29 April 2015

EcoWaste Coalition’s Boxing Match Draws Attention to Toxic Chemicals that Are Specially Bad for Boys and Men

Taking advantage of the fast approaching Pacquiao – Mayweather “fight of the century,” the EcoWaste Coalition today hosted a boxing match to call attention to chemical plasticizers that are particularly notorious for damaging men’s health.

The bout took place at the Elorde Boxing Gym in Lagro, Novaliches, Quezon City with a yellow banner that says “Save the Boys (and the Girls, too): Prevent Phthalate Exposure” as backdrop, and featured boxers “Totoy Kamao” (the good guy) and “Nonoy Peligro" (the bad guy).

“Through this event, we hope to emphasize the need for awareness and action to  reduce human exposure to phthalates,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, who also acted as referee for the match.    

Phthalates (pronounced as THAL-ates) are a class of chemical compounds used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic pliable and softer.  

“Knowing how we Filipinos, especially the males, love this sport, we thought that the boxing ring provides a good stage to attract attention to these chemical compounds and their adverse impacts to men’s health,” he added. 

Phthalates are known to cause reproductive and sexual developmental disorders such as malformed penises, undescended testicles and other genital deformities, as well as cause damage to the kidneys, liver and lungs.

Humans get exposed to phthalates through eating, breathing and skin contact.  Young children take in higher doses of phthalates due to their habit of biting or chewing PVC toys, or through their common hand-to-mouth behavior.

During the match, “Nonoy Peligro” exchanged blows with “Totoy Kamao” hitting the latter many times to illustrate how the human body is exposed to phthalates, a ubiquitous ingredient in many products such as toys, cosmetics and personal care items, medical devices, home improvement products and packaging materials.

To underscore the male problem with phthalates, EcoWaste staff held round cards every round with some of the adverse effects of phthalate exposure written on the card.  For example, round 1 (deformed penis), round 2 (undescended testicles), round 3 (infertility).

But like Manny Pacquiao, the legendary Filipino boxing icon, “Totoy Kamao” fought hard, stood his ground and, in the end, won the bout with flurry of combination punches.

At the end of the match, “Totoy Kamao” held a placard that says “Enforce DOH A.O. 2009-0005-A,” the Department of Health-issued Administrative Order regulating and restricting phthalates in children’s toys.

Dizon explained that phthalate exposure can be prevented, starting with the enforcement of the said DOH regulation.

Under the said A.O., phthalates BBP, DBP and DEHP in excess of 0.1% by weight are banned in children’s toys, while phthalates DIDP, DINP and DnOP above 0.1% are banned in children’s toys that could be placed in the mouth.

Last Sunday, the EcoWaste Coalition cautioned consumers against buying kiddie boxing gloves that could be laden with phthalate DEHP, a probable cancer-causing substance in humans according to the US Environmental Protection Authonity.

The group’s warning was based on the laboratory tests that detected DEHP in two kiddie boxing gloves at 3.16% and 9.05%, way above the 0.1% regulatory limit.




28 April 2015

Toxics Watchdog Urges DTI to Enforce Mercury Warning Label for Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs Fail to Provide Mercury Warning Information)

An environmental watchdog promoting chemical safety and zero waste today urged the government to implement without further delay the warning label for energy-efficient but mercury-containing fluorescent lamps.

The EcoWaste Coalition requested the Department of Trade and Industry – Bureau of Product Standards (DTI-BPS) to put in force the amended Philippine National Standard (PNS) on “Self-Ballasted Lamps for General Lighting Services - Safety Requirements” adopted in December 2013.

PNS IEC 60968:2012, amended following an appeal by environmental groups, states that “lamps shall additionally be accompanied (with) the following warning...legibly marked on the packaging:  WARNING: Contains Mercury, Handle with Care and Dispose Properly.”

“Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) being sold in the market still lack the essential mercury warning label,” lamented  Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“A warning label will tell consumers that the lamp has mercury, that such a lamp should be handled with extreme caution and that a busted or spent lamp should not be thrown in ordinary trash as it is currently done,” he explained. 

In test buys conducted by the group on April 24-26, 2015, all 10 samples of CFLs bought from formal retailers (Ever Supermarket, Paco, Manila; Puregold, Kalayaan Ave., Quezon City; and Shopwise, Vito Cruz Extension, Makati City) and informal retailers (sidewalk vendors in Paco and Quiapo, Manila) were found to contain no mercury warning information.

Among the CFLs with no mercury warning labels include: CATA, Delta, DHX, DK, Firefly, May, Panasonic, Philips, Sylvania and Xin Mey.

“We request the DTI-BPS to fast track the process that will make it mandatory for all fluorescent lamps to contain such a precautionary warning,” Dizon said.

“This basic labeling requirement in compliance with the Consumer Act of the Philippines should not find any resistance from responsible members of the lighting industry who also have the safety of their customers in mind,” he stated. 

The EcoWaste Coalition said that the DTI-BPS should also require fluorescent lamps to clearly and durably indicate their mercury content to allow consumers to have the option of selecting those with lower mercury.

Indicating their mercury content will also facilitate proper identification and inventory of CFLs and other mercury-added lamps to be phased out by 2020 under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Signed by the Philippine Government in 2013 through DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, the said Convention, among other things, directs the phase out by 2020 of CFLs equal to or less than 30 watts with more than 5 mg of mercury per bulb.

According to the World Health Organization, “exposure to mercury – even in small amounts – may cause serious health problems, and is a threat the development of the child in utero and early in life,” adding that “mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.”

In July 2013, the EcoWaste Coalition and 16 other organizations, wrote to the Secretaries of the Department of Energy (DoE), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) demanding that lamp manufacturers, importers and distributors adhere to “contains mercury” disclosure on product labels in line with the consumers’ basic “right to know.

In 2011, the EcoWaste Coalition prepared a study on CFLs that got included  in the  “Study on the Possible Effects on Human Health and the Environment in Asia and the Pacific of the Trade of Products Containing Lead, Cadmium and Mercury” published by the United Nations Environment Programme.




26 April 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Kiddie Boxing Gloves Not Safe to Play With

Boxing gloves with high phthalate content.

Boxing is definitely not a child’s game, especially when the punching gloves are packed with harmful chemicals.

Amid the frenzy surrounding the upcoming Pacquiao-Mayweather boxing bout, the environmental and health watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition cautioned parents from buying kiddie boxing gloves containing chemical plasticizers banned in toys.

“While boxing, a collision sport, is not recommended for children, some parents may find themselves buying gloves for their boys to have fun with as the clash between the two boxing giants nears,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Adding to the undeniable child safety issue, especially if played without adult supervision, is the presence of undisclosed hazardous substances in some boxing gloves,” he pointed out.

Dizon’s group, which has been tracking hazardous substances in children’s toys since 2011, warned that some kiddie boxing gloves violate the regulatory limits for phthalates, the toxic chemical plasticizers used to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. 

Phthalate exposure has been linked to genital abnormalities in boys such as deformed penises and undescended testicles, as well as to infertility and low sperm count later in life.

Out of the three samples of boxing gloves bought by the EcoWaste Coalition from Divisoria and Quiapo retailers and then analyzed by SGS, a global testing company, two were found to violate the 0.1% limit for phthalate DEHP in toys:
1. A “Toys Ultimate Spiderman” boxing gloves” costing P100 had 9.05% DEHP
2. A “People’s Champ” boxing gloves and punching bag costing P130 had 3.16% DEHP

The third sample, a “Speed Games New Toys” boxing gloves, worth P120 had no detectable phthalate.
Boxing gloves with no detectable phthalate.

Health authorities in Europe, North America and even in the Philippines have taken action to restrict phthalates in children’s toys because these chemicals are known endocrine disruptors deemed harmful even at very low exposures.

To prevent and reduce childhood exposure to these chemicals, the Department of Health in 2011 banned phthalates BBP, DBP and DEHP in excess of 0.1% by weight in children’s toys, while phthalates DIDP, DINP and DnOP above 0.1% are banned in children’s toys that could be placed in the mouth.

To protect children from phthalate exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the health authorities to sternly enforce the restrictions on phthalates in toys and to order the withdrawal from market of non-compliant products.

Quoting from the booklet on endocrine disrupting chemicals published by the Endocrine Society (
www.endocrine.org)  and IPEN (www.ipen.org), the EcoWaste Coalition said that “phthalates act by interfering with androgen (testosterone) production.  Because androgens are critical to male development, including genital development, boys are thought to be most vulnerable to exposure.”

“However, androgens also play important roles in females, making phthalates relevant to both sexes,” the Endocrine Society and IPEN publication said.

Studies have associated exposures to phthalates to a variety of health problems such as birth defects, reproductive disorders, asthma, diabetes, obesity and cancer.  

Exposures occur through ingestion, inhalation and skin contact.





24 April 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Backs Indonesia's Crack Down on Toxic Lipsticks

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, has thrown its support behind the move by the Indonesian health authorities to ban hazardous lipsticks with arsenic and lead content that were first banned in the Philippines last year.

Through Public Warning No. HM., Indonesia’s National Agency for Drug and Food Control (Badan POM) banned 20 lipsticks for violating the arsenic and lead limits under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive at 5 and 20 parts per million (ppm), respectively.

“These are the same lipsticks that our own government banned in 2014 after confirming their arsenic and lead content as reported by our group,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Through Advisory No. 2014-031,  the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) of the Philippines banned 20 lipsticks for exceeding the arsenic and lead limits for cosmetics.

The 20 banned cosmetics are variants of Baolishi, Chanleevi, Kiss Beauty, Miss Beauty and Monaliza lipsticks; 18 were banned for containing lead and 2 for arsenic above the maximum allowable limits. .

“We are delighted to see regulatory agencies in Indonesia and the Philippines taking identical action to protect consumers against unregistered cosmetics with dangerous levels of toxic metals,” Lucero said.

“Such action by Badan POM and FDA would surely bolster the implementation of the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive,” she said.

“This, we believe, would make it harder for illegal traders to evade the required cosmetics notification procedures and dump their dangerous goods into the informal market in Divisoria and elsewhere,”  she added.

“We hope to see more inter-country collaboration and synergy in the enforcement of health regulations as the ASEAN moves towards increased market integration in 2015,” she stated.

The EcoWaste Coalition belatedly learned about the Badan POM’s initiative from Gita Pertiwi (an Indonesian environmental NGO), which provided the group with a copy of the aforementioned Public Warning last April 21.

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and Gita Pertiwi took part in the "IPEN Asian NGO Gathering" held in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 16-18 that, among other things, discussed and expanded the participants' understanding of important international chemical policy developments for a toxics-free future.    

Badan POM’s Public Warning issued in December 2014 prohibits the sale of 68 cosmetics, including lipsticks laced with arsenic and lead and facial skin whitening creams laden with hydroquinone and mercury.


23 April 2015

Conserve water, it’s a limited resource, public told

Quezon City. While the earth is 71% water, only 1% of it is available and clean enough for drinking.

“This limited yet extremely necessary resource is worth a lot of responsible consuming, especially during the dry season when the heat is up and supply of water is down,” Christina Vergara, EcoWaste Coalition’s Zero Waste Program Officer said in a press release issued this morning.

“As of today, more than 700.9 million people all over the world has no access to safe drinking water,” she added, quoting data from real time statistics Worldometer.

In the country, as early as the 3rd quarter of last year, water authorities have started to warn about possible water shortages this year.

In some parts of Cavite, water supply is already diminishing, such that households in certain areas can already experience lack of water for 2 to 4 days.

As the dry season continues to heat up, the EcoWaste Coalition calls on the public to be responsible water consumers. The following tips were put forward by the coalition to guide each individual on practical water conservation:

1. Dump not; burn not trash to protect our remaining sources of water from contamination. Garbage dumping and burning can release contaminants, like leachate from landfills and toxic ash from areas where trash are burned, which can leach into ground water and even travel downward toward water bodies, such as rivers and seas.

2. Never leave the faucet open, such as while brushing your teeth. You can waste about 5 gallons of water doing that.

3. Never use running water to thaw foods, wash fruits and vegetables, or the dishes. Make use of the basin to do the job. Then collect the used water for other cleaning purposes or for watering plants.

4. Have leaking faucets repaired immediately. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting about 100 gallons of water each day.

5. If possible, never use your toilet flush to avoid draining more than 6 gallons of water at each flush. Save water you have used to wash fruits, vegetables, clothes, and dishes for flushing the toilet.

6. Instead of using the shower, make use of the good ol’ “timba at tabo” duo to do your bath. A 10 minute bath will pour around 40 gallons of precious water down the drain. Better still, stand inside a stable basin as you bathe so you can collect the water and use it to flush the toilet or for other cleaning purposes.

7. Hand washing clothes is still better than using the washing machine as you can control the amount of water you use, plus the added benefit of exercising your arm muscles and spending extra calories for beneficial use. All the same, when using washing machine, wait until you’ve got a full load before you do your laundry.

8. Reuse water for as long as it can be reused. Laundry water can be used to mop the floor, wash the car, or wash recyclable discards like cans and bottles. If you can still collect this water, you can use it further to water ornamental plants or clean the driveway.

9. Water plants wisely:

a. Water plants just enough to keep them looking healthy. Robust leaves are a sign they don’t need water yet.

b. Some plants love water; some want just enough; some don’t want any for a long time. Better get to know your plants so you can water them wisely.

c. You can also arrange your plants one on top of the other, such that those who love water the most are placed on the top and those who love the least water are placed below. That way, water flowing from watering those above will tend to water the plants below.

d. Compost your biodegradable wastes and use it as planting medium. Compost tends to hold water longer for plant use than plain soil.

e. Use fruits and vegetable trimmings as well as yard wastes, like fallen leaves and twigs, as mulch to keep moist in the soil from evaporating easily. This will reduce the amount of time and water you spend watering your plants.

f. Shade your plants, such as with nets, to avoid much water loss.

g. Prune your plants properly so they can use water more efficiently.

h. It might sound gross, but you can use your urine to water your plants. Urine has nutrients that plants need for good plant health.

10. Eat more fruits and vegetables for your meals. Because they have a good load of water in them, your body’s need for water is reduced.

11. Monitor your water bill. That should keep you on your toes to practice water conservation.

12. Regularly check for possible leaks and immediately remedy them once detected.

13. Tell others to do the same.




21 April 2015

Keep incineration ban intact, eco-groups to P-Noy

                               (Photos by Gigie Cruz-Sy/GAIA)

 City of Manila. “Malinis na hangin, ipaglaban natin! Basura huwag sunugin!” (Defend clean air! Burn not trash!)

Eco-activist groups comprising of the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Green Convergence, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), KULAY, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), and green advocates from local communities drummed up the call in time for the commemoration of the Earth Day to protest renewed moves from some lawmakers to lift the incineration ban.

Carrying a mock incinerator monster surrounded by youth activists dressed as zombies, to symbolically depict the horror of incineration for drastically devastating clean air, climate, public health, as well as jobs and livelihoods, the 200 strong cavalcade marched from Espana Road to the Malacanang Palace to deliver a strong Earth Day message to the president.

“In response to renewed attempts by some pro-incineration congressmen to water down the Clean Air Act, we call on President Benigno Simeon Aquino, III to defend the law from legislative attacks and keep the incineration ban intact!,” cried Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coaltion.

“P-Noy should make it his legacy to defend the Clean Air Act from attempts to lift the ban on the burn and to uphold it through genuine implementation,” she added.

Despite failure to reach consensus during 3 consultation meetings of the Committee on Ecology of the Philippine Congress on Cong. Edgar Erice’s proposed bill amending Section 20 of the Clean Air Act or Republic Act 8749 to allow incineration of wastes, the committee’s technical working group on incineration surprisingly came up recently with a draft.

“We are aghast that, despite oppositions from the civil society and in the face of hard evidences against the supposed benefits of incineration, a.k.a. ‘thermal treatment technology’, pro-incinerators in the House of Representatives were too excited to amend RA 8749 that they appeared willing to proceed with it even behind our backs,” said Paeng Lopez of GAIA.

According to the group, the pro-incinerators’ claim that incineration solves our problems with wastes, energy, climate change, and even health issues, have been debunked repeatedly.

“Incineration is unsustainable as it perpetuates wasting by destroying resources, instead of recovering them for ecological management through recycling, composting, or reusing,” Lucero stressed, adding that this is in express violation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or RA 9003.

As pertains energy, Lopez emphasized that a lot more energy is saved from recycling compared to what incineration is capable of generating. “Recycling a ton of PET bottles for example will save 85.16 Gigajoules of energy: that is 26.4 times the energy that can be generated from incinerating the same input,” he explained, quoting from American zero waste and incineration expert Dr. Paul Connett.

“Incineration will also not do justice to climate as more carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, is produced by waste-to-energy incinerators than coal-fired power plants,” Lopez added.

For her part, Merci Ferrer, HCWH-Asia Director, underscored the health impacts of incinerating medical wastes, particularly to host communities. "Burning of biomedical wastes produces dioxins and furans which when released to the environment will cause enormous public health impacts such as impairment of the immune, nervous, endocrine and reproductive systems," she said.

“Incineration is unsustainable; it wastes valuable resources and energy; it promotes global warming; and produces toxic ash and air emissions,” summed the group.