30 April 2014

Groups Pledge Support for Cleaner Air

Quezon City – Representatives from more than 30 non-government organizations and grassroots groups pledge support for clean air and to boost their on-going initiatives in support of a healthy and toxic-free environment.

“It is the right of everyone to breathe clean air. However, the quality of our air is continuously degrading due to pollution and the proliferation of dirty facilities. The public must be made aware of the quality of our air especially the toxins that they might be inhaling,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.

The skillshare spearheaded by EcoWaste Coalition and Philippine Pollution Monitor aims to introduce the participants to the concepts of participatory environmental monitoring and encourage the establishment of air pollution monitoring systems in different communities in the country.

During the event, members of the coalition also wore headdresses with question marks to demonstrate the public’s right to know the kinds of pollutants that might be present in the air that they inhale.

 “This skillshare is very timely. The impacts of air pollution are being felt all over the world and it is about time we address this global killer,” said Lucero.

In a recent report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), it was found that more than 7 million people died, or one out of eight of total global deaths, as a result of air pollution exposure. This prompted WHO to declare air pollution as the “world’s largest single environmental health risk”!

“Poor communities often times suffer most the brunt of air pollution since they are more exposed to polluting facilities and they have limited access to information or proper health care. That is why communities should take part in monitoring pollution within their area to ensure that their health and welfare are being protected,” said Shweta Narayan of India Community Environmental Monitoring.

“It is the right of the residents to know what is in the air that they are breathing. Unfortunately the government does not give them this information. Monitoring pollution will help communities gather the necessary data that can be used to upgrade their activities towards clean air or even compel public institutions to do their job in safeguarding the interest of the people,” said Narayan.

The participants of the skillshare came from different communities and groups working on public health, environment and climate justice issues.

-end-

28 April 2014

Consumers Cautioned vs Use of Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Cream (Case of Pinay Domestic Helper in Hong Kong: A Wakeup Call)

(Photo from Hong Kong's Department of Health)

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, cautioned consumers against a health-damaging skin whitening cream called “Santen” after a Filipina household worker in Hong Kong was hospitalized due to mercury poisoning.

Citing information from the Hong Kong’s Department of Health and the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, the EcoWaste Coalition reported that the unidentified 28-year old Filipina was admitted for facial swelling at the Queen Mary Hospital last March 17 and discharged on March 21.

“This case of mercury poisoning attributed to the use of a skin whitening cream should serve as a wakeup call to consumers of such cosmetics.  Although it happened to a Filipina in Hong Kong, we have reasons to believe that there are many similar cases locally, which are probably underdiagnosed and not publicly reported,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“Mercury is absorbed by the body through the skin from such product.  Repeated use will consequently increase the amount of mercury in the body as can be seen in the raised levels of mercury in the blood and urine,” she explained.

“As the problem with illegally imported mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics refuses to go away, we advise consumers to reject outright those products with inadequate labeling information, including full ingredient list, instructions for use, special precautions if any and contact details of the manufacturer, importer and/or distributor,” she stated.

According to a news release by the Hong Kong Department of Health, the Filipino national submitted a facial cream that she was using for about a month prior to her admission at the said hospital.

Subsequent laboratory analysis conducted by the hospital showed that the “Santen” cream had mercury that was 15,211 times the acceptable level, which is one part per million (ppm) under the Hygienic Standards for Cosmetics of the People’s Republic of China.

"Chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, deterioration of memory, difficulty in concentration, impaired hearing and vision, and change in the ability to taste. In the most severe cases, renal failure may occur," the Hong Kong Department of Health explained.

"As the level of mercury in the product is 15,211 times the acceptable level, use of the product may cause serious side effects. People who have used the above product should stop using it immediately and consult health-care professionals as soon as possible if they feel unwell or are in doubt. Members of the public are urged not to buy or use cosmetic products of unknown composition or from doubtful sources," it added.
From 2010 to date, the Food and Drugs Administration of the Philippines has prohibited 104 skin whitening products for containing excessive levels of mercury above the allowable limit of 1 ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

Regular market surveillance by members of the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol had indicated continued sale of the prohibited mercury-laced skin whitening products, particularly in beauty product shops and Chinese drug stores in Metro Manila and other commercial hubs in Cebu and Davao Cities.

The group has announced its plan to conduct a fresh market watch to check if Santen is sold locally to duly forewarn cosmetics regulators and consumers.

-end-

http://www.dh.gov.hk/english/press/2014/140409-3.html
http://www.philcongen-hk.com/ (look for 15 April 2014 ”Babala sa Paggamit ng Santen Cream” notice)

27 April 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Reveals Latest Findings from Its Toxics-Free Summer Campaign: Lead-Laden Souvenir Key Chains




 Key chains with lead (above)
Key chains without lead (below)
Key chains, which are among the most affordable mementos available at gift shops in various summer destinations, may contain elevated levels of lead, a potent toxin that targets the brain and the central nervous system.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network promoting zero waste and chemical safety, aired the warning as part of its ongoing “toxics-free summer” campaign that has seen the group informing consumers about harmful chemicals lurking in swim floats and rings, play tops and other native toys, art materials and even in religious figures.  

In its latest investigation, the group detected lead up to 80,500 parts per million (ppm) in 38 out of 50 key chain samples with paint coatings that retailers in Quiapo, Manila and elsewhere sell from P10 to P35 each. 

Attached to the key rings are decorative key fobs made of coconut, plastic, metal or wood, with painted drawings and often bearing the word “Philippines.”  Some of the fobs are shaped like a fish, guitar, shirt or slipper that could appeal to a child’s curiosity and liking.

“Adults might give such nicely-designed but lead-laden key chains to kids who may use them as a toy or for use with a house key.  As the item may potentially land on a child’s hands and mouth, it is important for key chains to comply with the government’s regulatory policy on lead,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The lead coated design will surely deteriorate with frequent use, releasing the lead as chip or dust that kids may swallow through their casual hand-to-mouth behaviour.  Some kids may even bite or chew on the cute items, directly ingesting the lead paint,” he added.

Lead is strictly prohibited in the manufacturing of toys under the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds signed by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje last December 2013.  The said policy also set a limit of 90 ppm for lead in paints.

As one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” as determined by the World Health Organization, exposure to lead can cause irreparable brain and nervous system damage, reduced intelligence, learning disabilities and behavioral issues.

The top 12 samples of key chains with the highest levels of lead based on the screening conducted by the group using an X-Ray Fluorescence device were:

1.  A key chain with a rectangular metallic fob with yellow paint and featuring “tinikling” folk dance and the word “Philippines” has 80,500 ppm of lead.
2.  A key chain with a  circular plastic fob showing  fish and corrals and the word “Philippines” has 12,800 ppm of lead.
3.  A key chain with a plastic fob showing a couple sitting on a carabao and has the word “Philippines” has 12,200 ppm of lead.
4.  A key chain with a plastic fob featuring a farmer and carabao-drawn cart has 10,500 ppm of lead.
5.  A key chain with a plastic fob showing marine life and has the words “Boracay” and “Philippines,” has 9,027 ppm of lead.
6.  A key chain with a wooden fob shaped and colored like a “suman” and marked “Antipolo City” has 5,409 ppm of lead.
7.   A key chain with a wooden yellow-colored pencil fob with the word s“Antipolo City” has 4,282 ppm of lead.
8.  A key chain with a plastic fob showing a couple with the words “carabao rider” and “Philippines” has  4,108 ppm of lead.
9.  A key chain with a wooden fob shaped as cashew fruit with the words “Antipolo City” has 2,017 ppm of lead.
10.  A key chain with a wooden yellow-painted fish fob has 1,306 ppm of lead.
11. A key chain with a wooden yellow and orange-painted guitar and the word “Philippines” has 1,221 ppm of lead.
12.  A key chain with a green wooden fob shaped as a shirt that says “I love Philippines” has 1,202 ppm of lead.

In view of its findings, the EcoWaste Coalition urged souvenir makers all over the country to shift to lead-safe paints, and to label their products as containing or not containing lead and other chemicals of concern to assist consumers in making an informed choice.

-end-

Reference:
http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/lead/en/

24 April 2014

St. John Paul II's Statues Laden with Lead (EcoWaste Coalition: It's Time to "Detox" Religious Statues, Use Lead-Safe Paint)



As the Catholic community welcomes with great jubilation the elevation of Blessed John Paul II to sainthood this coming Sunday, a toxics watchdog drew the attention of the public and the church on the elevated levels of lead in statues made to memorialize the beloved Pope.

The EcoWaste Coalition detected lead, a toxic metal that can cause harm to human health, in the paint coatings of some statues of St. John Paul II (SJPII) that are being sold by religious craft stores and sidewalk vendors in the city of Manila, particularly in Oroquieta and Tayuman Streets and outside Quiapo Church. 

All five samples of SJPII statues donning different liturgical vestments and costing between P200 to P650 were found to contain lead up to almost 10,000 parts per million (ppm), way above the regulatory limit of 90 ppm, as per screening conducted by the group using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

In a letter sent today to Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,” the EcoWaste Coalition expressed “hope that the Church will seriously look into our findings and back our proposal for religious statue makers to voluntarily switch to lead-safe paint coatings.” 

Regarded by many as an “environmental pope,” SJPII spoke a lot about the environment and the common responsibility for good stewardship of the Creation during his 26-year papacy, including the threat of pollution of the natural environment and the protection of citizens from exposure to dangerous pollutants, the group stated.

“In celebration of the World Year of Peace in 1990, SJPII said the ‘state has the responsibility of ensuring that its citizens are not exposed to dangerous pollutants or toxic wastes,’” recalled Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Lucero further noted that SJPII, addressing a workshop by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1993 on the theme “Chemical Hazards in Developing Countries,” told the participants: “Who cannot but be deeply concerned by the prospect of the already existing and ever expanding danger from pollution and other side effects of the production and use of chemicals?”

“Given SJPII’s clear stance against chemical pollution, we find it only fitting that the statues and other mementos made in honor of the ‘environmental pope’ should be safe from health-damaging substances like lead,” she said.

“In fact, all religious statues, which many Catholic adults and kids customarily touch and kiss as an expression of faith and reverence, should be toxic-free,” she emphasized.

While lead exposure is detrimental to everyone, lead exposure harms children, especially those aged six years and under, at much lower amounts, causing damage to the brain that is generally untreatable by modern medicine and can have a lifelong impact, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Over time, the lead-containing paint on the surface of the statue will deteriorate, especially with frequent patting, wiping or kissing, releasing the lead in chip or dust that may get into the hands of young children and their mouths.

“Health authorities have concluded there is no known acceptable lead exposure level for children, making it imperative to eliminate all preventable sources of lead pollution,” Lucero stated.

“Even if the leaded statues are kept out of children’s reach, would it not be better – from the perspective of occupational, consumer and environmental health – to design and make non-toxic religious crafts?  It’s time to detox these popular faith symbols,” she said. 

Based on the XRF screening, the following statues of SJPII were found contaminated with lead:

1.   A 6-inch statue of SJPII wearing an egg yellow chasuble had 9,559 ppm of lead.  (Place of purchase and price: Catholic Trade Manila, Inc., Oroquieta St., Manila, P448)

2.  A 9-inch statuette of SJPII wearing yellow chasuble had 1,401 ppm of lead.  (Place of purchase and price: Quiapo Church sidewalk vendor, P200)

3.  A 12-inch image of SJPII donning a yellow chasuble had 1,214 ppm of lead.  (Place of purchase and price: HF Religious Art Shop, Tayuman St., Manila, P250)

4.  A 9-inch statuette of SJPII in yellow chasuble had 1,146 ppm of lead.  (Place of purchase and price: Quiapo Church sidewalk vendor, P200)

5.  A 12-inch statue of SJPII in white chasuble and sitting on a papal chair had 1,069 ppm of lead.  (Place of purchase and price: Sto. Niño Catholic House, Inc., Tayuman St., Manila, P650)

In her letter to Archbishop Villegas, Lucero also cited that religious images screened by the group in time for the Holy Week were likewise found to be loaded with lead.  For example, an 11-inch “Santo Niño de la Pera” had a whopping 33,300 ppm of lead.

“We further hope that the Church, inspired by SJPII’s teachings on protecting human health and the environment, will  go beyond making statues lead-free, but take further action to ensure that paints used in churches and other church-run institutions such as schools, hospitals, orphanages and other child-occupied facilities are compliant with the country’s regulatory policy for lead,” wrote Lucero.

Last December, Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje issued a landmark chemical control order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds that establishes a threshold limit of 90 ppm for lead in paints, and sets a phaseout period by 2016 for leaded decorative paints and 2019 for leaded industrial paints.

-end-

Reference:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/messages/peace/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_19891208_xxiii-world-day-for-peace_en.html

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/1993/october/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19931022_rischi-chimici_en.html



20 April 2014

Water Colors Found Laden With Lead (EcoWaste Coalition Urges Parents to Pick Non-Toxic Materials for Kiddie Summer Art Classes and Workshops)

 Water colors with high levels of lead.
Water colors with low or non-detectable levels of lead.

An environmental watchdog has reminded parents to carefully pick non-toxic materials for kids who will attend summer art classes and workshops to explore and cultivate their creative potentials and skills.
 
The EcoWaste Coalition issued the reminder after a conducting a three-tier process to determine if water color sets sold locally are compliant with the regulatory policy on lead, a toxic chemical that can damage a child’s brain and development.
 
The use of lead in the manufacturing of school supplies is prohibited under a Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last December 2013.
 
First, the group bought 22 samples of water color sets from three legitimate school supply stores in Makati, Manila and Quezon Cities; second, it screened the samples for toxic metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device; and third, it sent some of the samples that screened positive for lead to a private laboratory for confirmatory analysis.
 
As per XRF screening, the five samples of a locally-manufactured brand of water colors were found to contain high concentrations of lead, particularly on the yellow cake or lump.  Three of these five samples were sent to the laboratory for analysis.  The other 17 samples had low or non-detectable levels of lead. 

Subsequent laboratory analysis by SGS (a global testing company) via inductively coupled plasma – atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES/AAS) confirmed that the samples had total lead content of 5,900 parts per million (ppm), 17,000 ppm and 37,000 ppm on their respective yellow cake.
 
“The presence of such developmental toxicant on a basic art tool for kids raises a valid health and safety concern justifying immediate withdrawal of the lead-laden water color sets from the market,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
 
“Lead enters a child’s body when it is inhaled or ingested.  It can also be transferred from the mother across the placenta to the fetus.  Permanent damage to health can happen when lead even at low levels is used by a child’s growing body to make brain connections, bones and muscles, instead of calcium and other vital nutrients, interfering with normal development,” he explained.
As confirmed by the World Health Organization, “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead: relatively low levels of exposure can reduce IQ scores, and cause learning disabilities, poor school performance, or violent behaviour, and result in reduced lifetime earnings.”
 
On 7 April 2014, the EcoWaste Coalition formally wrote to the manufacturer of the lead-laden water colors based in Malabon City, requesting it to voluntarily recall its lead-laden product, shift to non-lead raw materials and duly label reformulated products as “non-toxic” and/or “no lead added”.  A follow-up letter was sent to the company last April 15.

A
s of this writing, the EcoWaste Coalition has yet to receive a formal reply from the company. 
The group had already notified the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Trade and Industry of its findings.
 
The 17 water color sets screened by the EcoWaste Coalition and found to contain low or non-detectable lead levels based include: Acuarela 18 Colores, Artist Pallete, Kidz Water Colors, Li’l Hands Arts and Crafts Water Color,  Water Colour and one product with no name that were bought from Merriam & Webster  Bookstore (Carvajal St., Binondo, Manila);  Best Buy Water Color, Dong-A Kids Water Color, HBW Water Color Cake, Hello Kitty Water Color, Water Color #50325, Water Color #96012H, Water Colour #8716H and Water Color #9308H and Water Colour bought from National Book Store (Cubao Superstore, Quezon City); and Golden Brilliant Water Colors bought from VMZ Store (Guadalupe Shopping Center, Makati City).
 
-end- 
 
 

18 April 2014

More Photos: The Trashing of the 2014 Lenten Alay-Lakad to Antipolo City, 17-18 April 2014
















EcoWaste Laments the Trashing of Streets as an Unholy Act of Penance (Group Commends Street Sweepers and Waste Recyclers for Picking Up after the Pilgrims)





The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, minced no words to criticize the widespread littering that again marred the annual Alay-Lakad to Antipolo City on Maundy Thursday.
“The massive littering of major streets by pilgrims who were supposed to fulfill an act of penance is unholy, unkind and unacceptable,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Why dirty the environment with garbage as we beg for forgiveness for our sins and renew our faith?  Why spoil the air with cigarette smoke as we seek reconciliation with the Lord,” she asked.


“We respect our people’s freedom of belief and religion, but it should never be at the expense of the public health and the environment,” she pointed out.


The EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrollers lamented seeing major thoroughfares leading to Antipolo City, particularly Ortigas Avenue Extension from Pasig City, littered with various trash.


“Garbage was most visible in areas where people congregate and rest such as the environs of churches, the areas surrounding the Stations of the Cross, as well as in street junctions, parking lots and open spaces in front of shopping malls,” the Basura Patrollers said.


Like in previous Alay-Lakad activities, the Basura Patrollers spotted cigarette butts, plastic bags, food packaging, polystyrene coffee cups, paper noodle bowls, “suman” wrappers, and soiled newspapers everywhere, “as if it was a feast day for disposables and litterbugs.”  


As if the trashing of the streets was not enough, litterbugs shamelessly left a carpet of used newspapers and other discards on the ground of the Antipolo Cathedral and the adjacent Dimasalang Park despite constant reminder from the Oplan Semana  Santa Command Post for the public to dispose of their trash in proper receptacles, the Basura Patrollers said.

A biblical reminder from 1 Thessalonians 4:7, which says “for God has not called us to uncleanness, but in holiness,” was repeatedly broadcast from the public address system to encourage the throngs of pilgrims to keep the area clean, but to little avail.


It is some consolation to note, the EcoWaste Coalition said, that dozens of informal waste recyclers were quick to see the livelihood opportunity in such a mammoth event as they collected paper and plastic recyclables and thus reducing the volume of discards to be hauled and sent to the landfill by the city’s waste personnel.

The group likewise commended the hundreds of street sweepers assigned by the city governments of Antipolo and Pasig and the municipal governments of Cainta and Taytay for the round-the-clock cleanup efforts along the penitential route.

“The garbage situation would have been far worse if not for the service rendered by the street sweepers and the waste recyclers who picked up trash by hand during and after the penitential walk,” Lucero said.


R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits and penalizes acts that could put the public health and the environment at risk, particularly the littering, dumping and burning of garbage.


Litterbugs can be penalized with a fine of P300 to P1,000, compelled to render community service at the local government unit (LGU) where the act was committed or be required to pay the fine as well as perform community service.


Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition called the attention of the public to avoid some souvenir items sold in Antipolo City that may pose risk to human health for containing excessive amounts of lead, a potent neurotoxin.

The souvenir products were purchased for P130 to P15 each from street vendors on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence screening device for toxic metals, the group detected lead up to 5,984 parts per million (ppm), way above the regulatory limit of 90 ppm for lead in paints, in some key chains and religious figures that are coated with paint.

An angel candle holder had 5,984 ppm of lead, while a statue of the Holy Child and a statue of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (also known as the Virgin of Antipolo) had 4,029 ppm and 1,794 ppm of lead, respectively.

A “suman” key chain had 5,409 ppm of lead, a pencil key chain had 4,282 and a cashew key chain had 2,017 ppm of lead.

“We hope that our discovery of toxic lead in some of Antipolo’s favorite mementos would encourage souvenir makers to stop the use of lead paint for consumer health and safety,” Lucero said.    
-end-
 

15 April 2014

Litter-Free, Smoke-Free Lenten Alay-Lakad Urged (Faithful Urged to Heed Pope Francis: "Counter the Culture of Waste and Disposable")


A waste and pollution watchdog group has requested Catholic devotees joining the Alay-Lakad to Antipolo City on Maundy Thursday to make the penitential walk free of trash and cigarette smoke.

At the same time, the group reminded the devotees to pay attention to the advice made by Pope Francis for the Catholic faithful to “counter the culture of waste and disposable.”

“We appeal to the pilgrims, particularly the youth, to treat the streets leading to Antipolo with due respect and shun littering that has literally turned past Alay-Lakad into Alay-Kalat, creating mounds of trash along the way,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We fear that litterbugs will again rear their ugly heads and defile the sacrificial walk that hordes of people do in memory of Christ the Redeemer to affirm their faith, seek atonement and ask forgiveness for past wrongs,” she said.

“Even the hallowed ground of the Antipolo Cathedral is not spared as  improvised sleeping materials such as newspapers are left scattered by some devotees,” she lamented.

Among the discards often left abandoned in streets and sidewalks are food and beverage materials such as disposable plastic bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws and snack wrappers, as well as bamboo skewers, food leftovers, soiled papers and cigarette filters.

“We also often see pilgrims puffing on cigarettes as they perform their act of penance and then throwing the butts anywhere, unmindful of the hazards of tobacco smoke and the toxins in the butt waste,” she added.

“We hope that smokers will refrain from smoking during the Alay-Lakad for their own health and the health of people around them.  Please give up smoking even only for a day.  Of course, the better choice would be to quit smoking altogether,” she suggested.

“Ensuring that this year’s Alay-Lakad will be litter-free and smoke-free will be consistent with the Pope’s plea for environmental responsibility, and we hope that everyone will heed his wise counsel,” she said.

Last year, during the World Environment Day, the Pope said “
I would like us all to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation, to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable, to promote a culture of solidarity and of encounter.”

The Pope further emphasized the need to “cultivate and care” for the environment, saying it is part of God’s plan that man “nurture[s] the world with responsibility,” transforming it into a “garden, a habitable place for everyone.”

-end-

Reference:


 

13 April 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Toxic Lead in Some Religious Statues






Lead, a neurotoxic chemical impinging on brain function and development, was detected in some religious sculpture with paint coatings.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, made the discovery after screening religious statues bought today,  Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week,  from sidewalk vendors in the vicinity of the historic Quiapo Church in Manila.

The images, all made of fiberglass and with decorative coatings, are sold from P200 to P400 each.

“We respect the practice of the Catholic faithful to kiss or touch religious icons to express their belief as well as to seek divine guidance and intercession,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“However, the frequent kissing or touching of revered statues or wiping them with handkerchiefs or towels may cause their paint coatings to be disturbed and to come off in time,” he said.

“Chipping paint raises a health concern, particularly if the paint contains lead and contaminates the dust that humans, especially young children, pregnant and nursing women, may ingest or inhale as they kiss or touch the sculpture,” he explained.  

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, the group screened the paint coatings on six religious statues for lead, a toxic substance used as pigment in some enamel paints.

A chemical control order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds issued by the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources last December 2013 has set a threshold limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paints, and has further established a phaseout period by 2016 for leaded decorative paints and 2019 for leaded industrial paints.

As per XRF screening, the following religious statues were found to contain excessive levels of lead:

1.  An 11-inch Santo Niño de la Pera worth P250 had 33,300 ppm of lead.
2.  A 5-inch Familia Sagrada worth P200 had 8,785 ppm of lead.
3.  An 11-inch St. Joseph worth P250 had 8,774 ppm of lead.
4.  An 8-inch St. Therese of Lisieux worth P200 had 7,880 ppm of lead.
5.  A 16-inch San Roque worth P400 had 7,257 ppm of lead.
6.  A 9-inch Blessed Pope John Paul II worth P200 had 1,146 ppm of lead.

To eliminate the risk of lead exposure from the popular custom of kissing or touching religious statues, the EcoWaste Coalition urged manufacturers to substitute lead paint with unleaded paint and duly put proper labels on their products to assist consumers in exercising informed choice.

“We also urge the Catholic Church to employ its moral authority to persuade manufacturers to create and sell only lead-safe religious statues for public health and safety,” Dizon said.

“The cooperation of statue makers will help in minimizing lead hazards in a child’s environment from a highly preventable source,” he stressed.

“We further suggest that only lead-safe paints are used in church-run facilities, including the interiors and exteriors of churches, hospitals and schools, as an essential measure to prevent lead exposure,” he added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”  The WHO has confirmed “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif

According to WHO, “at high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioral disruption.

“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 WHO said.

“In particular lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment,” the WHO explained.

-end-