The EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on chemicals and wastes, has signified its support for the testing of fish from Laguna Lake to determine if they are safe from environmental toxins such as lead and mercury.
“We support the initiative of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to look into the potential toxic metal contamination of Laguna Lake fish, which are mainly coming from industrial and domestic pollution sources,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Lopez had suggested the testing of fish, in coordination with other government agencies such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Health, after saying last Wednesday that “Laguna de Bay is overfished and “fish in (the lake) have been found to be heavy in mercury,”
“In fact, the monitoring of toxic metals and other contaminants in fish in Laguna Lake should be undertaken on a regular basis to assure the public that they are safe to eat, especially by children and pregnant women who are very vulnerable to the harmful effects of exposure to lead, mercury and other toxic metals,” she said.
“The decline or rise in toxic metal concentrations in Laguna Lake fish, as the sampling data would show, will be a good indicator of the effectiveness of government’s interventions and help the Duterte administration in realizing its vision for the country’s largest freshwater lake,” she said.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte) announced that "the Laguna Lake shall be transformed into a vibrant economic zone showcasing ecotourism by addressing the negative impact of the watershed destruction, land conversion and pollution."
The EcoWaste Coalition recalled that a fish sampling conducted in 2010-2011 showed that “mudfish from Laguna Lake is not fit for long-term human consumption primarily due to lead and mercury contamination.”
“Long-term human consumption of mudfish from Laguna de Bay is not safe due to elevated levels of mercury and lead that were found to be above the safe non-carcinogenic hazard quotient (NHQ) values,” said Prof. Victorio B. Molina of the University of the Philippines-Manila who conducted the study.
While the levels of arsenic, cadmium and chromium do not pose significant non-carcinogenic health effects associated with the consumption of mudfish from Laguna de Bay, the concentrations of mercury and lead showed elevated levels that are likely to cause adverse health effects on fish long-term consumers, according to Molina’s report entitled “Non-Carcinogenic Health Risks of Heavy Metal in Mudfish from Laguna Lake.”
Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury are non-essential metals from the point of view of human health and are known to have the ability to bioaccumulate through the food chain, the study said.
“Lead is the most urgent pollutant of concern in terms of adverse health effects from risks associated with mudfish consumption from all sampling locations in the lake,” the study pointed out.
According to Greenpeace, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition: “The Laguna Lake and its surrounding areas are under immediate threat from household and industrial pollution. Household or domestic wastes constitute 77% of the lake’s total pollution load, industry contributes 11%, 11% from agriculture and 1% from forests. Solid and liquid wastes enter the lake by way of the 22 major tributaries and the more than 100 minor tributaries, including the periodically back-flowing Pasig River.”
Recommendations from the report “Non-Carcinogenic Health Risks of Heavy Metal in Mudfish from Laguna Lake.”
1. Urgent measures should be done by concerned authorities to protect health of communities consuming mudfish from the lake especially the children. The immediate goal should be to minimize exposure by minimizing the amount of fish intake and the frequency of consumption.
2. Regular monitoring of heavy metal in fishes should be done at least twice a year (wet and dry seasons) by concerned government agencies at all levels.
3. Regular health advisories regarding quantitative health risks associated with fish consumption should be issued by the Laguna Lake Development Authority or the Regional Office of the Department of Health.
4. Local Government Units, especially the lakeshore communities, should be involved in the heavy metal monitoring in fish and in developing and disseminating advisories and other health-related information to the communities and other stakeholders.
5. Inventory and assessment of potential sources of heavy metal in the lake (e g., industrial sources) most especially for lead and mercury, should be undertaken.
6. More stringent regulation of effluents from industries around the lake should be enforced.
7. There should be regular monitoring of heavy metal in major rivers and tributaries draining into the lake.