30 March 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Cautions Kids vs. Toxic Hazards in Some Traditional Games


Playthings with low or non-detectable lead (above) and with excessive levels of lead, arsenic and/or cadmium (below).

With the start of the summer vacation, a toxics watchdog wasted no time in reminding kids to be extra careful when playing with some native games that could potentially spell trouble for their health and wellbeing. 

As part of its advocacy towards chemical safety and zero waste, the EcoWaste Coalition raised potential chemical hazards in some popular summer games such as sipa, turumpo, holen and luksong lubid, and provided some practical safety tips to minimize such risks.

“While we do encourage our kids to explore and enjoy traditional games, we ask them to be on their guard against playthings laden with hazardous substances like lead, a known developmental toxicant,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“These playthings, which form part of our rich cultural heritage, used to be plain and simple.  But, in this day and age, we find them in varying materials, colors and chemical makeups,” he pointed out.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the advisory after analyzing a total of  350 samples of sipa, turumpo, holen, lubid and palayok that it bought from vendors in Divisoria, Manila and screened for toxic metals using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) instrument.

Sipa, originally a rattan ball, is now often made of lead flat washers that carpenters use to secure roof nails and with threads of packaging straw on the hole. All 40 sipa samples were found to contain lead, with each of the locally-made sipa with lead washers having over 100,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead. 

Turumpo, the cone-shaped whipping wooden toy, now comes in a variety of colors.  Unfortunately, the paints used to coat them with attractive colors had lead.  Out of 33 samples of painted tops, lead exceeding the regulatory limit of 90 ppm was discovered in all but two of them, with a yellow coated turumpo having 15,100 ppm of lead.

The lubid for skipping rope, which used to be made of abaca fiber, is now made of plastic materials.  One of the 3 samples analyzed had lead: a rope made of polyvinyl chloride plastic with 4,134 ppm of lead.

While free of lead, the 271 pieces of holen or jolen were found to contain either arsenic, cadmium or both.  Cadmium up to 3,158 ppm was detected in 170 marbles and arsenic up to 586 ppm was found in  196 marbles. 
 

The palayok for fiesta’s hit-the-pot games use to be unadorned claypot.  Today we find them painted with cartoon figures like Barney, Mickey Mouse and Superman.  Fortunately, all three samples of painted palayok had no detectable lead.

In view of the above findings, the EcoWaste Coalition advised kids to:

1.  Go for playthings made of indigenous materials such as abaca rope for luksong lubid.
2.  Pick playthings that are properly labeled, without lead components and not coated with lead paint. 
3.  Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after playing and before eating.

Recognizing that kids would have no way of determining which ones are safe from lead and other harmful chemicals, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to toy makers to unilaterally switch to non-toxic alternatives and embrace clean production for truly child-friendly playthings.

The group also reminded toy makers to abide by the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last December that bans the use of lead in the production of toys, and further sets a threshold limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paints.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”

According to a WHO factsheet, “children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead and may not be able to repair the damage caused.”

“During his or her first years of life, a child's ability to metabolize, detoxify, and excrete toxins differs from that of an adult, making the child more susceptible to lead,” it said.

-end-

References:




25 March 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Urges DepEd and Donors to Ensure Safe School Makeovers

 

Following Education Secretary Armin Luistro’s challenge for big donors to consider “total makeover” of schools, an environmental watchdog group reminded that renovations should be carefully done so as not to disturb lead paint and disperse toxic dust.

Speaking before real estate business leaders last  week, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Luistro proposed that the government-initiated adopt-a-school program “should now be a total makeover” and not just focused on the construction of a few classrooms.

“Many of our public schools surely require complete makeovers to make them conducive for learning, but renovations, especially those involving repainting jobs, must be done safely,” said Jeiel Guarino of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Lead in Paint Elimination Project.

“Some of our school facilities may have doors, windows, ceilings, walls, chairs, tables and play equipment coated with lead paint, so any renovation work should be planned and done very carefully to avoid disturbing the lead paint,” he said.


“Disturbing surfaces covered with lead paint by cutting, dry sanding and scraping or torching will disperse hazardous chips and dust, posing real health risk to people, especially the young children,” he said.

“Kids can ingest the lead dust, which is often invisible, as they play and put their hands into their mouths.  Lead can also enter their bodies through the inhalation of lead dust,” he added.
According to “The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right” published by the US Environmental Protection Agency, “lead in dust is the most common way people are exposed to lead” and that “lead is especially dangerous to children under six years of age.”
Lead can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ and learning disabilities, behavioral problems and that even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies, the guide said.

“Pregnant teachers and school workers exposed to lead may transfer lead to their fetuses , causing irreparable damage, especially to their developing brains,” Guarino said.

“Workers not trained in proper lead paint removal can ingest and inhale the lead dust, and even bring the lead dust home through their work clothes and shoes,” he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged DepEd to work with other government departments, the paint industry association and other concerned stakeholders in developing a specific guide to prevent and reduce lead hazards in school renovations.

Considering the commercial availability of unleaded paints, the group asked the education department to ban the use of lead paint in public and private schools at all levels and declare the entire school system as “lead-free” zone.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited the need for all government institutions to rally behind the newly-promulgated Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last December 23.

The CCO signed by Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje prohibits the use of lead in the production of food and beverage packaging, school supplies, toys,  cosmetics and other products.
It further sets a threshold limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paints and designates a phaseout period for leaded decorative and industrial paints by 2016 and 2019, respectively.

-end-




 

22 March 2014

Watchdog Warns vs Toxic Phthalates in Inflatable Swimming Floats and Rings

As the entire country braces for the summer heat that is expected to reach 40 degrees celsius, a toxics watchdog cautioned consumers against buying swimming toys that may contain health-damaging chemicals called phthalates.

“As kids look forward to taking a dip in the pool or the beach during the summer break, we advise parents to avoid buying swimming toys that may pose chemical risk due to their phthalate content,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“By asserting their consumer rights to product information and product safety, parents can protect their kids from being exposed to harmful substances,” he said.

The group has expressed concern over the sale of inflatable swimming floats, rings and related toys in the market, mostly made of polyvinyl chloride plastic that may be loaded with phthalates, which are used to make PVC more flexible.

Dizon cited the market withdrawal in eight European countries of various types of swim rings because of “chemical risk” attributed to their phthalate ingredients. 

As per website of the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Dangerous Products (RAPEX), 41 notifications were filed from 2007-2013 by the governments of Cyprus,  Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and Slovakia against swim rings laced with toxic phthalates.

Exposures to phthalates, which are known endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), have been  linked to a number of health problems, including deformed penises and undescended testicles, cleft palate and other developmental abnormalities, premature puberty, shorter pregnancy duration, birth defects and other  health problems.

Studies have likewise linked phthalates to asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
The European Union, the United States and even the Philippines have take action to minimize children’s exposure to phthalates in children’s products, particularly toys.

Under the Department of Health Administrative Order 2009-0005 A as amended in 2011, children’s toys containing over 1% of phthalates DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), DBP (Dibutyl phthalate) and BBP (Butyl benzyl phthalate) are prohibited. 

The said DOH policy further prohibits phthalates DINP (Diisononyl phthalate), DIDP (Diisodecyl phthalate) and DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate) in excess of 1% in children’s toys that could be placed in the mouth.

“Parents can use their purchasing power to compel manufacturers to offer toys that are safe from phthalates in line with the DOH policy,” Dizon said.

To avoid exposing children to phthalates in swimming toys, the EcoWaste Coalition urges parents as consumers to:

1.  Choose for phthalate-free, non-PVC products.
2.  Read product labels; avoid those carrying plastic symbol “3” and those marked PVC or vinyl.
3.  Look for the license-to-operate number on the label, which is an indicator of compliance to DOH’s documentary requirements.  
4.  Avoid products with strong plastic chemical smell.
5.  If you have already bought the toy and is unsure if it is phthalate-free, unpack and leave the product outdoors to let some of the hazardous substances disappear.

-end-

Reference:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/safety/rapex/alerts/main/index.cfm?event=main.search (type “swim ring” under “free text search”; search from 2005 to 2014)

doh.gov.ph/ais_public/aopdf/ao2009-0005-A.pdf

21 March 2014

Plea for World Water Day: Stop Choking Our Waterways with Garbage

 Old Torres St. - Juan Luna St.
 Soler St. near Masangkay St.
 Recto Ave. near Juan Luna St.
 Arlegui St.
Recto Ave. near Abad Santos St.

On the occasion of the World Water Day and the 10th year of R.A. 9275 or the Clean Water Act on March 22, the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, urged the public to stop irresponsible disposal practices that are exterminating our esteros and water bodies. 

To call attention to this persistent problem, the group dispatched its Basura Patrollers on March 17 and 18 to take photos of some of the esteros in Metro Manila, particularly in the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Manila, Quezon and Taguig.
The group found the esteros in the following places in Manila as “top” in terms of floating garbage: Recto Ave. near Jose Abad Santos Ave., Recto Ave. near Juan Luna St., Old Torres St. – Juan Luna St., Soler St. near Masangkay St. and Arlegui St.

The photos can be viewed online at http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com

“The photos we took paint a harrowing picture of how we treat our waterways as if these are dumpsites,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“While pleased with the ongoing efforts by private and public groups to rehabilitate Estero de Paco and other  esteros, we find that reckless waste disposal continues to spoil and clog our waterways,” she noted.

“Sooner or later, the rainy season will set in and again threaten our communities with intermittent rains and devastating flashfloods that we all know are exacerbated by blocked waterways,” she said.

“What more do we need to grasp the reality that whatever we recklessly throw will return to haunt us?” she asked.

“It’s high time that we all act with environmental responsibility, reduce our trash to the least and reuse, recycle and compost as much as we could to bring to life our vanishing esteros,” she said.

R.A. 9275, signed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2004, applies to water quality management in all water bodies and focuses on abatement and control of pollution from land based sources. 

It prohibits the “discharging, depositing or causing to be deposited material of any kind directly or indirectly into the water bodies or along the margins of any surface water, where, the same shall be liable to be washed into such surface water, either by tide action or by storm, floods or otherwise, which could cause water pollution or impede natural flow in the water body.”

As documented by the group, the flotsam in the esteros is comprised mainly of plastic-based materials such as bags, wrappers and polystyrene packaging for food and non-food items, which are basically the same discards that are finding their way from the esteros to Manila Bay.

A 2006 discards survey conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition and its members showed that plastic materials constitute 76% of the floating trash in Manila Bay, with plastic bags comprising 51%; sachets and junk food wrappers, 19%; Styrofoam containers, 5%; hard plastics, 1%, and the rest were rubber at 10% and biodegradable waste at 13%.

A follow-up discards survey in 2010 also found 75.55% of the collected rubbish in Manila Bay as composed largely of plastic discards, mostly plastic bags and polystyrene products.

-end-

Reference:


 

19 March 2014

EcoWaste Coalition: Stop Trashing Our Waterways; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost


Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, called for heightened enforcement of R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, ahead of the 10th anniversary of R.A. 9275, the Clean Water Act, on March 22, the World Water Day.
 
R.A. 9275, signed on March 22, 2004 by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, applies to water quality management in all water bodies and focuses on abatement and control of pollution from land based sources.
 
To draw attention to the irresponsible disposal practices from households and other generators that are choking many of Metro Manila’s esteros with garbage, the EcoWaste Coalition deployed its Basura Patrollers on March 17 and 18 to take photos of clogged waterways in Caloocan, Malabon, Manila, Quezon and Taguig Cities.
 
“The photos we took paint a harrowing picture of how we treat our waterways as if these are dumpsites,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
 
Lucero identified the esteros in the following places in Manila as “top” in terms of floating garbage: Recto Ave. near Jose Abad Santos Ave., Recto Ave. near Juan Luna St., Old Torres St. – Juan Luna St., Soler St. near Masangkay St. and Arlegui St.
 
“While pleased with the ongoing efforts by private and public groups to rehabilitate Estero de Paco and other  esteros, we find that reckless waste disposal continues to spoil and clog our waterways,” she noted.
 
“Sooner or later, the rainy season will set in and again threaten our communities with intermittent rains and devastating flashfloods that we all know are exacerbated by blocked waterways,” she said.

“What more do we need to grasp the reality that whatever we recklessly throw will return to haunt us?” she asked.
 
“It’s high time that we all act with environmental responsibility, reduce our trash to the least and reuse, recycle and compost as much as we could to bring to life our vanishing esteros,” she said.
 
The EcoWaste Coalition noted that both R.A. 9003 and R.A. 9275 ban and penalize waste dumping.

R.A. 9275, in particular, prohibits the “discharging, depositing or causing to be deposited material of any kind directly or indirectly into the water bodies or along the margins of any surface water, where, the same shall be liable to be washed into such surface water, either by tide action or by storm, floods or otherwise, which could cause water pollution or impede natural flow in the water body.”
 
As documented by the group, the flotsam in the esteros is comprised mainly of plastic-based materials such as bags, wrappers and polystyrene packaging for food and non-food items, which are basically the same discards that are finding their way from the esteros to Manila Bay. 
 
The discards survey conducted in 2006 by the EcoWaste Coalition and its partners showed that plastic materials constitute 76% of the floating trash in Manila Bay, with plastic bags comprising 51%; sachets and junk food wrappers, 19%; Styrofoam containers, 5%; hard plastics, 1%, and the rest were rubber at 10% and biodegradable waste at 13%.
 
A follow-up discards survey in 2010 also found 75.55% of the collected rubbish in Manila Bay as composed largely of plastic discards, mostly plastic bags and polystyrene products.
 
“On the occasion of the World Water Day and the 10th year of R.A. 9275, we appeal to all to practice ecological solid waste management and go zero waste to stop the trashing of our esteros and water bodies,” the EcoWaste Coalition said. 
 
 -end-
 
Reference:

17 March 2014

Groups Welcome US Phase Out of Pesticide Propoxur in Flea Collars for Cats and Dogs





An animal rights group and an environmental and health rights group jointly welcomed the US phase-out of  pet collars containing propoxur, a pesticide used to control fleas, ticks and other insects.

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the EcoWaste Coalition said that the decision by the US government and two pet product companies to stop the use of propoxur in pet collars will help
  protect kids from pesticide risks.

Last Friday, March 14, the US Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) announced that it has reached agreement with Sergeant's Pet Care Products, Inc. and Wellmark International to cancel flea and tick pet collars containing propoxur,  marketed under the trade names including Bansect, Sentry, Zodiac and Biospot.

Propoxur-containing pet collars will be eventually phased out in US by 2016.

According to the EPA press release, the decision was reached as a result of EPA's risk assessment showing risks to children from exposure to pet collars containing propoxur.

"Small children may ingest pesticide residues when they touch a treated cat or dog and subsequently put their hands in their mouth," the EPA said.

"Pet products should not contain substances that can pose harm to animals, children and the  environment.   Removing toxic propoxur in pet collars is a step in the right direction and we laud it," said
  Anna Cabrera, Executive Director, PAWS.

"The US phase-out of propoxur is relevant to our country since we import a variety of pet products, including flea and tick treatments for cats and dogs," said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste
  Coalition's Project Protect.
On Sunday, the EcoWaste Coalition's AlerToxic Patrol went to the Cartimar Pet Center in Pasay City to confirm if propoxur-containing pet collars are sold locally and was able to buy US-made Sergeant's  Bansect for P120 and Sergeant's Dual Action for P200, and China-made Harley Baby for P120.

"The decision to phase out propoxur, we hope, should not lead to the dumping of toxic pet collars that American consumers would now shun for the safety of their kids and homes.  We urge shops to offer only non-toxic alternatives that will not put kids and pets at risk," Dizon said.

According to the EPA, "flea and tick collars work by leaving a pesticide residue on dogs' and cats' fur, which can be transferred to people by hugging, petting or coming into contact with the pets."

"The major source of exposure to these chemicals is from absorption through the skin after directly touching the treated pet," it said.

The agreement to cancel propoxur was driven by the petition filed in 2009 by the Natural Resources Defense Council to cancel the uses of propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos (TVCP), another toxic
  pesticide, in pet collars.

In February 2014, the group sued the agency to get a response.

-end-


Reference:

http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/596e17d7cac720848525781f0043629e/04d96e6211e3c9cf85257c9b005950c9!OpenDocument

http://www.nrdc.org/media/2014/140206.asp

16 March 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Finds More Mercury-Laden Cosmetics in the Market





In observance of the World Consumer Rights Day (March 15) and following the International Women’s Day (March 8), an environmental and health  watchdog group called on women consumers to be on guard against toxic cosmetics and to fight for consumer justice.

The EcoWaste Coalition aired the warning after detecting high levels of mercury on 11 brands of imported skin whitening cream products that it collected from its latest market surveillance in Manila, ParaƱaque and Pasay Cities yesterday, March 15.

Costing P60 to P180 each, the unregistered products that supposedly came from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia were found to contain mercury up to 15,900 parts per million (ppm) in gross violation of the threshold limit of 1 ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

“The ruthless sale of these cosmetics loaded with mercury goes against the basic right of consumers to be protected against hazards to health and safety.  Pregnant women and young children are most at risk to the adverse effects of mercury,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Citing information from the World Health Organization, Lucero explained that mercury in skin lightening creams and soaps can harm the kidneys, cause skin discoloration, irritation and scarring, and weaken dermal resistance to bacterial and fungal diseases.

“The incomprehensible product labels in Chinese characters, the non-disclosure of mercury content, the misleading beauty enhancement claims,  the lack of legal redress and the eventual contamination of the environment further violate the consumer bill of rights,” she added.

These rights are protected under R.A. 7394, the Consumer Act of the Philippines and other laws, and are covered by the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, Lucero noted.

“To protect themselves and their loved ones against mercury poisoning, we urge our women to insist on duly registered, properly labelled, non-toxic cosmetics and to fight for consumer justice,” she said.

“To cut down on cosmetics expenses and avoid complications from chemical skin bleaching or whitening, let us be happy with our ‘kayumangging kaligatan” natural skin tone, a beautiful part of our national identity,” she suggested.

Ten of  the 11 mercury-laden skin lightening products that the EcoWaste Coalition found on sale in beauty product shops and Chinese drug stores were among those banned by the Food and Drugs Administration during the last three years, while one (Mifton) is not yet on the banned list.

These 11 products and their mercury levels as screened by a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device are as follows:

1.  Yu Dan Tang Ginseng & Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 15,900 ppm
2.  Erna Whitening Cream, 10,400 ppm
3.  Mifton 7 Days Beauty  Freckle Whitening Repair Set, 4,587 ppm
4.  Jiaoli 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 3,664 ppm
5.  The Flower Woman 7 Days Whitening & Spot Day & Night Set Cream, 3,615 ppm
6.  S’zitang, 3,338 ppm
7.  Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 3,119 ppm
8.  Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening & Anti-Aging Cream, 3,117 ppm
9.  JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 1,981 ppm
10.  Jiaoli 10 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Cream, 1,490 ppm
11.  Sanli Eliminating Freckle Cream, 1,371 ppm

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed support to the proposal of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago for a Senate inquiry into the continued sale of banned skin whitening products laden with mercury.

In a resolution filed last March 4, Senator Santiago explained that “
it is imperative for the State to ensure that these whitening products are prevented from proliferating in the market.”

“The legislature should study if higher penalties should be imposed or stricter guidelines should be implemented to stop dangerous skin products from being sold to the public,” the Senator said.

-end-