecycles.

The groups cited another study by the US Energy Information Administration stating that the operations and maintenance costs of waste incinerators are ten times greater than coal and four times greater than nuclear.

On Monday, Tolentino blamed garbage as the major culprit that caused the widespread flooding due to the combined impact of typhoon Mario and the southwest monsoon (habagat) and looked up to incineration as the solution, alluding to the need to construct four incinerators to burn Metro Manila’s garbage costing P7 billion each.

“We reject MMDA’s multi-billion peso quick fix ‘solution’ that belittles and violates Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which mandates ecological solid waste management ‘excluding incineration’ (Section 2, d),” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.

Lucero maintained that “the real solution to our garbage woes is the full enforcement of R.A. 9003,”  stressing that “only a small fraction of the generated wastes would be left for disposal if solid wastes are managed according to law.”

“No incinerator would thrive if the R.A. 9003 is genuinely enforced,” Lucero emphasized.

Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation, pointed out that "the poor implementation and the unchecked violation of RA 9003 is not an excuse to violate it further by allowing incineration and tolerating LGUs in the non-performance of their responsibility to enforce the law.”

“We now have a model city, San Fernando City in Pampanga, implementing R.A. 9003 in terms of source segregation, segregated collection, segregated waste destination (Sections 21 - 24) and a Materials Recovery Facility in every barangay (Section 32), resulting to a waste diversion rate of 55%, the highest for a whole city in the entire country,” she said.

"MMDA's fixation with this end-of-the pipe solution to our waste problems reflects their wasteful mentality.  Apparently, they instinctively view discards as waste and not as resources that can be re-used, re-purposed, recycled, or composted - waste management steps that are enshrined in R.A. 9003, which our government to this day has yet to properly implement,” said Paeng Lopez of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

The groups concluded by challenging the MMDA chief to drop his plans on incineration and to instead pursue a strict Metro Manila-wide implementation of RA 9003 to ecologically deal with the Metro’s garbage crisis.



U.S. EPA, “Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases, A Life-Cycle Assessment of Emissions and Sinks 3rd edition,” 2006:

U.S. Energy Information Administration (Department of Energy), Updated Capital Cost Estimates for Electricity Generation Plants, November 2010:

21 September 2014

Environmentalists from 30 Countries Say: “Canada Must Take Back Its Garbage”

Quezon City.  Public interest groups for a toxics-free future from 30 countries across the globe have expressed their concern about the botched shipment from Canada of 50 container vans of mixed trash to the Philippines in the guise of plastic recycling.

“We stand in solidarity with the Philippines in asking Canada to take back its garbage without further delay,” said the statement signed yesterday by chemical safety advocates participating in a global civil society meeting in Kunming, China.

Signing the statement were 63 environmentalists from non-government organizations in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Cook Islands, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and USA.

“We support the rightful stance taken by the Government of the Philippines and the environmental and zero waste groups to have the illegal shipment returned to the sender for contravening the country’s laws and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal,” they declared.

“We commend the customs authorities for seizing the stinking delivery and laud the Filipino government and people for sending an unambiguous message to garbage exporters that the Philippines is not a dumpsite,” they said.

“To put an end to this deceitful and unethical waste dumping that has become a routine practice across the globe, we urge the Governments of both Canada and the Philippines to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits hazardous waste transfer from developed to developing countries even for recycling,” they proposed.

“Countries and companies engaged in the trade of recyclables must ensure that only clean materials are sent abroad for recycling, and that recycling is not used as a camouflage for hazardous waste disposal and dumping,” they emphasized.

In a separate statement sent via the EcoWaste Coalition, the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) expressed “support to the ongoing efforts seeking a resolution to the waste shipment originating from Canada.”

“Increased delays to manage the risk from the waste shipment may pose a risk to public and environmental health in the Philippines. It is necessary for Canada to uphold its commitment under the Basel Convention to the global community and to the Philippines.  The time has now lapsed and Canada has a duty to intervene for the immediate return of waste shipment to Canada for proper disposal through environmentally sound management,” CELA said.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network championing zero waste and chemical safety, thanked allied groups from abroad for manifesting their support to the Philippines on this issue of waste dumping.

“We are deeply grateful for their expression of unity with our country’s fight for environmental justice, which should further encourage our government and people to determinedly defend our right against waste dumping.  Canada’s garbage must be shipped back to its origin at once,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.


20 September 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Ecological Post-Flooding Cleanup

Quezon City.  A waste and pollution watchdog exhorted affected households, establishments and communities to minimize trash as they clean up the mess left by the floods spawned by southwest monsoon and tropical storm “Mario.”

In a statement, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed sympathy with the flood victims in Metro Manila and other regions as the group reminded all citizens of the many benefits of retrieving, reusing and recycling post-disaster waste.

"Please refrain from haphazardly throwing your discards and instead salvage those that can still be put to good use,” reminded Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It may be convenient to throw everything to the bin and wait for the waste collector to come, but this will not truly solve the problem,” she emphasized.

“By exerting a little effort to sort your discards for recycling, we reduce the volume of residual trash that is sent for final disposal,” she added.

Ecological post-disaster cleanup means reduced workload and occupational hazard for waste and sanitation personnel, reduced wastage, reduced dump truck trips, as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and disposal of mixed garbage, the Zero Waste alliance said.

According to the Philippine Climate Change Assessment Report, garbage is the third biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, with methane from dumpsites and landfills comprising the biggest part followed by nitrous oxide from wastewater.

The group added that certain waste streams require special handling to prevent the possible spread of disease, physical harm or exposure to hazardous substances.

For instance, electronic waste (e-waste) should not be burned or dumped along with regular trash as unsafe disposal will diffuse their toxic components such as lead and mercury into the surroundings, harm human health and pollute the environment.

Some of the more common e-waste in the aftermath of a disaster include flood-soaked radio and TV sets and other electrical appliances and gadgets, busted fluorescent lamps and spent batteries, the group noted.


19 September 2014

Green Groups Hit CA Decision Favoring Garbage Dump in Manila Bay-Obando, Say Decision to Worsen Climate Change Impacts in the Area

Quezon City. As the world prepares for the Global Climate March come September 21, green groups denounce a court decision favoring the operation of a privately-owned garbage dump in the Manila Bay – Obando area, an area that is highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change.

Early last week, stories of the Court of Appeals decision giving the green light for the resumption of the construction and operation of the much criticized 45-hectare Obando Sanitary Landfill hit the news. The landfill is being built in a mangrove forest area in Manila Bay, in a coastal fishing village in flood-prone Obando, Bulacan.

“The CA made a bad decision that boggles the mind in many respect. While we have much to talk about in disagreement with the CA decision, a more pressing concern now is that the ruling will greatly exacerbate the impacts of climate change in the highly vulnerable town of Obando and the entire Manila Bay,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition, a broad zero waste advocacy alliance.

“The solution to our growing garbage crisis is clearly not the creation of more dumps, such as landfills, as this merely delays massive contamination of the environment and debilitates the capacities of the affected communities, but the genuine enforcement of R.A. 9003,” Lucero added.

EcoWaste Coalition maintained that Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, is very clear in its mandate to enforce ecological solid waste management to divert wastes from ending up in dumps, through segregation at source, reusing, recycling, composting, listing and prohibition of non-environmentally acceptable products, and establishment of materials recovery facilities. If properly done, this will reduce wastes greatly, making landfill operations economically unviable.

Cheen Layman of Obando Kami ay Para sa Iyo (OKAPI), one of the local groups in Obando actively opposing the landfill, also assailed the ruling, saying, “the CA decision virtually sentenced us to death, as it will adversely affect the livelihood of thousands of fishing families in Obando – Malabon – Navotas area and seriously disturb the remaining mangrove forest and breeding grounds of sea life, weakening the people’s capacities against extreme climate events.” 

For his part, Paeng Lopez of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives said that “landfills are the largest global source of human-created methane, a toxic climate-changing gas that is 25 to 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide, thereby contributing immensely to climate change.”

Flooding is prevalent in the area even without extreme weather events, and dislodging sea water by a 45-hectare landfill would worsen the flooding, at the same time, exposing the affected communities to catastrophic health and environmental risk ‘time bomb’ that could be triggered by extreme weather events and similar occurrences, such as an earthquake, the groups noted.

In October 2011, in response to a query by the EcoWaste Coalition, PHIVOLCS Director, Renato Solidum, stated that Obando is susceptible to a host of weather and climate-related events, such as flooding, storm surges, even liquefaction, earthquake, and tsunami.

A published study by Kelvin Rodolfo and Fernando Siringan also point out that the Manila Bay area is susceptible to waves as high as 3.7 meters brought about by mere southerly winds, such that even the US Navy declared the bay an unsafe haven during typhoons.

The concerned area in Manila Bay is, at present, the site of the mountain-like 45-hectare Navotas Sanitary Landfill, towering above the remaining mangroves around it and “stinking like hell,” as one lead figure in Obando described it. During the early 2000s, the same area became the home of the Navotas Controlled Disposal Facility until its operation was forcibly stopped by a river barricade set up by the people of Obando to prevent garbage-carrying barges from reaching the dump area.

Recently, during the grilling of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary, Ramon Paje, over the perennial trash in Manila Bay, Senator Legarda similarly observed that “Manila Bay is becoming the garbage dump of three regions around Manila.”