EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Government Regulation for Toxic Cadmium

A non-profit group advocating for the protection of the public health and the environment from toxic chemicals today called for a regulation that will prevent and reduce cadmium pollution.

Through a letter sent to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the EcoWaste Coalition requested Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje through the Environmental Management Bureau to initiate the crafting of a  Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Cadmium and Cadmium Compounds, which belong to the Philippine Priority Chemicals List.

“We make this proposition in response to the dangerously high concentrations of cadmium that the EcoWaste Coalition detected in some items through the chemicals screening it conducted using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device,” wrote Sonia Mendoza, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group cited the results of its chemicals screening on plastic tarpaulins, fashion accessories and jewelry, coffee mugs and toys to justify its proposal.

For example, all of the 300 pieces of 2016 election campaign tarpaulins seized by the Metro Manila Development Authority and donated to the EcoWaste Coalition for recycling purposes were found to be laden with cadmium ranging from 697 to 1,921 parts per million (ppm).

Another example: eight types of bracelets obtained by the EcoWaste Coalition in 2015 from fashion jewelry vendors in Divisoria and Quiapo were found positive for cadmium in the range of 15% (or 150,000 ppm) to 32% (or 320,000 ppm).  In 2013, the group found cadmium up to 165,300  ppm in 26 out of 50 samples of cheap fashion accessories and jewelry.

The group noted that the levels of cadmium found in the jewelry and tarpaulin samples cited above were way above  the European Commission Regulation No. 494/2011 cadmium limit of 0.01 % (or 100 ppm) for jewelry, plastics and brazing sticks.

“Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has listed cadmium among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

“As a chemical safety and zero waste advocacy group, we are deeply concerned with the environmental pollution from cadmium, particularly in relation to the unregulated disposal of cadmium-containing waste materials in disposal sites,” Mendoza said.

According to “UNEP Final Review of Scientific Information on Cadmium,”products containing cadmium are not typically collected separately from the general waste stream in developing countries. Therefore cadmium discards will end up in municipal waste and disposed of in landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping. Some of the cadmium in these products will be released to the environment, the extent of which depends on disposal method, control technologies applied and other factors.”

“We believe that a CCO is urgently needed to prohibit, limit or regulate the use of cadmium, particularly in the production of certain products that could expose the public from preventable sources of cadmium exposure, or pollute the environment with cadmium through unsafe disposal practices,” Mendoza stated.