31 August 2018

Tobacco Control and Environmental Advocates Laud DOT’s Initiative for a Smokefree Boracay


Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) Philippines, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP) and the Ecowaste Coalition today commended Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat for taking a bold step to protect the island of Boracay by banning smoking in public places.

“We laud Sec. Puyat for her recent pronouncement that the island of Boracay will now be smokefree. She is the only Secretary that has the audacity to implement this policy and this only goes to show that she is a true servant of the Filipino people,”said Roberto Del Rosario, ASH President.

He added, “Aside from protecting the environment, we believe such initiative will also ensure that tourists - especially children - are protected from the ill effects of smoking and second-hand smoke. Likewise, we are one with Sec. Puyat’s vision of having sustainable tourism for the country.”

Meanwhile, FCAP Executive Director Dr. Maricar Limpin reminded local government units to strictly implement the provisions of Executive Order No. 26 or the nationwide smoking ban.

“We hope that with DOT’s strong position on smokefree, all local government units should prioritize the health of its constituents not only by banning smoking and drinking in public places. It is high-time for local governments to act proactively on this matter,” she added.

Meanwhile, green-group Ecowaste Coalition said that it welcomes the DOT’s initiative not only to protect health but also urban, rural and marine ecosystems from cigarette butts.

“Although small and lightweight, cigarette butts take several years to degrade, contain many harmful chemicals, pose environmental health risks, and waste public funds for cleanup and disposal,” said Aileen Lucero, Ecowaste Coalition, National Coordinator.

Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat yesterday said smoking and drinking in public places would be banned in Boracay. The ban covers not only the beach but other public places in Boracay.

27 August 2018

Group Cites 13-Year Old QC Ordinance Requiring Segregation of Busted Mercury Lamps from Ordinary Trash

Used lamps disposed of at Road 11, Bagong Pag-asa, 26 March 2018
 Busted lamps, Maamo St., 23 February 2018
 Broken lamps, EDSA near GMA MRT Station, 28 February 2018
First page of City Ordinance 1483, Series of 2005

A waste and pollution watch group has reminded the government and people of Quezon City to put into action an ordinance promulgated 13 years ago that seeks to prevent the improper disposal of busted fluorescent lamps containing mercury.

The EcoWaste Coalition called for the implementation of City Ordinance 1483, Series of 2005 “requiring all residents and business establishments to segregate spent fluorescent light bulbs from common garbage” in order to avoid lamp breakage and the release of its mercury content.

As stated in the preamble of the ordinance, “garbage collectors and dumpsite scavengers are unsuspectingly exposed to such hazardous waste.”

According to official records, the ordinance was co-introduced by Councilors Elizabeth Delarmente, Julian Coseteng, Antonio Inton, Alma Montilla, Janet Malaya and Bayani Hipol, and approved by then Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. on March 11, 2005.

“We appeal to the local authorities to breathe new life into this ordinance, which remains truly relevant today given the continuing practice of mixing busted or spent lamps with typical discards,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

An investigation conducted in the first quarter of 2018 by the EcoWaste Coalition in 21 cities in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces has confirmed this practice.  As noted in the group’s report “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps,” “broken and burned-out lamps are generally disposed of along with ordinary municipal solid waste and hauled to landfill facilities.”

“It would be sensible to hold a dialogue to discuss how the ordinance could be effectively promoted and enforced to protect public health and the environment from mercury in products and wastes,” Dizon added. 

The Minamata Convention of Mercury, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, requires governments “to take measures to ensure that mercury waste is managed in an environmentally sound manner.”

The UN Environment has recommended precautionary steps to avoid or limit exposure due to mercury in wastes. Some of its recommendations are as follows:

• Mercury containing products should be segregated from other waste before disposal.

• If stored, the waste should be kept in closed containers in order to prevent any leaks or vaporization.

• Mercury wastes may be recycled and the mercury recovered, as long as special precautions are taken that all mercury emissions from this process are below internationally agreed standards.

• Mercury-containing wastes should never be burned or incinerated.

As mentioned in “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps,” “mercury in lighting products in the form of mercury vapor is released due to breakage during their use or during their handling, storage and disposal.”

“Inhalation is the typical exposure route for mercury released from lighting products. Dermal contact with the mercury contaminated phosphor powder that lines fluorescent lamps is another exposure pathway that can impact on those who handle broken lamps and can cause the spread of contamination,” the report said.

The report has warned that “occupational health risks are generally high for unprotected waste collectors, haulers and recyclers handling mixed discards in the municipal solid waste stream with bare face and hands.”

Aside from lamp waste, waste workers have to deal with mercury from other mercury-added products and wastes, including other electronic waste such as switches and relays, medical devices such as thermometers, skin whitening cosmetics, and dental fillings, the group said.




24 August 2018

Toxics Watch Group Draws Attention to Lead Solder Fumes from Cell Phone Repair Shops

 Samples of lead solder wire purchased and screened for lead by the EcoWaste Coalition.

A waste and pollution watch group today called attention to the use of lead solder wire by cell phone repair shops and the ensuing hazardous fumes that can be inhaled by technicians, their customers and passersby.  

The EcoWaste Coalition pressed for the observance of safety precautions, including the use of lead-free solder, following the recent signing by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of Republic Act  11058, or the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act.

"While we do appreciate their role in reducing e-waste by prolonging the life of e-gadgets, we are concerned that lead solder fumes are exposing repair technicians to hazardous emissions that can harm their health and those of others, including customers who are often seen watching, sometimes in the company of young children, while their phones are being fixed," said Primo Morillo, E-Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The inhalation of lead solder fumes and the ingestion of lead from a contaminated surface are potential exposure routes, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

"It's very important that air pollution from soldering activities, especially in an enclosed space, is appropriately addressed," added Morillo who also noted the country's phase-out of leaded gasoline in 2000 to cut lead particulates in airborne emissions from cars.

"We wish the authorities can assist in training repair technicians to be more health conscious and to take safety precautions to heart,” he added.

In line with R.A. 11058, the group urged the Department of Labor and Employment through the Occupational Safety and Health Center to conduct training programs in collaboration with shopping mall management that will train cell phone repair technicians on safe soldering work practices.

The group made the proposal after learning about the widespread use of lead solder by technicians in cell phone repair shops that are often located inside shopping malls.

Based on information gathered from cell phone repair technicians, the group obtained six samples of soldering alloys from electronic supplies stores that are commonly used  in cell phone repair.

All six samples of solder wire had lead in the range of 4.62 to 67.15 percent as per X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemical analysis.   None of the samples provided safety information about the usage of lead-based solder.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “a person who is exposed to lead over time may feel abdominal pain, constipated, depressed, distracted, forgetful, irritable, and nauseous or sick.” It warned that “people with prolonged exposure to lead may also be at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility.”
To prevent and reduce occupational lead exposure, especially for technicians engaged in the repair of cell phones and other e-gadgets, the EcoWaste Coalition echoed the following general safety precautions from published “Lead Soldering Safety Guidelines”:

“Avoid skin burns and never touch the tip/element of a soldering iron.”

“Avoid inhalation of lead soldering fumes.  Work in a well ventilated area or use local exhaust ventilation.”

“Avoid ingestion of lead due to surface contamination by keeping soldering areas clean and properly managing lead soldering waste.”

“Personnel should not eat or drink in soldering areas and should wash hands after completing soldering work.”

“Use lead-free (preferable) or low lead solder whenever possible.”

"Use necessary personal protective equipment."





22 August 2018

Group Confirms Sale of Mercury-Contaminated Skin Whiteners in QC (Councilors Right in Pushing for Punitive Action to Stop Illegal Trade Says Group)

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit watch group tracking toxic chemicals, products and wastes, confirmed the unabated sale of banned mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics in Quezon City justifying a proposed ordinance that will put an end to such illegal trade.

At the hearing of the Quezon City Council’s Committee of Trade, Commerce and Industry this morning, the group informed  the councilors led by committee chair District IV Councilor Irene Belmonte that contraband skin whitening products with mercury impurities  are being offered for sale despite being banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The group had earlier conducted test buys to mark the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Minamata Convention of Mercury that aims to, among other provisions, phase out mercury use in an array of products, including skin lightening creams and soaps, to protect public health and the environment.

“To prove our point, we went around QC last Monday and managed to buy proscribed products for P100 to P250 each that are often sold over the counter and with receipts provided.  The proposed ordinance banning and penalizing such unlawful trade is strongly justified,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The banned products, according to Dizon, were obtained from stores selling cosmetics, herbal supplements, and Chinese medicines at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Ever Gotesco Mall and Commonwealth Market along Commonwealth Avenue, and a retail outlet at Barangay Damayan.

Dizon presented to the councilors the purchased skin whitening cosmetics, including two variants of Jiaoli, two types of S’Zitang, and one sample each of Erna, Goree and Yu Dan Tang – all of which are not registered with the FDA and banned for containing mercury above the trace amount limit of one part per million (ppm).

As per analysis by the group using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the products bought are contaminated with elevated concentrations of mercury in the range of 583 to 42,000 ppm.

Mercury is a highly toxic substance with no known level of exposure that is considered safe, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, adding that fetuses, babies, children, and pregnant women are most susceptible to the health effects of mercury.

The Committee on Trade, Commerce and Industry unanimously approved today the Proposed Ordinance 20CC-439 entitled “An Ordinance Banning the Manufacture, Distribution, and Sale of Mercury-Containing Skin Whitening Cosmetics in Quezon City,” which the Committee on Health and Sanitation had earlier approved last August 14.

The said measure is co-introduced by Councilors Elizabeth Delartmente, Diorella Maria Sotto-Antonio, Irene Belmonte, Kate Abigael Galang- Coseteng, Alexis Herrera, Lena Marie Juico, Eufemio Lagumbay, Eric Medina and Marivic Co-Pilar.

“As a group espousing a zero waste and toxics-free society, we deem it very important for national and local measures to be enacted and enforced that will reduce mercury releases to the environment.  Getting rid of mercury-added products such as skin whitening creams, for instance, is a good way to cut mercury releases to air, water and soil and thus protect human health,” Dizon said.




21 August 2018

EcoWaste Coalition Warns Pregnant Women vs. Toxic Cosmetics Laden with Lead and Mercury

A waste and pollution watch group cautioned consumers, particularly pregnant women, from using cosmetics laden with toxic chemicals like lead and mercury that can cross the placenta and interfere with brain development of the baby in the womb.

The EcoWaste Coalition sounded the alarm over toxic cosmetics following its latest market investigation that netted unregistered skin care and whitening products with high levels of heavy metal impurities as per screening using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer.

Zahra Beauty Cream, costing P150, from Pakistan, and Feique Lemon Whitening Freckle-Removing Cream, costing P60 , from China were found to contain 9,780 and 7,988 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, while Top Shirley Medicated Cream, costing P40, from Taiwan, was found contaminated with 2,180 ppm of lead. 

The items, which were recently procured by the EcoWaste Coalition from retailers in Baclaran, Divisoria and Quiapo, are not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We are outraged by the unethical sale of skin cosmetics containing lead and mercury that can harm the developing brain even before a child is born.  These potent neurotoxins can enter the body via dermal absorption and ingestion, build up over time and pass through the placental barrier affecting early development of the baby’s brain,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Pregnant women must stay away from skin cosmetics containing these known brain and central nervous system poisons.  Lead and mercury-laden facial creams applied on a frequent basis can result in significant exposure levels for both the mother and the baby in her womb and must be totally avoided,” advised toxicologist Dr. Erle Castillo of the Medical Center Manila and the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT).

According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “mercury's harmful effects that may be passed from the mother to the fetus include brain damage, mental retardation, incoordination, blindness, seizures, and inability to speak. Children poisoned by mercury may develop problems of their nervous and digestive systems, and kidney damage.”

“Fetuses exposed to lead in the womb, because their mothers had a lot of lead in their bodies, may be born prematurely and have lower weights at birth. Exposure in the womb, in infancy, or in early childhood also may slow mental development and cause lower intelligence later in childhood. There is evidence that these effects may persist beyond childhood,” the ATSDR said.

Heavy metals, including lead and mercury, cannot be deliberately added to cosmetic product formulations as such substances are not allowed under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive that is subscribed to by the FDA.

According to the ASEAN Guidelines on Limits of Contaminants for Cosmetics, the trace amounts limits for mercury and lead in cosmetics should not be more than 1 and 20 ppm, respectively.

The EcoWaste Coalition has already notified the FDA about its latest cheap but toxic finds.

The group in March 2018 also reported to the FDA the sale of unregistered Aneeza Gold Beauty Cream, Aneeza Saffron Whitening Cream, Face Lift Whitening Beauty Cream, Parley Beauty Cream, and Parley Whitening Cream - all made in Pakistan - containing mercury in the range of 16,500 to 32,900 ppm.

Also, the group has alerted the FDA about the sale of 12 mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics at popular online shopping sites, including six products that were already among those banned by the agency for containing mercury above the regulatory limit.






18 August 2018

Solidarity Soup for Flood Evacuees in San Mateo, Rizal

Members of non-profit groups Buklod Tao and EcoWaste Coalition offer hot soup to flood survivors who remain in evacuation centers in San Mateo, Rizal, which was inundated by Ondoy-like flood waters after intense torrential monsoon rains lashed Metro Manila and most parts of Luzon. 

16 August 2018

Paint Industry Leader Reveals Secrets of PH Success in Phasing Out Lead Paints

A highly-respected leader of the country’s thriving paint industry cited the unique collaboration by government, industry and civil society players as a crucial element in the historic phase-out of lead-containing paints in the Philippines. 

Johnson Ongking, Vice-President of Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc. and erstwhile President of the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) hailed the multi-stakeholder collaboration for enabling the phase-out of lead paint, a major source of childhood lead exposure.

At a recent forum held in Jakarta, Ongking impressed upon the Indonesian audience the good results of the tripartite partnership involving the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), PAPM and its member paint manufacturers and raw materials suppliers, and the non-profit EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN, which both advocate for a toxics-free future for all.

The said forum was organized by Balifokus and IPEN as part of the groups’ campaign to establish effective laws and standards eliminating lead paints to safeguard the health of children, women, and workers, and protect the environment.

“The key to the success in the Philippine experience was the trust and cooperation between industry, civil society and the government in working towards a common goal – to eliminate lead paint and protect future generations of Filipinos,” said Ongking, who encouraged the Indonesian paint industry to take the lead in working with other stakeholders to having legal prohibitions against lead paint by 2020.

“Having a law prohibiting lead paint is one time where regulation is in the industry’s interest, and it is much better for the industry to work together with regulators to prove to all stakeholders that the paint industry is a responsible one, and to prevent potential future costs for the industry and to society.”

According to IPEN, “children who are exposed to lead in paint suffer irreversible neurological damage that limits their future success and happiness, and limits their ability to be positive, contributing citizens to their countries.”

Studies have also shown that children with high lead levels in their blood are more likely to suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), underperform in school and more likely to become adult criminals.

Loss of IQ due to lead exposure results in an overall loss of lifetime earnings, which leads to a significant economic impact on a country.  According to the report “Economic Costs of Childhood Lead Exposure in Low-and Middle-Income Countries” by New York University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics (NYU), lead exposure costs the Philippines more than US$ 15 billion (almost PHP 700 billion) annually.

Ongking, who is also a member of the Advisory Board of the UN-backed Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance), emphasized that phasing out lead in paint requires full industry cooperation to keep a “level playing field.” Some paint companies are afraid that if they switch to lead safe paints and their competitors don’t, they will lose sales to those that don’t make the switch. So it’s important that all the paint companies make the switch together.”

Moreover, he pointed out that this traditional industry focus on lower cost may not accurately reflect consumer preferences with regard to lead paint. “It’s probably a mistaken assumption that if you gave a homeowner the choice to buy lead paint for a lower price or lead safe paint for a higher price, that they would choose the cheaper product. I don’t think there’s too many homeowners who would spend their hard earned money to expose their family to lead. On the other hand, I think many people would be willing to pay a premium to make sure their families were not exposed to lead poisoning. It’s an opportunity for paint companies to move not just to safer products, but higher value paint products.  Switching to lead safe paints is a win for both manufacturers and customers.”

“Lead paint is a small component of total paint sales yet has the potential to completely destroy customer trust and confidence in our industry,” he added. “We industry people know that water based paints, which is the majority of our sales, has no lead, but consumers don’t know that. If they hear about lead paint in the news, they’re going to think all paints have lead, so even sales of paint without lead will suffer too.”

He also pointed out that unless lead paints were eliminated, their presence would overshadow all the eco-friendly paint innovations that the industry has developed – from low odor paints to paints that help clean the air and reflect sunlight to lower carbon usage. Thus, it is in the industry’s interest to take a pro-active stance to eliminate lead paint just as the Philippine paint industry did.

“PAPM’s 23 member paint manufacturers, which cover over 95% of the country’s total paint production, understood that continued use of lead in paint would damage the reputation of the whole industry and that the phase-out had to be an industry-wide endeavor,” he said.

In 2011, the Ecowaste Coalition, with support from PAPM, petitioned the DENR to develop a regulation on lead in paint.  After a series of consultations and technical working group meetings, the DENR in 2013 issued the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, which provides for the phase-out of lead-containing paints used for decorative as well as industrial applications. He informed the audience that one tool they could use to assist their process was use the Model Law that the Lead Paint Alliance has provided for countries like Indonesia to use as a template for their regulation to phase out lead paint.

To further ensure a level playing field, PAPM organized a series of technical workshops to enable paint formulators of all its members to be equally informed of safe and cost-effective alternatives to lead based raw materials. This was a key part of capacity building that he hoped the Indonesian paint industry association would likewise provide its members.

“The Philippine experience shows that the paint industry doesn’t need to be the bad guys. If all paint companies works quickly to stop making lead paint, the paint industry will come out of this as the good guys. On the other hand, if the industry does nothing and continues to produce lead paint that will damage the future of customers and the industry, then the paint industry will be the bad guys,” he told his counterparts from the Indonesian paint industry. 

“Do we want to be known as a responsible industry that did the right thing once we found out we were doing something wrong? Or do we want to be remembered as an industry that knowingly harmed our children for the sake of lower cost? We can choose to be heroes or the bad guys. I think you will agree, it is an easy choice,” he said.

One of the biggest problems regarding lead paint is that in countries where lead paints are not banned, there is no way for consumers to know whether the paint they’re buying contains lead or not. One way for paint companies to inform consumers that their paint brands were free of lead was to obtain third-party Lead Safe Paint® certification that ensured the lead content of their products does not exceed the total lead content limit of 90 parts per million (ppm), the legal limit set by the Philippines as well as the United States, Canada, India, Nepal, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Just as the presence of lead paint can do disproportionate damage to a paint brand, Ongking mentioned that Lead Safe Paint® certification could provide a ‘halo effect’ that would gain consumer trust not just for the reformulated paint products that formerly contained lead, but for the whole certified brand.  Pacific Paints’ Boysen, Nation, Titan and Virtuoso Silk paint brands are among the first in the world to secure certification under this first-ever global Lead Safe Paint® certification program. Other brands certified as lead-safe under this program are Davies (Philippines), Multilac (Sri Lanka) and Elite (Bangladesh).

He also encouraged the Indonesian paint association as well as the individual paint companies to become partners of the Lead Paint Alliance to signify their commitment to eliminate lead paint.

Ongking noted the role of civil society groups such as the Ecowaste Coalition and IPEN as “incredibly valuable.” Among other things, the NGOs contributed to raising awareness on the dangers of lead paint by conducting lead paint studies and organizing public information activities, by promoting compliance to the lead paint regulation, monitoring breaches, and encouraging corrective actions, by promoting independent, third-party Lead Safe Paint® certification in collaboration with PAPM, and by pushing for supplemental directives enjoining mandatory use of lead-safe paints.



“Lead Paint Elimination and Lead Safe Paint® Certification: The Philippine Experience,” Johnson Ongking, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Groups Back Stoppage of Quarrying Operations in Rizal, Push for the Protection of the Sierra Madre to Avert Floods and Landslides

Environmental conservation and protection groups welcomed the government’s plan to stop quarrying operations in Rizal province following the destructive flooding in Marikina City and other areas brought about by intense torrential monsoon rains.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu on Monday ordered to suspend quarrying activities in Rodriguez and San Mateo after Ondoy-like floods hit these disaster-prone towns in Rizal and the nearby city of Marikina whose chief executive Mayor Marcelino Teodoro  on Wednesday appealed for the revocation, not mere suspension, of quarrying permits in upstream communities to prevent floods and landslides.

“We have again witnessed nature’s wrath as raging waters damaged homes and besieged communities with mud and garbage.  The Ondoy-like tragedy came as no surprise given the steady obliteration of the Marikina watershed and the Sierra Madre by quarrying and other detrimental activities such as waste dumping,” observed Noli Abinales, Chairperson, Buklod Tao, a community group in San Mateo.

“Stopping quarrying operations is a critical policy that has to be enforced.  This has to be supplemented by other measures that will disallow reckless land conversion that is eating up farms and forests in this bastion of biodiversity," he said. 

"Ang kabundukan ng Sierra Madre ay hindi dapat tinitibag, minimina, tinotroso o tinatambakan ng basura lalo't hindi ito dapat gawing pamayanan ng mga dayong di katutubo upang mapanatili ang balanse ng kalikasan.  Ang mga burak, putik at mga kahoy na rumagasa mula sa kabundukan na nagpalubog sa mga kabayanan ng Rizal, Bulacan at Metro Manila ay isa muling paala-ala ng ating kawalang pitagan sa Sierra Madre noong Ondoy 2009 na halos maulit ulit nitong mga nakaraang araw ng ulang Habagat," said Bro. Martin Francisco, Chairperson, Save Sierra Madre Environmental Institute (SSMEI).

Fr. Pete Montallana, Chairperson of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA), pressed for the protection of the fragile forests of the Sierra Madre to enable the biodiversity-rich mountain range to protect Luzon from severe weather disturbances.    

“Sierra Madre’s capacity to shield  our communities from storms, rains and floods has been weakened by damaging human activities.  To enable her to protect us, decisive action is needed to put an end to activities that defile and destroy the Sierra Madre such as the unchecked logging and quarrying, as well as projects that destroy the forest biodiversity and violate the indigenous people’s rights,” he said.

“We need to stop the logging, mining, quarrying and dumping activities in the Sierra Madre to save her from unabated destruction, which is the root cause of the damaging floods,” he emphasized.

Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, further emphasized the need to protect the Sierra Madre from garbage disposal activities that contribute to its environmental degradation.

"Waste prevention and reduction is very much needed to cut the volume of garbage sent to dumpsites and landfills that are regrettably sited in the Sierra Madre.  The enforcement of ecological solid waste management, as embodied in R.A. 9003, especially in cities and towns that haul their garbage to the Sierra Madre is essential if we are to stop its further degradation due to dumping, quarrying and other destructive activities," he said.


15 August 2018

Proposed QC Measure Banning Mercury-Laden Skin Whiteners Hurdled Committee Hearing

An ordinance that will protect consumers, especially women and girls, against skin lightening products contaminated with mercury has successfully hurdled the hearing by the Quezon City Council’s Committee on Health and Sanitation.

At the committee hearing held yesterday, August 14, the committee unanimously approved Proposed Ordinance 20CC-439 entitled “An Ordinance Banning the Manufacture, Distribution, and Sale of Mercury-Containing Skin Whitening Cosmetics in Quezon City.”

The said ordinance was co-introduced by Councilors Elizabeth Delartmente, Diorella Maria Sotto-Antonio, Irene Belmonte, Kate Abigael Galang- Coseteng, Eufemio Lagumbay, Eric Medina and Marivic Co-Pilar.

As adopted by the committee, PO20CC-439 seeks “to ensure strict compliance by business and commercial establishments, as well as street, tiangge and online vendors, to the national regulation banning the sale of cosmetics containing mercury above the  one part per million (ppm) limit set by the Food and Drug Administration in line with the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.”

The prohibition will apply to non-compliant cosmetics such as creams, lotions and soaps that are designed to lighten or whiten the color of the skin.

Citing information from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment, Councilor Delarmente stated that “mercury use in cosmetic products can have adverse effects including skin rashes, discoloring and scarring, reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic disorders, and cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys.” 

Speaking at the committee hearing, Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, conveyed the group’s support to the enactment of the ordinance, which, if passed and enforced, will help in curbing the illegal sale of mercury-laden cosmetics in Quezon City.

“We hope the City Council will include the passage of the said ordinance among its top priorities as toxic mercury-laden skin lightening products are hazardous to health and the environment,” he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition has been tracking mercury in cosmetics since 2011 and, on numerous instances, found prohibited products being sold in some retail outlets, particularly in Commonwealth, Cubao, and Novaliches.

In June 2018, for example, the group exposed the unlawful sale of FDA-banned Goree, Erna, JJJ and S’Zitang skin whitening creams costing P100 to P300 each by retailers in Cubao.

The said cosmetics were found to contain mercury in the range of 521 to 21,100 ppm, way above the maximum limit of 1 ppm.


12 August 2018

Trash Thrown Back by Manila Bay: A Retribution for Reckless Disposal

A waste and pollution watch group denounced thoughtless waste disposal as garbage from Manila Bay spilled onto Roxas Boulevard yesterday due to the heavy monsoon rains and strong waves enhanced by tropical storm Karding.

The EcoWaste Coalition described the mess along the famous thoroughfare as a clear indictment of society’s failure to unlearn reckless disposal and to learn the environment-friendly way of managing discards.

“The heaps of trash sent back by the angry bay should rouse everyone, especially litterbugs, from the seeming lack of environmental awareness and responsibility,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

"The message is clear: We must stop treating Manila Bay like a garbage dump.  We must unlearn the bad habit of throwing discards anywhere to prevent the bay from tossing garbage on us,” he emphasized.

“The largely plastic waste materials washed by the bay should further remind us of the need to undo the practice of producing, buying, using and disposing of single-use plastics and other disposables,” he said.

"Manufacturers, in particular, need to find alternatives to throw-away plastic packaging that is polluting water bodies like Manila Bay with plastics and chemicals," he added

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the garbage surge in Roxas Boulevard is more than an eyesore.

“Irresponsibly thrown discards can lead to a wide range of problems, including poor hygiene and sanitation, flashfloods, leptospirosis, dengue and other diseases, human exposure to hazardous substances, ocean pollution, and economic losses,” Alejandre said.

To prevent and reduce garbage, the group encouraged the public to observe these eco-tips:

1.  Never throw garbage on streets, storm drains, creeks and vacant lots. 

2.  Segregate discards at source, reuse, recycle and compost.

3.  Do not leave garbage outside your home or workplace; wait for the waste collection service to come. 

4. Discourage others from dumping trash, including  tiny but toxic cigarette butts.

5.  Buy in bulk as much as possible, avoid buying products in excessive packaging or in sachet packs, and opt for items in reusable or recyclable containers.

The ecological management of discards will require a shift from the outmoded ‘buy, consume, dispose of, dump or burn’ mentality to a sustainable way of living that embraces environmental conservation, protection and care,” the group said.


10 August 2018

EcoWaste Coalition Backs Closure of Open Dump in Mapandan, Pangasinan

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit environmental health group, has petitioned the national government to order the closure of an illegal municipal dumpsite in Mapandan, Pangasinan.

Reacting to the concerns raised by affected residents of Barangay Primicias of this town, the EcoWaste Coalition today wrote to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to plea for the closure of the open dump and its proper clean-up and rehabilitation.

“We look forward to the immediate issuance of a cease and desist order directing the Office of Mayor Gerald Glenn Tambaoan to halt open dumping in Barangay Primicias and to abide by the requirements of R.A. 9003,” wrote Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and DILG Secretary Eduardo Año.

“The open dump does not fit the good image of Mapandan, which is considered as one of the ‘cleanest, safest and greenest’ municipalities in Pangasinan,” he told the Secretaries. 

The open dump is allegedly operated by the local government unit in contravention of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which, among other requirements, bans the establishment or operation of open dumps. 

R.A. 9003, particularly Section 37, requires the closure of open dumps by February 2004 and controlled dumps by February 2006.

Open dumps such as the one that operates in Mapandan is, as per R.A. 9003, “a disposal area wherein the solid wastes are indiscriminately thrown or disposed of without due planning and consideration for environmental and health standards.”

Based on the information received, the open dump was once a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) that degenerated into a filthy dumping ground attracting flies and emitting unbearable stench.  

“Community residents are worried they will get sick or contract diseases due to the unlawful operation of the open dumpsite,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The open dumpsite is located not far from residential houses, an elementary school and a secondary school.

R.A. 9003 provides for a comprehensive and eco-friendly approach to managing discards mainly through waste prevention, reduction, segregation at source, reuse, recycling and composting, excluding waste incineration.

“The law emphasizes waste avoidance and volume reduction through the adoption of best practices in ecological waste management and definitely not open dumping," Alejandre noted.



https://www.lawphil.net/statut es/repacts/ra2001/ra_9003_2001 .html

07 August 2018

Groups Push for Intensified Government Monitoring of Fake and Toxic Cosmetics

Two non-profit groups dedicated to protecting the consumer interest have called upon the country’s health and police authorities to intensify the drive against dangerous cosmetics flooding the market.

Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (a consumer protection group) and the EcoWaste Coalition (an environmental health group) have asked both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to step up the campaign versus counterfeit and unregistered cosmetics that are often sold at rock-bottom prices in Divisoria, Manila and other bargain hubs, as well as in online shopping sites.

The groups pressed for increased FDA-PNP law enforcement operations to disrupt and eventually halt the illegal trade of dangerous cosmetics following the recent discovery by the EcoWaste Coalition of excessive levels of heavy metal impurities such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in cheap but unsafe lipsticks.

Last Sunday, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed the presence of lead up to 42,900 parts per million (ppm) in 48 out of 57 lipstick samples procured for P14.50 to P35 each from Divisoria retailers.  The maximum allowable limit for lead, a potent neurotoxin, is 20 ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive. 

“Combined FDA-PNP operations are essential to combat the threat from fake and toxic cosmetics in the marketplace.  Their intensified market surveillance targeting unscrupulous manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers will protect consumers from being harmed by products containing banned or restricted substances, as well as bacterial contaminants, that can put their health at risk,” said Atty. Vic Dimagiba, President, Laban Konsyumer, Inc.

“We request the FDA and the PNP to further mobilize their respective machineries to rid the market of personal care and cosmetic products that are not compliant with the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, particularly those containing heavy metals above the trace amount limits set.  The sale of poison lipsticks loaded with lead or skin whitening creams laced with mercury must stop to protect consumer health and the environment, too,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The FDA and the PNP in 2016 signed a Memorandum of Agreement deputizing the PNP to help the FDA in ensuring the quality, safety and efficacy of food, health products, cosmetics, medicines and medical devices being offered for sale in the market.

The PNP has organized the Task Force Destroy Products Unfit for the Consumption of Humans, or Task Force D-PUNCH, to assist the FDA in the performance of its function.

“We hope that the health and customs authorities will also come up with a collaborative agreement to enhance law enforcement action that will stop the entry of contraband cosmetics into our ports,” the groups said.


05 August 2018

Toxics Watch Group Alerts Consumers vs. Lipsticks with Heavy Metal Impurities (EcoWaste Coalition Seek Consumer, Government and Industry Cooperation to Rid the Market of Toxic Lipsticks)

Don’t make, don’t sell and don’t buy poison lipsticks!

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental and health group, aired this dire warning in the wake of its recent discovery of more cheap but unsafe lipsticks that can put consumer health at grave risk.

At a press briefing held today in Quezon City, the group revealed the unlawful sale of MAC (counterfeit) and Qianxiu lipsticks with dangerously high concentrations of heavy metal contaminants following test buys conducted last August 1 at popular 168 Shopping Mall and Divisoria Mall in Manila.

“Arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and other toxic metals must not form part of the composition of lipsticks and other cosmetics to prevent human exposure to these highly hazardous chemicals, which could be due to the use of low-quality raw materials and non-adherence to good manufacturing practices” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Consumers, especially women and girls, are putting themselves at risk by embellishing their lips with cosmetics containing heavy metal impurities.  It's fine to wear lipstick and feel beautiful as long as your health will not be impaired,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” requiring action by governments to protect the health of children, women of reproductive age, and workers.

“Our body has no use for these heavy metals, which are toxic even at low levels and are linked to neurodevelopmental deficits, hormonal disruption, reproductive disorders, and various diseases, including cancer,” said  toxicologist Dr. Erle Castillo of the Medical Center Manila and the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT).  

Of the 57 samples of lipsticks bought for P14.50 to P35 each and subjected to chemicals screening with an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, 55 were found to contain one or more toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury above the maximum allowable limits set by the “ASEAN Guidelines on Limits of Contaminants for Cosmetics.”

According to the Guidelines, “heavy metal contaminants could be derived from the quality and purity of raw materials, and the manufacturing process.”

Lead, which is linked to neurological and intellectual deficiencies, in excess of the allowable limit of 20 ppm, was detected in 48 samples.  Among the top 22 items with the highest levels of lead were:

1.  Qianxiu Matte Lipnicure #06, 42,900 ppm
2.  MAC Matte Lipstick Mariah Carey #02, 38,100 ppm
3.  Qianxiu It’s Moisturizing  Matte Lipstick #06, 34,500 ppm
4.  Qianxiu Lipstick #06, 25,000 ppm
5.  Qianxiu Lipstick #01, 22,500 ppm
6.  Qianxiu Lipstick #10, 21,400 ppm
7.  Qianxiu Matte Lipnicure #04, 15,700 ppm
8.  Qianxiu It’s Moisturizing  Matte Lipstick #04, 13,200 ppm
9.  Qianxiu Lipstick #02, 12,900 ppm
10. Qianxiu Matte Lipnicure #02, 12,500 ppm
11. Qianxiu It’s Moisturizing  Matte Lipstick #02, 11,900 ppm
12. Qianxiu Lipstick #07, 11,200 ppm
13. MAC Matte Lipstick Mariah Carey #06, 9,401 ppm
14. MAC Zac Posen Rudy Woo #12, 8,713 ppm
15. MAC Matte Lipstick Mariah Carey #01, 7,327 ppm
16. Qianxiu Lipstick #11, 7,258 ppm
17. MAC Zac Posen So Chaud #04, 6,400 ppm
18. Qianxiu Matte Lipnicure #01, 5,251 ppm
19. Qianxiu Matte Lipnicure #10, 5,095 ppm
20. Qianxiu It’s Moisturizing  Matte Lipstick #01, 4,764 ppm
21. MAC Matte Lipstick Mariah Carey #05, 4,539 ppm
22. MAC Zac Posen Girl About Town #08, 4,285 ppm

Also, arsenic up to 1,876 ppm was found in 43 samples.  Cadmium up to 332 ppm was detected in two samples, Mercury up to 130 ppm was uncovered in three samples.

The EcoWaste Coalition is deeply concerned with the outrageous levels of lead found in these unregistered and counterfeit lipsticks as human exposure to lead is extremely dangerous even to babies in the womb.

According to the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “lead can cross the placental barrier, which means pregnant women who are exposed to lead also expose their unborn child."

“Lead can damage a developing baby’s nervous system. Even low-level lead exposures in developing babies have been found to affect behavior and intelligence,” NIOSH said.

The exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can also result in miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, as well as birth defects.

Both arsenic and cadmium are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a known human carcinogen.  Cadmium. in particular, has been linked to breast cancer. Mercury, according to WHO, is “toxic to human health, posing a particular threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.”

To rid the market of poison lipsticks with heavy metal impurities, the EcoWaste Coalition has put forward these recommendations:

1.  For consumers to refrain from buying unregistered and counterfeit lipsticks and to exercise their right to product information and safety.

2.  For the health, customs, local government and police authorities to intensify law enforcement action

against manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of adulterated and fake lipsticks, including seizing non-compliant products and bringing culprits to courts.

3.  For legitimate cosmetic manufacturers to produce quality but affordable lipsticks that will discourage consumers from patronizing cheap but perilous lipsticks.





04 August 2018

Groups Cite Zero Waste and Pollution Benefits of Breastfeeding (Breastfeeding: Simplest but Kindest Human Act that Protects the Environment)

As the World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from August 1 to 7, two non-profit groups dedicated to protecting children’s health and the environment cited the benefits of breastfeeding in conserving resources and reducing garbage.

Through a joint statement, Arugaan (a support system for women with infants and young children) and the EcoWaste Coalition (an advocacy group for a waste-free and toxics-free future) hailed breastfeeding as the simplest but kindest human act that protects the environment while helping babies to grow and develop. 

“Not like the manufacturing of so-called breastmilk substitutes (BMS), breastfeeding is most eco-friendly involving no forest clearing, no mining, no fossil fuel burning, and no wasting.  It uses none of Mother Earth’s finite resources in producing the best zero waste food for babies,” said Ines Fernandez, Executive Director of Arugaan and a long-time breastfeeding advocate.

The fact sheet “Green Feeding” published by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN-Asia), Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) and Arugaan states that: “Breastfeeding is a sustainable and natural source of food and nutrition. On the other hand, industrially manufactured BMS are made from dairy and other agricultural products, which generate greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide during production, transport, and use. Their use also generates a sizable volume of waste, which needs disposal.”

“As a waste-free feeding practice, breastfeeding generates no emissions and wastes that pollute and harm the environment.  It is indeed the simplest but kindest act that humans, particularly women, can do so as not to worsen the waste and pollution problems of our society,” affirmed Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

According to Velvet Escario-Roxas, another breastfeeding champion from Arugaan, “the concept of zero waste is beautifully demonstrated in breastfeeding as nothing is wasted or becomes unwanted at any stage.”

“Breastfeeding produces zero waste in comparison to formula feeding as there is no waste from packaging or from plastic feeding bottles or plastic water bottles,” Roxas said, adding that “breastfeeding also has zero water footprint.”

“Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies and then continue breastfeeding have delayed fertility, and experience delayed menstruation for an average of 14 months. This ensures that the mothers use fewer menstrual pads and tampons which end up in landfills or incinerators,” said Roxas.

“Breastfed babies need less nappies or diapers, and thus use less disposable nappies to overload landfill sites and municipal incinerators,” she further said.

Echoing the report “Formula for Disaster: Weighing the Impact of Formula Feeding vs Breastfeeding on Environment,” Arugaan and EcoWaste Coalition stressed, “formula feeding is an unnecessary use of the earth’s precious resources and energy supplies.”

“It produces the waste materials from packaging and non-biodegradable plastics which accumulate in landfill sites, or are burned in open fires or in incinerators, which produce toxic emissions, especially when incinerators are over-burdened by waste,” the report said.

Published by IBFAN-Asia and BPNI, the report emphasized: “it is essential to increase environmental awareness about the impact of formula feeding given that infant formula production and consumption is one of the major threats to breastfeeding and to the environment.”