29 January 2017

EcoWaste Coalition Warns vs. Beauty Products Laden with Toxic Mercury, Lead and Cadmium (Unregistered Cosmetics from Pakistan Contain Toxic Chemicals)

 "Made in Pakistan" cosmetics with high levels of mercury, lead and cadmium.
 Screenshot from a recent BBC video on unsafe cosmetics sold in London.
 Screenshot from a recent BBC video on unsafe cosmetics sold in London.
 Cosmetics imported from Pakistan and sold without proper market authorization in Pasay City.
Cosmetics imported from Pakistan and sold without proper market authorization in Pasay City.

As the 86 contenders for the Miss Universe crown mesmerize our pageant-obsessed nation, a toxics watch group warned beauty-conscious Filipinos against using cosmetics laden with hazardous substances that can eventually ruin their appearance and health.

The EcoWaste Coalition aired its latest toxic alert after finding eye liners and skin lightening creams imported from Pakistan (not from the usual suspect China) with alarmingly high concentrations of mercury, lead and cadmium.

The group bought samples of Pakistani cosmetics from a garment retail shop in Baclaran Bagong Milenyo Plaza in Pasay City last January 27 and 28 and subsequently screened them for toxic metals using a handy X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer.

Parley Beauty Cream (PHP 250) and Golden Pearl Beauty Cream (PHP 250) were found to contain 19,900 and 11,600 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, while a Hashmi Surma Special (PHP 150) eyeliner was found to contain over 100,000 ppm of lead, exceeding the allowable limits of 1 ppm for mercury and 20 ppm for lead under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).  Hashmi was further found to contain 5,861 ppm of cadmium, way above the ACD limit of 5 ppm.

“These products, which are being sold without proper market authorization, pose serious chemical and health risks because of their excessive mercury, lead and cadmium content, which are nowhere to be found in their lists of ingredients,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Cosmetics containing these toxic metals can damage your health and as a result have been prohibited in many countries,” she said.

“In fact, Golden Pearl Beauty Cream was among the seven skin whitening products banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2014 after confirmatory laboratory analysis revealed ‘violative levels of mercury in the samples provided by EcoWaste,” she pointed out.

“Health authorities in US, Canada and France have likewise banned Hashmi and other lead-containing eye cosmetics as a preventive measure against lead exposure,” she added.

Very recently, the London Trading Standards announced on January 12, 2017 that it has fined 15 cosmetic shops in 2016 for £168,579 (PHP 10,541,526) for selling unsafe merchandises, including  “Golden Pearl Beauty Cream, “containing dangerous and prohibited levels of hydroquinone, mercury or corticosteroids.”

To prevent exposure to mercury, lead and cadmium in cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to carefully read the product labels, reject those with incomplete and incomprehensible information, seek products with the required market authorization from the FDA and only buy notified products from legitimate retailers.

The group emphasized that the safest way for consumers to protect themselves against exposure to toxic metals and other harmful substances in cosmetics is to avoid the use of adulterated, imitation and unauthorized beauty products that have not undergone safety evaluation.

Mercury, lead and cadmium are considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

According to the WHO, mercury poses a particular threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life and, depending on its form, will have different toxic effects, including on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.

Lead is a cumulative toxicant affecting multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems, the WHO said.

Cadmium, the WHO warned, exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen.

The EcoWaste Coalition vowed to continue its market monitoring across the country to help the authorities in stemming the illegal trade of dangerous products that can put the health of the people and the environment at risk, as well as aggravate the country’s problem with toxic and hazardous waste.   

-end-
  


24 January 2017

EcoWaste Coalition: Beware of Toxic Feng Shui Lucky Charms and Amulets




A non-profit watch group on toxic chemicals, products and wastes cautioned consumers anew against purchasing lead-laden lucky charms and amulets ahead of the celebration of the Chinese New Year of the Fire Rooster this Saturday.

The EcoWaste Coalition warned that some of these Feng Shui  items are decorated with paints containing dangerous levels of lead --- a toxic metal belonging to the list of “ten chemicals of major public health concern” of the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the WHO, lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

“Not all Feng Shui charms and amulets are created equal.  While many are safe from toxic lead, some are coated with highly-leaded paints and should in fact carry a lead hazard warning,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Why are these products, which are supposed to attract energy, health, long life, happiness and wealth, coated with lead paints that the Philippines and the entire world are trying to eliminate?,” he asked.

“As these products are hardly regulated, we advise consumers to be wary of painted charms and amulets unless these are certified as lead-safe,” he added.

“We make this warning after finding high concentrations of lead in red and yellow paints of some lucky charms and amulets.  Red and yellow are among the ‘lucky colors’ for the year of the Fire Rooster,” he said.

To drive his point, Dizon cited five Feng Shui items that the EcoWaste Coalition obtained from retailers in Binondo, Sta. Cruz and Quiapo, Manila and screened for lead using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence device.  

--- The red paint of a metallic “bagua” had a lead content of 57,100 ppm.

--- The yellow paint of a “gain luck coin” (also known as a “money plate”) had a lead content of 33,500 ppm. 

--- The yellow paint of a “lucky dragon amulet” had a lead content of 10,700 ppm.

--- The black-green paint of a rooster figure had a lead content of 5,032 ppm. 

--- The yellow paint of a “four-corner blessing” charm had a lead content of 3,284 ppm.

The government’s Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds has set a maximum limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paint.      


Health experts have warned that lead exposure among children even at low levels can interrupt and damage brain development and cause lifelong learning and behavioral problems, while exposure among adults can bring about miscarriage in women, reduced sperm count in men, hypertension and other health issues.

In lieu of lead-laden lucky charms and amulets, the EcoWaste Coalition urged luck seekers to opt for the tried and tested formula to attract health, fortune and happiness:  healthful lifestyle, “sipag at tiyaga” (hard work and perseverance), fervent prayers and good deeds.

Those who wish to decorate their homes and offices for the Chinese New Year may also go for “lucky fruits and vegetables” like oranges and pomelos for “abundance and happiness” and  ginger or taro for “family unity and prosperity,” the group suggested.


-end-

Reference:

http://www.who.int/ipcs/features/10chemicals_en.pdf?ua=1
http://www.emb.gov.ph/portal/Portals/40/CCO%20for%20Lead.pdf

Groups Press DOH, FDA to Ban Plastic Microbeads in Personal Care and Cosmetic Products


Images courtesy of 5gyres.org

Environmental protection and conservation groups today urged the country’s health authorities to impose a prohibition on the use of plastic microbeads, an ocean pollutant, in personal care and cosmetic products (PCCPs).

Through a letter submitted today to the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, the groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition urged DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial and FDA Director General  Nela Charade G. Puno  to initiate a participatory process that will lead to the expedited promulgation of a Department Administrative Order banning plastic microbeads in PCCP formulations.

Endorsing the EcoWaste Coalition’s letter were 50 other groups, including the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, Conservation International, Greenpeace,  Haribon, Marine Conservation Philippines, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Oceana, Save Philippine Seas and 350.Pilipinas.

“We seek your immediate action in order to protect the marine ecosystems from microplastic pollution by prohibiting the production, importation, distribution and sale of PCCPs containing plastic microbeads within a reasonable timeframe,” wrote Eileen B. Sison, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Plastic microbeads  are made from synthetic polymers such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyly methacrylate, nylon and other plastic materials and are used as abrasive scrubbers in PCCPs such as facial cleansers, body washes and toothpastes replacing natural exfoliating materials.  

Plastic microbeads in PCCPs go straight to the drainage system and into water bodies and subsequently polluting the oceans with minuscule, non-biodegradable particles that can attract and absorb hazardous substances, which are then eaten by aquatic organisms who mistake them for eggs or plankton, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Recent research and policy developments, the groups said, should prompt the Philippines, a fish-eating nation, into taking preventive steps to curb microplastic pollution of marine life.  

The groups cited information from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stating that  “knowledge is emerging about the ubiquitous occurrence of microplastics throughout the world’s marine environment and their potential for secondary health impacts via the food chain, including to humans who consume seafood.” 

“This coupled with emerging knowledge about the toxic effects such particles have on biological organisms including mammals has led to concern and actions to monitor and reduce microplastics emissions,” the UNEP said.

“Given the associated potential risks of microplastics, a precautionary approach is recommended toward microplastic management, with the eventual phase-out and ban in PCCPs,” it said.

A study by researchers from RMIT University in Australia and Hainan University in China, published in Environmental Science and Technology, showed “that up to 12.5 per cent of the chemical pollutants on the microbeads can pass into the fish that eat them,” providing “conclusive evidence” that miniscule plastic particles can leach harmful substances into fish that consume them. 

In pushing for a ban on plastic microbeads in PCCPs in the Philippines, the groups cited various policy measures that other governments are pursuing to prevent and reduce microplastic pollution of the oceans.

For instance, the US  Microbead-Free Water Act will prohibit starting July 1, 2017 the manufacturing of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads  less than five millimeters in size, amending Section 301 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. 

New Zealand has recently announced that it will prohibit plastic microbeads in PCCPs effective July 1, 2018.  Taiwan, South Korea and UK had also announced plans to take action versus plastic microbeads in PCCPs.

The groups also recalled that the governments of Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Sweden in 2014 have jointly called for a prohibition on microplastics in PCCPs as “of utmost priority” to “protect marine ecosystems – and seafood such as mussels – from contamination.”

-end- 

Reference:




22 January 2017

Groups Laud DepEd's Latest Policy Requiring Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints in Schools


 

Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor M. Briones was commended by groups promoting a healthy and safe children’s environment for issuing a directive entitled “Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints in Schools.” 

The EcoWaste Coalition (a local environmental group) and IPEN (a global civil society network for safe chemical policies and practices) lauded the recent issuance of Department Order 4, Series of 2017, stating that “the use of only lead-safe coatings or paints shall be mandatory to all pre-school, elementary and secondary schools.”


The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier requested Secretary Briones last September 2016  to strengthen Memorandum 85, s.2016 on the use of lead-free paints issued by former Secretary Armin Luistro, stressing that “an enhanced (policy) will advance DepEd’s mission of promoting a child-friendly school environment where students can obtain quality basic education they deserve.”

“We laud Secretary Briones for the timely issuance of DO 4, s. 2017 following the three-year phase-out deadline for lead-containing architectural, decorative and household paints last December 31, 2016.  Her order will ensure that paints and products laden with lead, a brain-damaging chemical, will not find their way into the school system and pose lead exposure risks for our children,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Use of lead-safe paints shall reduce children’s exposure to toxic lead via lead-containing paint and dust, thus, avoiding health impacts including learning disabilities, anemia and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial, and language skills,” the DO 4 explained.  

“The DepEd’s directive provides a good example as to what other agencies can do to boost the enforcement of the country’s trailblazing policy to phase out lead paints and prevent children’s and workers’ exposures from such paints.  We hope that other agencies will follow suit, particularly by requiring the procurement and use of certified lead-safe paints for all publicly-funded buildings and facilities,” said Manny Calonzo, Adviser, IPEN Lead Paint Elimination Campaign.       

DO 4 corresponds to  the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2013-24 (or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds), the 15-point human rights agenda for chemical safety by the Commission on Human Rights and DepEd Memorandum  85, s. 2016 on the use of lead-free paint for the Brigada Eskwela school repair and maintenance activities.

The order provides for the mandatory use of independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings in painting and/or repainting school facilities, amenities and  other structures such as gate and fence, as well as furniture such as tables, chairs and cabinets, fixtures such as blackboards, learning materials such as teaching aids, school supplies, and toys, and tools and equipment.

In case of renovation of school buildings and other facilities and the restoration of school furniture and fixtures, the order requires the use of the guidelines on proper removal and disposal of lead paints as set by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers to prevent the generation and dispersal of lead-containing dust that children may ingest or inhale.  

DO 4 shall also apply to paint-coated goods or products directly procured by the school as well as those sourced by other means such as through individual, group, corporate or local government donations.  For example, products donated or sold to schools such as, but not limited to, paints, bags, school supplies and furnishings shall be compliant with DENR AO 2013-24 and other relevant lead-related regulations.

The Education Facilities Division–DepEd Central Office; the Education Support Service Division (ESSD) Education Facilities Section–Regional Offices; and the School Governance and Operations Division (SGOD)–Education Facilities Section–Schools Division Offices shall be responsible for the implementation of this latest DepEd order on lead paint.

-end-

Reference:

http://www.deped.gov.ph/node/587930

PH Ratification of Mercury Treaty Will Mean a Feather in Pres. Duterte’s Cap – EcoWaste



Toxic pollution prevention advocates believed that President Rodrigo Duterte's ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a multilateral environmental agreement, will mean a feather in his cap.

Thony Dizon of the toxics watch group EcoWaste Coalition made this observation after discussing this morning the progress of the treaty's ratification with Emmanuelita Mendoza, Officer in Chairge, Chemical Management Section, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).  Also joining the meeting were visiting Japanese nationals Hideo Ikoma and Yoichi Tani from the Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society.

“We note that the Department of Health and the Bureau of Customs have already submitted their respective Certificates of Concurrence, which are required from concerned agencies to get the process moving,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We hope other agencies would be able to reaffirm their agreement with the treaty ratification by President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of the first Conference of Parties slated in Geneva in September 2017,” he added.

“As Chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2017, the Philippine ratification of the Minamata Convention this year will be a feather in President Duterte’s cap that can hopefully influence other member states to do the same,” he said.

To date, none of the ASEAN member governments have ratified the treaty.  Thirty-five countries have so far ratified it, including China, Japan and USA.  Fifty ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.

As reported by the DENR, the DOH submitted their Certificate of Concurrence on December 28, 2016 and the BOC submitted theirs on January 5, 2017. 

Other government offices have yet to re-submit the required certificates signed by their new department secretaries or agency heads, including the Departments of Energy,  Science and Technology and Trade and Industry, the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority and the Occupational Safety and Health Center

As per Executive Order 459, Series of 1997, the Department of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to the endorsement by the concerned agency, shall transmit the treaty to the President of the Philippines for his ratification.  The DFA shall then submit the treaty to the Senate of the Philippines for concurrence in the ratification by the President.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau with the assistance from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the Swiss Confederation has already prepared a “Ratification Dossier,” which, among other things, includes a concise plan of priority areas and actions related to mercury management in the Philippines.

According to the Ratification Dossier, “an annual estimate of 300 tons of mercury is released to the environment in the Philippines.  By implementing restrictions on the importation and use of mercury and mercury-containing products, the Convention will reduce the amount of mercury consumption in the country, and therefore, minimize their subsequent release and adverse effects to the environment.”

“Despite the economic cost to comply with the provisions of the Convention, the long-term benefits of becoming a Party far outweigh the disadvantages,” the Dossier pointed out.

Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

DENR Administrative Order 1997-38, or the Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds, is undergoing amendment to make it in sync with the Minamata Convention, particularly on the phase-down of dental amalgam and other treaty requirements.

-end-  

http://www.gov.ph/downloads/1997/11nov/19971125-EO-0459-FVR.pdf
http://www.mercuryconvention.org/

http://intl.denr.gov.ph/images/FileUploads/Minamata%20Final%20Ratification%20Dossier.pdf

20 January 2017

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Miss U Candidates to Lend Their Voices to Save the Oceans from Plastic Microbeads

http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/

As the 65th Miss Universe beauty pageant slated in the Philippines nears, a local environmental group urged candidates from around the world not to use or endorse personal care and cosmetic products (PCCPs) containing plastic microbeads, a global ocean pollutant.

Through a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, asked pageant contenders to lend their voices to amplify the mounting demand to protect the oceans and aquatic life from the adverse effects of microplastic pollution.

Plastic microbeads and other plastic ingredients are used in varying proportions in a variety of  PCCPs such as exfoliating scrub, facial cleanser, shower gel and toothpaste, to name a few. 

“Today’s beauty queens are known advocates for environmental, health, humanitarian and cultural causes.  As known consumers and promoters of PCCPs, we call upon them to add the removal of microplastics in PCCPs in their list of advocacy issues for a healthier planet,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator,  EcoWaste Coalition.           

“By taking a stance in favor of plastic microbead-free PCCPs, beauty queens could sway manufacturers to voluntarily replace microplastics with biodegradable exfoliating agents that will pose no risk to ocean health,” she said.

“A wide array of people speaking out against plastic microbeads could also motivate regulators to act,” she added.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “for the last 50 years, microparticles of plastic, called microplastics, have been used in PCCPs, replacing natural options in a large number of cosmetic and personal care formulations.”


“Washed down the drain, those particles cannot be collected for recycling, nor do they decompose in wastewater treatment facilities, inevitably ending up in the global ocean, where it fragments and remains,” UNEP said.

Last year, researchers from RMIT University in Australia and Hainan University in China revealed “that up to 12.5 percent of the chemical pollutants on the microbeads can pass into the fish that eat them.”

“These extremely tiny plastic particles from PCCPs can act like sponge, absorbing toxic pollutants in the oceans, which are ultimately ingested by fish and other aquatic animals who mistake microbeads for food,” Lucero said.

“Plastic microbeads from PCCPs are aggravating the alarming ‘plasticization’ of our oceans,” she pointed out.

According to UNEP, over 299 million tonnes of plastic were produced worldwide in 2013 some of which made its way to our oceans, costing approximately US$13 billion per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems.

“Once in the ocean, plastic does not go away: it fragments, eventually breaking down into smaller pieces known as secondary microplastics,” UNEP said.

“Taking action now against plastic microbeads in PCCPs,  reducing plastic bag use and preventing the spillage of plastic waste into the oceans are essential steps that must be undertaken to stem the tide of microplastic pollution, which could have a devastating impact to ocean health and food security, especially in fish-eating nations like the Philippines,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.  

On Monday, the EcoWaste Coalition, in observance of the Zero Waste Month, will submit a letter to the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration urging the government to prohibit the production, importation, distribution and sale of PCCPs containing plastic microbeads within a reasonable timeframe.


-end-

Reference:

http://unep.org/gpa/documents/publications/PlasticinCosmetics2015Factsheet.pdf

http://www.unep.org/NewsCentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=26827&ArticleID=35180


http://www.rmit.edu.au/news/all-news/2016/august/microbeads-contaminate-fish-toxic-chemicals

18 January 2017

Minamata@60: Groups Recall Minamata Tragedy, Back PH Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury






Civil society groups have reiterated their support for actions that will prevent mercury contamination of the ecosystems and the resulting human exposures to this potent neurotoxin.

At a seminar held today to commemorate the 60th anniversary since the official identification in 1956 of the Minamata disease, a neurological problem linked to the consumption of seafood contaminated with methylmercury, the EcoWaste Coalition and other public interest groups rallied all sectors to back measures aimed at curbing mercury emissions, releases and exposures.

They particularly appealed to the Duterte administration to hasten the country’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty that seeks to safeguard public health and the environment from the harmful effects of mercury.  The government has yet to ratify the treaty three years after it was signed in 2013.  

“We have come together to learn about the serious health and environmental effects of mercury pollution as experienced by the people of Minamata and the need for vigilance to ensure that the Minamata disease and other forms of mercury poisoning are prevented, controlled or totally obliterated,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Minamata disease is named after Minamata Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture where the first outbreak of this disease occurred in the early 1950s.  People living around Minamata Bay were stricken with the disease after eating fish and other seafood that were highly contaminated with methylmercury attributed to the industrial wastewater discharges of a plant owned by Chisso Corporation.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision, and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, paralysis,coma and death can occur. A congenital form of mercury poisoning can also affect fetuses in the womb.

Speaking at the seminar, Yoichi Tani, Director of the Collaboration Centre for Minamata Disease Victims and Secretary-General of the Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society, which co-organized the event with EcoWaste, spoke about the bitter facts of the Minamata tragedy and the victims’ continuing fight for justice.

“More than 400,000 people were living along the coast of the Shiranui (Yatsushiro) Sea in Kyushu in the 1950s when methyl mercury contamination was at its peak. The population of the area where mercury-tainted seafood was sold exceeds two million. In the past few years, more than 60,000 victims have filed claims for relief, complaining of headache, numbness in their extremities, spasms, tremors, and other neurological symptoms,” he said.

“Over 60 years have passed since the Minamata disease was officially identified but major questions still linger about its effects, the mechanism of the disease and the full extent of the disaster.   Minamata disease, the worst pollution disaster in Japanese history, shows no signs of going away,” he added.

Despite a speech problem linked to the Minamata disease,  Hideo Ikoma, 73, gave an emotional account of what he and other sufferers of crippling disabilities due to methylmercury poisoning are going through.  “I ate many crabs and fishes caught from Minamata Bay in 1958, exposing me to mercury and causing my admission to the Kumamoto Fujisakidai Hospital.   I was then in junior high school.  Since then, every day has been a struggle between life and death because of the Minamata disease that I and many other victims have to endure.”

Minamata disease victims like Hideo Ikoma demand recognition and compensation for all victims, the establishment of an adequate health and life support system for the victims and their families, and a comprehensive health study of people in the impacted areas.  Furthermore, the victims want the “Polluter  Pays Principle” to be fully and properly enforced, and the contaminated  sites such as the Hachiman sedimentation pool to be restored.

At the seminar, neurologist and clinical toxicologist Dr. Carissa Paz Dioquino-Maligaso talked about the “Faces of Mercury Neurotoxicity” where she, among other issues, cited incidents that occurred in the Philippines to demonstrate the exhibition of mercury toxicity depending on the form of mercury and the route exposure.  Maligaso heads the  National Poison Management and Control Center at the UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital

For example, she mentioned the metal fume fever experienced by some high school students in Paranaque in 2006 due to exposure to elementary mercury;   gingivitis and neurobehavioral changes among miners who are chronically exposed to mercury; cerebral palsy among those exposed to mercury in utero; and renal disease and soft tissue inflammation among those who injected elemental mercury into their veins for various reasons.

Engr. Geri Geronimo Sañez, Chief,  Hazardous Waste Section, Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau, also spoke about the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the ongoing efforts to get the ratified by the present government, including the “Ratification Dossier” that was completed with the assistance of the Swiss Confederation and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

According to the Ratification Dossier, “an annual estimate of 300 tons of mercury is released to the environment in the Philippines.  By implementing restrictions on the importation and use of mercury and mercury-containing products, the Convention will reduce the amount of mercury consumption in the country, and therefore, minimize their subsequent release and adverse effects to the environment.”

“Despite the economic cost to comply with the provisions of the Convention, the long-term benefits of becoming a Party far outweigh the disadvantages,” the Dossier pointed out.

Towards the end of the seminar, the EcoWaste Coalition presented a symbolic banner to Hideo Ikoma and Yoichi Tani that says in English and Japanese: “Justice for Minamata Disease Victims.”

In return, Hideo Ikoma and Yoichi Tani handed out roses to government officials present at the seminar to thank and encourage them to secure the ratification of the treaty before the First Conference of Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.


-end-  

Reference:

http://ipen.org/honoring-minamata

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/


http://intl.denr.gov.ph/images/FileUploads/Minamata%20Final%20Ratification%20Dossier.pdf

15 January 2017

Environmental Health and Justice Groups to Mark 60th Year Since Minamata Disease is Recognized


Takak Isayama, a 12-year old victim of congenital Minamata disease, with her mother.
https://www.haikudeck.com/minamata-disease-uncategorized-presentation-q43Tz7rkPx#slide0
Hideo Ikoma, Minamata disease victim
http://bunkaseminar.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html

Over a 100 people will gather in Quezon City this coming Wednesday for a seminar to commemorate the 60th year since the official identification in 1956 of the Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning.

The seminar is organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, and the Japan-based Collaboration Centre for Minamata Disease Victims and Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society.

Visiting Japanese Hideo Ikoma, a Minamata disease victim, and Yoichi Tani, Director of the Collaboration Centre for Minamata Disease Victims and Secretary-General of the Minamata Disease Victim Mutual Aid Society, will speak at the seminar to shed light on the most dreadful mercury poisoning tragedy the world has ever known.

“The EcoWaste Coalition is honored to co-organize the seminar about the  Minamata disease and the victims’ resolute struggles not only against the debilitating illness but also against cold-heartedness, discrimination and injustice,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the group’s Project Protect.

“Learning from the lessons of the Minamata tragedy, we hope, will strengthen the efforts of the Filipino government and people to prevent mercury pollution from damaging the environment and harming human health,” said Yoichi Tani who has been involved in obtaining justice for the Minamata disease victims since 1970.  
 
Minamata disease is a serious and often deadly illness caused by exposure to methylmercury. It is named after Minamata Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture where the first outbreak of this disease occurred in the early 1950′s.

People living around Minamata Bay were stricken with the disease after eating fish and other seafood that were highly contaminated with methylmercury attributed to the mercury-laden wastewater discharges of a plant owned by Chisso Corporation.

Hideo Ikoma, 73, will provide a personal testimony on how he was exposed  to mercury as a teenage boy and his life as a Minamata disease sufferer, while Yoichi Tani, 68, will discuss the impacts of the Minamata tragedy to people’s lives and the continuing quest of the victims and their families for the elusive justice. 

At the seminar, Dr. Carissa Paz Dioquino-Maligaso will discuss the “Health Issues Related to Mercury Exposure in the Philippines.” Maligaso is the Head of the  National Poison Management and Control Center at the UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital. 

Engr. Geri Geronimo Sañez, Chief,  Hazardous Waste Section, Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau, will talk about the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. 

Through the seminar, the organizers hope to impart the lessons of the Minamata tragedy, raise local awareness on the need for effective measures to prevent and control mercury pollution, and promote the country’s ratification of Minamata Convention on Mercury.




-end-

12 January 2017

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Santo Niño Devotees Nationwide to Cut Fiesta Trash

http://www.everythingcebu.com/attractions/festivals/how-to-express-your-devotion-to-the-santo-nino-during-sinulog/

The environmental watch group EcoWaste Coalition asked Santo Niño devotees to be mindful of their trash as the popular feast of the revered Child Jesus nears.

Simultaneous religious festivities will be held nationwide this weekend in honor of the Child Jesus such as the Buling-Buling and Lakbayaw in Pandacan and Tondo, Manila, Ati-Atihan in Aklan and Sinulog in Cebu, while the festive Dinagyang in Iloilo will take place on January 20-22.

The EcoWaste Coalition appealed for reduced fiesta garbage soon after the mammoth feast of the Black Nazarene last Monday in Manila that saw a twofold increase in the trash collection for Traslacion this year.

As reported by Task Force Manila Cleanup, the city’s waste personnel collected 12 truckloads of garbage or 69.43 tons from January 9 until 9:30 am of January 10, which was twice the volume of trash collected during the same period in 2016.

“Piles of rubbish dotted our streets,” noted Che Borromeo, head of Task Force Manila Cleanup, who also described the garbage collected as mostly plastic water bottles, plastic food containers and utensils, plastic cups, plastic bags, wrappers, carton boxes, newspapers and cigarette butts.

“While our appeal for a trash-less Traslacion was sadly unheeded as shown by widespread littering that again tarnished our people’s epic devotion to the Black Nazarene, we still would like to reiterate our call for a cleaner celebration of the feast of Santo Niño this Sunday,” stated Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We specifically request concerned barangay councils, neighborhood associations and parish communities with Santo Niño as patron to seek ways of enjoining the cooperation of their constituents for a trash-less fiesta,” she said.

“Santo Niño devotees, particularly the adults, will rise to the occasion and treat the environment with respect – an indispensable value that the young can learn from the old in this era of climate change,” she emphasized.

“Regardless of where your pilgrimage will be, be it in Manila, Cebu, Kalibo, Iloilo or anywhere else, please make it a point not leave any trash behind,” she said.

“Observing simple steps in ecological solid waste management such as by not littering, dumping and burning waste materials will contribute to a better environmental and health conditions for our kids,” she added. 

The EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that Manileños should not be dependent on street sweepers who will do their job uncomplainingly.  

“Keeping our communities spick and span is a shared assignment and not the sole responsibility of street sweepers even though they are paid to do it,” Tolentino pointed out. 

“Please do not litter just because someone else will pick up after you,” she pleaded. 

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10 January 2017

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Chinese Candle Stores to Stop Selling Toxic Candles




A non-profit watch group on toxic chemicals, products and wastes went store-hopping in Binondo, Manila last Monday, January 9, to urge Chinese candle retailers to halt the vending of candles with lead-cored wicks.

As part of its ongoing work to prevent children’s exposure to lead, a potent neurotoxin, the EcoWaste Coalition went to 11 stores in the heart of Chinatown to push retailers to stop the importation, distribution and sale of candles with leaded wicks.

The group had earlier notified the country’s health authorities through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the trade of such candles in the local market that would be illegal to sell in other countries such as in Australia, Finland, Denmark and USA, which banned candles with lead-cored wicks in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003, respectively.  Australia in 2002 imposed a permanent ban on candles with wicks that contain 0.06% lead.

“With the health and safety of the consumers in mind, particularly children who are most vulnerable to lead exposure, we request the FDA to release a public health warning against lead-cored wick candles and to stop importers, distributors and retailers from selling such toxic candles,” the group wrote to the FDA in September 2016.  

Responding to the group’s notification, the agency last month issued FDA Advisory 2016-146 entitled “Public Health Advisory on Lead-Cored Wick Candles.” 

“While the advisory did not ban the sale of lead-cored wick candles as we have sought, it clearly warned that the purchase and use of such candles pose an ‘imminent hazard to the public health,’ providing a cue that such products must not be produced and sold at all,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect. 

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that a follow-up directive would outlaw the sale of all candles with wicks and other components containing lead for full compliance by candle makers and traders,” he added.

Armed with copies of the said advisory, the EcoWaste Coalition visited stores selling Chinese praying paraphernalia such as candles and informed store owners about the adverse health effects of candles with lead-cored wicks.   

“As a lead-cored wick candle burns, some of the lead may vaporize and be released into the air.  This airborne lead may be inhaled and may deposit onto floors, furniture and other surfaces in the room where children may be exposed to it,” the FDA 2016-146 warned.

According to the FDA, exposure to lead emissions “can result in increased blood lead levels in unborn babies, babies and young children,” adding that “other toxic effects includes neurological damage, delayed mental and physical development, and attention and learning deficiencies.”

The EcoWaste Coalition in 2014 bought imported candles with lead-cored wicks from Wonderful Trading, a shop selling Chinese prayer articles, and then sent them to a private laboratory for lead content analysis.  As per the laboratory test report, the wicks of approximately 20 candles were found to contain 20.735% lead, which is way above the 0.06% limit in Australia.

“Fortunately, most locally-made candles are non-cored wicks made of braided or twisted cotton and present no risk of lead pollution,” Dizon said.

“As a precaution against lead exposure, we advise consumers to patronize ‘made in the Philippines’ candles with non-cored wicks and avoid those with cored wicks as the metal inside may be lead-based,” he added.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, “while the ingestion or inhalation of lead-containing paint chips and dust is the most typical source of childhood lead exposure, lead, as a cumulative toxicant, can build up in the body over time and even exposure to low levels of lead can increase the blood lead levels in kids.”

“There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” according to the World Health Organization, which lists lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

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Reference:

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09 January 2017

“Trash-lacion” of the Black Nazarene

At the outset, we state that the EcoWaste Coalition acknowledges and respects the beliefs and sacrifices of the devotees of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno.  We make the following photos publicly available not to put down the people’s age-old devotion to the Black Nazarene, but to encourage the Church and the society to ponder and embrace much-needed ecological reforms in the manner in which we manifest our faith.  Human activities, especially our faith-inspired feasts, should not add to the garbage crisis and damage our already fragile environment.   These photos were taken in the afternoon of January 9, Feast of the Black Nazarene, at Carlo Palanca and Villalobos Streets and Quezon Boulevard, Quiapo, Manila.
















EcoWaste Coalition Frowns on Traslacion Litterbugs, Cheers Waste Pickers and Volunteers














The widespread littering that for the nth time blighted the Black Nazarene feast has drawn the ire of environmental health activists.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for a trash-less Traslacion, decried the assorted discards that have piled up along the processional route and in Quiapo district itself.


“We are saddened by the lack of respect for the environment by some of the devotees who simply left their discards lying on the ground for others to pick up,” lamented Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.


“From Luneta to Quiapo, we managed to take photos of mounds of garbage that have kept waste workers and volunteers busy and tired,” she reported.


Among the common waste materials discarded  were food leftovers, food packaging, bamboo skewers, polystyrene containers, plastic bags, plastic bottles, soiled newspapers and cigarette butts, the group said. 


"We even found PET bottles and plastic bags filled with human urine in Luneta," Tolentino pointed out.


“It seems that the appeal for a trash-less Traslacion by no less than Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has fallen on deaf ears.  This is lamentable as January is also designated as Zero Waste month,” she noted.
 

Last Sunday, Estrada called on the devotees to “make the solemn feast more meaningful by keeping our environment clean,” stressing “we should refrain from carelessly throwing our garbage anywhere for it spoils the spirit of this revered tradition.”


“While we commend the government’s waste and sanitation workers and the eco-volunteers from the parishes and schools for picking up the litter that others have left, we think the public, particularly the devotees, should take full responsibility for their wastes, including their urine, and stop burdening others,” Tolentino said.


“Our responsibility to protect the integrity of creation must also be at the heart of our devotion to the Black Nazarene.  We can and we must profess our faith in a manner that will not defile and harm the environment,” she emphasized.


The sincere efforts of various groups and sectors to address the garbage problem posed by the mammoth feast did not escape the group’s attention.


The EcoWaste Coalition lauded the initiative of the Archdiocese of Manila Ecology Ministry to put up a waste management system at
 Rizal Park, venue of the traditional “pahalik” and vigil prior to the procession.

It praised the Philippine College of Criminology, other tertiary institutions and several parochial schools for mobilizing their students for the cleanup job.


It also recognized the combined action of
 Manila’s Department of Public Services and the Metro Manila Development Authority to deploy street sweepers along the Traslacion route.

Finally, the group thanked the informal waste recyclers for picking up the plastic bottles and other recyclable discards left by the devotees.


-end-