30 October 2018

Politicos Urged Not to Worsen Cemetery Mess with Leaflets and Tarpaulins

A waste and pollution watch group appealed to national and local politicians running for public office in the 2019 elections not to drown cemeteries and adjacent communities with propaganda leaflets and tarpaulins.

“We urge all candidates not to use the cemeteries and the roads leading to their gates as a ‘common poster area’ to publicize their names and faces,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Poll candidates are usually tempted to take advantage of the popular observance of Undas to make themselves known to citizens who swarm the cemeteries to gain some political mileage.

“People go to cemeteries to offer flowers and prayers for their departed loved ones, and not to be bombarded with all sorts of political propaganda.  No campaigning in cemeteries please,” Lucero said.

“Cemetery administrators should ban the distribution of leaflets, commercial or political, as well as the hanging of tarpaulins, including greetings and reminders, from politicians to shield Undas from partisan politics,” she proposed.

“Local government authorities should likewise disallow the display of tarpaulins bearing ‘happy halloween’ and ‘have a safe Undas” messages from politicians on the streets leading to the cemetery entry points,” she added.  

The nailing of tarpaulins on trees, in particular, should be forbidden as this can harm trees. "Please spare trees of all types of tarpaulin announcements," she pleaded.

Leaflets and tarpaulins, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, only add to the cemetery mess that blemishes the time-honored observance of Undas.  

The group also expressed its concern over the presence of hazardous substances such as cadmium and lead in tarpaulins that are usually made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.

“These tarpaulins will end up as garbage sooner or later.  And these are not your ordinary garbage due to their toxic content,” Lucero said.

Tarpaulins are not biodegradable and will take a very long time to degrade in dumpsites and landfills, releasing their toxic additives in the process, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Burning these plastic materials will also be problematic as this will result in the formation of extremely toxic dioxins that can contaminate the environment and harm human health, the group warned.

-end-

29 October 2018

Continued Sale of Toxic Candles with Leaded Wicks Worries Waste and Pollution Watch Group



Candles with leaded wicks are still sold for consumer use despite a government’s  warning that such candles are an “imminent hazard to public health.” 

The waste and pollution watch group EcoWaste Coalition made this revelation after buying  last Saturday candles worth P120 to P240 per box of two candles from a store selling Chinese prayer articles along Ongpin St., in Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown.

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, lead in the range of 1,257 to 2,797 parts per million (ppm) was detected on the lead wire that is used to keep the cotton wick upright as the paraffin  wax melts.

“We are worried by the continued sale of these imported toxic candles that can affect air quality and cause lead poisoning hazard, especially to young children,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To prevent lead air pollution, we ask the manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of such candles to cease and desist from marketing candles with leaded wicks.  Consumers should not light such candles that can result in serious health problems,” he said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2016  issued a public health advisory regarding “the purchase and use of all candles with wicks containing lead, candles in metal containers that contain lead, and wicks sold for candle-making that contain lead,” stressing that such products pose “an imminent hazard to public health.” 

The said advisory was prompted by the EcoWaste Coalition's investigative research that found candles with lead-cored wicks on sale in Binondo.  Tests commissioned by the group detected lead up to 200,735 ppm on the wicks of 20 candles it submitted to a private laboratory for analysis.

“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 advisory said.

The FDA warned that 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.”

As the blatant sale of leaded candles continues, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the FDA to issue another advisory imposing outright ban on the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of such candles.

The group emphasized that the governments of Australia, Finland, Denmark and USA had already banned candles with lead-cored wicks in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003, respectively.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)in 2003 banned lead-cored wicks and candles with lead-cored wicks after determining that candles using lead-cored wicks could present a lead poisoning hazard to young children.

“It’s high time for the Philippines to follow suit and take action banning such toxic candles to prevent lead air pollution and protect children’s health,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

-end-

Reference:

https://ww2.fda.gov.ph/attachments/article/390455/FDA%20Advisory%20No.%202016-146.pdf
https://www.cpsc.gov/content/cpsc-bans-candles-with-lead-cored-wicks

Undas Tips on Safe Use of Candles:

1.  Pay attention to the manufacturer’s candle use and safety instructions.

2.  Shun candles with lead-cored wicks and go for candles with cotton and other non-metal wicks.

3.  Trim the wicks as a long and curved wicks can cause irregular burning and dripping.

4.  Use sturdy candle holders that will not turn over, catch fire or break when they get too hot.

5.  Place the candle holder on a stable, heat resistant and uncluttered surface.

6.  Light candles in a well-ventilated space to lessen indoor air pollution.  

7. Keep burning candles out of the reach of children and pets.

8.  Do not leave a lighted candle unattended.

9.  Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.

10.  Keep burning candles away from anything that can catch fire.  

28 October 2018

Groups Campaign for Clean and Waste-Free Observance of Undas

   
Caloocan City/Quezon City.  The EcoWaste Coalition, a zero waste advocacy group, has again appealed to the general public to show respect for the dead as millions are set to visit the cemeteries next week.

Together with Caritas Kalookan, the group gathered today at La Loma Catholic Cemetery  to promote ecological practices that should help in reducing waste and pollution in cemeteries on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

With a green banner that says “Igalang ang mga patay, Igalang ang Kalikasan” on the background, the participants prayed, performed a skit, and listened to calls for a respectful  observance of Undas.    
“Year in and year out, visitors leave tons of garbage in cemeteries as if littering is a customary ritual that has to happen as we remember our dearly departed,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is as if litterbugs are having a field day unmindful of the consequences of their action, which is disrespectful to fellow visitors and to the environment as well,” he added.

Past monitoring by the group’s Basura Patrollers revealed that visitors often treat cemeteries as dumpsites for discarded food and food packaging, plastic bottles, soiled papers, and cigarette filters.

The groups emphasized that Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits the littering, dumping and burning of trash that should be strictly enforced within and outside the cemeteries.  

As some candidates may take advantage of the occasion to entice voters to support them in the May 2019 polls, the EcoWaste Coalition urged well-meaning politicians not to engage in political propaganda in cemeteries. 

Instead of distributing leaflets and hanging tarpaulins with their names and faces, the group urged political wannabes to deploy or support volunteers who can assist in keeping cemeteries litter-free.

To educate the public on proper cemetery etiquette, members of the Catholic Charismatic Bible Apostolate performed a skit showing how wasteful, polluting and disrespectful practices are tainting the time-honored tradition of remembering the dead.

 Among the ecological and ethical practices being promoted by the groups include the following:

1.  Only lit clean-burning candles and do not let the plastic holders or receptacles to burn.  Don’t use candles with lead-cored wicks that can emit dangerous fumes.

2.  Bring fresh local flowers or potted plants as offerings.  Refrain from wrapping them in plastic, which  only end up as trash.

3.  Carry your own water container to avoid buying bottled water.

4.  Bring just enough food and beverage to avoid spoilage or wastage.

5.  Use reusable, not disposable, cups, plates, and utensils. 

6.  Opt for bayong or other reusable carry bags, and decline plastic bags and wrappers from vendors.

7.  Don’t throw food and beverage packaging, food leftovers, cigarette butts and other discards on the ground.

8.  Put your discards into the recycling bins if available, or bring them home for proper sorting, reusing, recycling or composting

9.  Keep the urinal or toilet bowl clean as a courtesy to the next user. Do not defecate or urinate in public places.

10. As a general courtesy, don’t smoke or vape in the cemetery.

-end-

27 October 2018

Group Reminds Parents to be Cautious of Unsafe Halloween Toys




The EcoWaste Coalition, a health and safety advocacy group, cautioned consumers anew against Halloween playthings that may result in toy-related injuries, especially if played without parental supervision.

The group made the warning after buying cheap Halloween toys from vendors in Divisoria, Manila most of which have not passed through the required quality and safety verification by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

“There is no assurance that all toys being sold in the market are safe for our children to play with,” lamented Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  “Some of these toys might be putting vulnerable kids in harm’s way.”

Dizon warned that some toys may pose chemical, choking, fire, and laceration hazards, and even blunt force trauma.

“Parents should only pick safe notified or registered toys for their children and supervise them as they play to prevent any untoward incident,” he suggested.

For this year’s Halloween celebration, the group bought 35 assorted Halloween toys, including scary headbands and masks, imitation weapons, creepy hammers, and "blood-stained" accessories like “blood saw in head,” “terrorist necklace” and “horror blood and fangs.”  

Notified or registered toys, as per FDA’s requirements, should bear the following labeling information: license to operate (LTO) number, age grade, cautionary statements/ warnings, instructional literature, item/ model/ stock keeping unit (SKU) number, and manufacturer’s marking, including the complete name and address of the manufacturer or distributor.

None of the 35 samples provided complete labeling information as required by the FDA, which for the EcoWaste Coalition is a matter of serious concern as this deprives consumers the right to know.  

“Compliance to the labeling requirements is essential as this will equip consumers with vital information on which to make their decision to buy a product or not.  In fact, toy manufacturers should also disclose the chemicals present on a product and their effects, particularly to children’s health,” emphasized Dizon.  

Of the 35 samples, only eight have the required License to Operate (LTO) number on their labels. In most cases, the information on LTO stickers was hardly readable.  “Parang ayaw ipabasa,” observed Dizon, saying that “a good magnifying glass is needed to enable consumer to read the extremely fine print.”


While 20 samples gave various hazard warnings, the warning symbols and statements were ineffective because they were too small to get noticed, the group observed.

Out of the 35 samples, the EcoWaste Coalition selected potentially hazardous toys and described the hazards such toys posed, especially to young children.  For example:

1.  A plastic imitation weapon measuring 35 inches in length with a massive blade-like part that may cause blunt force trauma.

2.  Toy axes and swords with sharp edges that can cause abrasions and cuts.

3.  Seemingly harmless devil headbands and light-up toys containing button batteries that a small child may swallow, causing damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

4.  Costume masks adorned with fake hair that can easily catch fire, but provide no fire hazard warning.

5.  Some vampire-inspired accessories with matching “cosmetic blood” the content of which is a mystery due to zero labeling information.

6.  Accessories and toys with varying levels of lead content, including a skull headband with 1,265 parts per million (ppm) of lead, way above the allowable 90 ppm regulatory limit.

As the peak toy shopping season is upon us, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated the need for concerted action involving the government, business and consumer sectors to uphold the right of all children to quality and safe toys.

The group further advised consumers to observe the following tips to avoid unsafe Halloween toys:

1.  Carefully read the product label and refrain from buying unlabeled and unregistered toys.

2.  Choose toys that are suited to a child's age, ability and behavior.

3.  Watch out for toys that may cause injury or pose burn, chemical, choking, laceration, strangulation and other safety hazards.

4.  Shun toys that have small parts such as button batteries and magnets that can be pulled off and get swallowed by a child.

5.  Steer clear of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic toys that may contain banned phthalates and other hazardous substances such as cadmium and lead.

6.  Refrain from picking toys that have a strong chemical or perfumed smell.

7.  Avoid painted toys unless labeled as certified lead-safe.

8.  Avoid face paints unless guaranteed free of toxic metals and other cosmetic contaminants.
-end-

25 October 2018

Visiting US Expert Cites Dangers of Toxic Compound in Paint Removing Products, Presents Safer Alternatives





Citing increased risk of cancers and central nervous system damage, as well as accidental exposure deaths, a visiting expert on clean production has urged manufacturers of paint removing products containing methylene chloride to consider switching to safer substitutes.

Speaking at a seminar yesterday on “Safer and Effective Alternatives for Methylene Chloride in Paint Stripping Products,” Dr. Greg Morose, Research Professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, drew attention to steps by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to potentially ban the extremely toxic solvent in paint strippers and the voluntary plans by retail giants in US and Canada to stop selling such products by end of 2018 or early 2019.

Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane, is a highly volatile compound used as solvent in paint removing products.  Because of its high volatility, poisonous fumes are unavoidable.  The major route of exposure is via inhalation, but exposure may also occur through ingestion and eye or skin contact.

The seminar, organized by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) with the EcoWaste Coalition, coincides with the celebration of the Paint Industry Week as well as the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

An analysis conducted by the Center for Public Integrity identified at least 56 accidental exposure deaths linked to methylene chloride in the United States.  The vapors from paint strippers that include methylene chloride can depress a person’s central nervous system, slow breathing and cause loss of consciousness and death, according to the US EPA.

Based on environmental, health and safety evaluation and performance testing, it is possible to design and test alternatives to methylene chloride based paint strippers that are safer, cost effective, and have equivalent performance, Morose said.

 “One of the biggest roadblocks that consumers and companies have to using safer alternatives is performance. If the safer solution doesn’t work as well as the product that contains toxic chemicals, then it’s more difficult for consumers to make the switch,” he pointed out.

According to the US EPA, “effects of short-term (acute) exposures to workers and consumers, including bystanders, can result in harm to the central nervous system, or neurotoxicity. These effects include dizziness, incapacitation, and, in some cases, death. Effects of longer periods of exposure (chronic) for workers includes liver toxicity, liver cancer, and lung cancer.”

As per the agency’s website, EPA is proposing to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for all consumer and most types of commercial paint removal, and to prohibit commercial use.

US retail giants Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Sherwin-Williams have announced their plans to stop selling paint strippers containing methylene chloride and N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) by December 2018, while Walmart will stop selling them by February 2019.  In neighboring Canada, major retailer Canadian Tire will phase out such paint removers by end of the year.

-end-

Reference:

Biosketch of Dr. Gregory Morose:

https://www.uml.edu/Health-Sciences/Public-Health/faculty/Morose-Gregory.aspx

https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/risk-management-methylene-chloride

https://chemicalwatch.com/69824/walmart-to-phase-out-methylene-chloride-and-nmp-paint-strippers

https://chemicalwatch.com/70581/canadian-tire-to-phase-out-nmp-methylene-chloride-paint-strippers

23 October 2018

Groups, Mothers File Petition for Writ of Mandamus to Enforce Toy and Game Safety Labeling Law




After their repeated demands for the promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act, went unheeded, consumer protection and environmental health groups finally went to the court to compel the concerned agencies to act.

The EcoWaste Coalition and Laban Konsyumer Inc., joined by 20 mothers as petitioners, today filed a petition for writ of mandamus at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to direct the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Health (DOH) to immediately issue the IRR of RA 10620.

The filing coincided with the national observance of the Consumer Welfare Month this October, and the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week on October 21 to 27.  The latter seeks to promote awareness and action to protect children from being exposed to health-damaging lead in paints, toys and other sources.

RA 10620 was enacted by the 15th Congress and signed into law by former President Benigno S. Aquino III on September 3, 2013.  Section 12 of the said law mandates the DTI, in consultation with the DOH, to promulgate its corresponding IRR.

Petitioner Rene Pineda of the EcoWaste Coalition lamented that “the inexcusable five-year delay in the issuance of the IRR has unjustly deprived consumers, particularly parents and their children, access to vital product labeling information that can help in making informed purchasing decision and prevent hasty purchases of unsafe and unsuitable toys.”  

"The long and unwanted  inaction by the regulators show open bias in favor of the toys and games industry," commented Atty. Vic Dimagiba, President, Laban Konsyumer, Inc. 

Atty. Gregorio Rafael Bueta, counsel for the petitioners, stated that “five years to issue an IRR is unacceptable and is even unheard of,” emphasizing further that the petition is meant “to aid in the enforcement of RA 10620, to promote the legislature’s will, and strengthen toy safety regulation for the best interest of children.”

The mothers who came from EcoWaste Coalition’s member groups in Quezon City endorsed the petition as the dissemination of the IRR and its strict enforcement will address a persistent problem with unregistered toys proliferating in the market.  

“Napapanahon na pairalin na ang batas na ito upang kaming mga nanay ay magabayan sa tamang pagpili ng laruan na hindi maglalagay sa aming mga anak at apo sa kapahamakan,” said Evelyn Galang,a 66-year old grandmother of six.

According to the petition,  a first draft of the IRR was submitted for public consultation in April 2014, in which the EcoWaste Coalition participated and submitted comments. In May 2014, the Technical Working Group met to discuss the comments received from the said consultation and made amendments to the draft IRR.

However, from the 27 May 2014 meeting of the TWG up until the filing of this petition, no IRR has been issued.

The EcoWaste Coalition and Laban Konsyumer, Inc. have on several occasions written to both the DOH and the DTI to push for the promulgation of the IRR.  The groups have likewise aired their demands through the media to encourage the respondents to act.

-end-

Reference:

 https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2013/ra_10620_2013.html

22 October 2018

Groups Promote Safe Work Practices to Protect Painters and Their Families from Lead Exposure (Workers reminded not to bring home toxic lead dust for the health of their children and families)









PREVENT LEAD EXPOSURE:  Painters say yes to “lead-safe work practices” to avoid the creation of dangerous lead-contaminated dust during painting and renovation activities.  The EcoWaste Coalition and the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers back workers’ education to reduce occupational lead hazards as the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is observed this week.



We need to protect our children, women and workers from lead exposure.

This was the message that resonated with over 150 people who have gathered at the Quezon Memorial Circle today in observance of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW).

Held every last week of October under the auspices of the UN-backed Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, the ILPPW raises awareness and promotes actions to address the health effects of lead exposure, especially for children and other vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and laborers.

To mark the occasion, the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) and the EcoWaste Coalition jointly organized a “Workers’ Skillshare on Lead Paint Hazard Control” that drew the active participation of painters and community members from various parts of Metro Manila.

The groups emphasized the need for workers’ education on lead-safe work practices as lead in paint can be released into the environment during repair, repainting, removal, renovation and demolition activities.

“Through this initiative, we hope to equip our workers with life-saving techniques that can help in reducing occupational exposure to lead-contaminated dust, which can pose serious health risks to workers and even to their families,” said Vergel Dyoco, Technical Committee Chairman, PAPM and Technical Service Department Manager, Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc.

“Knowledge of lead-safe work practices will ensure that workers and their customers are protected from lead hazards that could be generated from renovating homes, schools, offices and facilities. Dangerous amounts of lead dust can be created when lead painted surfaces are disturbed,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

For his part, Dr. Erle Castillo, toxicologist at Medical Center Manila and member of the Philippine Society for Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, explained: “Lead gets into the body when lead dust is ingested or inhaled.  Workers may swallow or breathe lead dust when they disturb lead painted surfaces such as by dry sanding or scraping.  Studies have shown that renovation activities, especially if conducted without precautions, can result in increased risk of elevated lead levels among children.” 

Castillo emphasized that lead is toxic and can have adverse effects on human health, including damage to the brain and the central nervous system, developmental delays, learning difficulties and behavioral problems in children.  In adults, lead exposure can bring about joint and muscle pain, high blood pressure, memory loss, infertility in women and men, and miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women, he said.

Speaking at the event, Quezon City Councilor Elizabeth Delarmente noted the relevance of popularizing lead-safe work practices as the country moves toward the complete phase out of lead-containing paints by 2020.

“I congratulate the EcoWaste Coalition and the PAPM for this joint initiative to train our painters on lead-safe work practices.  As a woman and as a mother, I find it very important for our workers not to take lead home to protect our families, especially the children, from being exposed to lead in dust,” she said.

Delarmente is the principal author of Quezon City Ordinance No. 2739 requiring the mandatory procurement and use of lead-safe paints in construction, maintenance and renovation projects and activities of Quezon City.

The PAPM, with support from the EcoWaste Coalition, has developed in 2012 its “Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards” to guide workers for the safe removal of old paints that might contain lead compounds.

In addition to using only lead-safe paints, the groups recommended these steps to prevent and reduce lead hazards in renovation activities:

1.   Workers should wear protective clothing.
2.   Control and contain the dust during work.
3.   Don’t blast, burn, dry sand, dry scrape, and use power tools without HEPA* vacuum attachment.
4.   Post warning signs.
5.   Residents, tenants and pets should stay away from the work area.
6.   No eating, drinking or smoking in the work area.
7.   Wash face and hands frequently, at the end of each shift and before eating.
8.   Clean up the work area thoroughly.
9.   Place working clothes, shoes and tools in sealed bag; wash and clean them separately.
10. Don’t hug your family until you get clean!

Among those who joined the skillshare in commemoration of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week were the officers and staff of the EcoWaste Coalition and PAPM, Buklod Tao, Piglas Kababaihan, ROTCHNA Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Quezon City Barangay Project 6, Quezon City Environmental Protection and Waste Management Department, Quezon City Parks Development and Administration Department, Sagip Pasig Movement, Samahan ng mga Nangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong, San Vicente Elementary School, and several community-based groups.


-end-
* HEPA: High-efficiency particulate air
Reference:
http://www.who.int/ipcs/lead_campaign/en/

18 October 2018

Filipino viewers moved by film about workers who are dying to make e-gadgets we cannot live without





“Stories  from  the  Clean  Room,”  a  moving  documentary  exposing  health  and  human  rights  violations  in  the  electronics  industry,  drew close to 300 viewers at its screening yesterday at Cine Adarna, University of the Philippines (UP) Film Institute.  The attendees came from various youth and student groups, labor federations, informal waste workers’ associations, and environmental and health organizations.

The  film,  directed  by  Supporters  for  the  Health  and  Rights  of  People  in  the  Semiconductor  Industry (SHARPS),  a South  Korean  public  interest  organization, shed  light  on  the toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing of electronics, especially at the so-called “Clean Rooms,” and their impacts to workers’ health and safety.

The EcoWaste Coalition, KAISA-Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA UP) and the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) co-organized the film screening in partnership with SHARPS, IPEN (a global NGO network for a toxics-free future), Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and a host of concerned local organizations.

IPEN and partner groups screening the film in 25 countries are hoping  that  public  awareness  of  the  dangerous  chemicals  in  electronics  will  spur  the  public  and  governments  to  demand  that  the  industry  reveal  listings  of  toxic  chemicals  and  end  to  the  practice  of  hiding  toxic  liabilities  behind  “trade  secrets.”

“Clean Rooms” refers to the highly  controlled  areas  within  electronics  factories  where  large  numbers  of  dangerous  chemicals  are  used  in  the  course  of  electronics  production.  The  irony  in  the  name  is  that  the face  masks  and  body  suits  for  workers  entering  the “Clean Rooms” are  not  designed  for  worker  safety,  but  rather  to  keep  dust  and  dirt  off  of  the  products.

The film featured testimonies  of  23  people  whose  lives  have  been  devastated  by  sickness  and  death  from  toxic  chemical  exposures  while  making  LCD  screens  and  the  chips  that  power  our  electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones.   

“There  were  no  dry  eyes  when  we  previewed  this  film.   The  people  telling  their  stories  in  this  movie  are  ringing  an  alarm  bell  that  we  in the Philippines need  to  heed to protect our workers, especially women who are the prime labor force in the electronics industry,” said Primo Morillo, E-Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. “Chemicals  in  electronics  production  is  not  only  an  issue  for  workers’  health,  it  is  a  women’s  issue  as  well  because  many  of  the  dangerous  chemicals  in  electronics  production  are  especially  threatening  to  a  developing  fetus.” 

After the film screening, Dr. Jeong-ok Kong of SHARPS delivered a video message where she updated the audience that they were able to claim victory for more than 30 workers who are now set to receive compensation. "These victories open the door of Korean workers compensation system widely for other victims," she said. Kong also underscored that this is a product of a long struggle, including sit-in street protests that lasted for 1,023 days. 

Hwang  Sang-gi  lost  his  22-year-old  daughter  Hwang  Yumi  to  leukemia  after  her stint as a semiconductor worker.  Like  most  others  in  the  predominately  female  electronics  labor  force,  Yumi  had  been  recruited  from  high  school.  She  worked  on  a  fabrication  line  bathing  semiconductor  chips  in  chemicals.  Learning  that  another  young  woman  from  the  same  production  line  also  died  of  the  same  disease,  Hwang  Sang-gi  began  an  inquiry  that  has  grown  into  a  movement  to  break  the  silence  around hazardous  chemicals  used  in  the  electronics  industry.

In “Stories  from  the  Clean  Room,”  Mr.  Hwang  and  22  others  describe  grave  illnesses,  such  as  leukemia,  lymphomas,  brain  tumors,  multiple  sclerosis,  and  infertility,  and  share  their  visceral  stories  about  common  chemical  exposures  in  electronics  production.  Another  father  in  the  film  whose  daughter,  Yoon  Eun-jin,  worked  at  Samsung  Semiconductor  and  died  at  age  23  said, “We  know  now  that  they  used  really  deadly  chemicals,  but  we  didn’t  know  back  then.  Did  the  company  ask  the  parents  for  permission  and  tell  them  the  company  is  using  deadly  chemicals?  If  we’d  known,  we  wouldn’t  have  sent  our  kids  there.”

“Workers  and  their  families  are  paying  a  painful  cost  for  use  of  toxic  chemicals  in  electronics  production.  These  costs  should  be  paid  by  the  industry,”  said  Jongran  Lee  of  SHARPS. “Products  should  be  designed  and  produced  in  ways  that  eliminate  their  potential  for  harm  to  human  health  and  the  environment.”

Toxic  chemicals  used  in  electronics  include  solvents,  metals,  persistent  organic  pollutants,  such  as  certain  flame  retardants,  endocrine  disruptors,  and  known  carcinogens,  mutagens,  and  substances  toxic  to  reproduction  and  development.  In South Korea, a peer-reviewed scientific study revealed  high  rates  of  spontaneous  abortion  and  menstrual  aberration  among  female  microelectronics  workers  aged  20  to  39  years  old.  Similar  concerns  emerged  when  researchers  in  Vietnam  recently  published  a  revealing  report  exposing  health  and  labor  violations  at  mobile  phone  factories,  including  reports  that  miscarriages  are common.

“Mobile  phones  and  computers  are  used  daily  by  billions  of  people,  but  few  are  aware  of  the  toxic  chemicals  used  or  the  occupational  health  and  safety  issues  involved  in  electronics  production,” said  Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior  Science  and  Technical  Advisor of IPEN.  “Stories  from  the  Clean  Room”  pulls  back  the  curtain  to  show  the  human  face  of  harm  and  the  need  for  action.”

To  date,  SHARPS  has  documented  over  400  cases  of  severe  and  often  fatal  occupational  illnesses  related  to  exposures  in  the  electronics  industry  in  South  Korea.  While  144  workers  have  died,  a  growing  number  have  won  court  and  government  rulings  linking  their  illnesses  to  work  in  electronics  factories.  Samsung,  the  largest  and  most  secretive  electronics  corporation,  continues  to  refuse  to  reveal  the  chemicals  that  it  uses  in  manufacturing.  Corporate  refusal  to  disclose  chemical  identity  and  denial  of  compensation  to  sick  workers  and  their  families  are  running  themes  in  the  film.

-end-

You may watch the trailer here: