15 September 2019

Consumers Seeking Lighter Skin Tone Reminded Not to Take a Chance on Mercury-Tainted Products (EcoWaste Coalition urges consumers to discontinue use of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics as Californian woman fell into coma due to mercury poisoning)

A non-profit watchdog group has again cautioned consumers against using unregistered skin lightening cosmetics contaminated with mercury, a highly toxic chemical.

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded members of the public to shun such  skin whitening products to prevent mercury poisoning that can harm the brain, kidneys, skin, and other organs and systems of the human body.

“We urge consumers to steer clear of products promising fairer and flawless skin that lack market authorization from health authorities and whose quality and safety cannot be assured,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The application of such products onto the skin may in fact result to skin discoloration, rashes and scarring and to other health issues linked to mercury poisoning,” he added.

The group warned that mercury-added skin whitening cosmetics proliferate in the domestic market citing the continued illegal sale, offline and online, of Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day and Night Whitening Cream despite being banned in 2017 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their mercury content.

The group on Friday, September 13, managed to buy the proscribed “made in Pakistan” Goree products at Victory Lacson Underpass in Quiapo, Manila.  Subsequent screening using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device detected mercury at 21,100 and 25, 300 parts per million (ppm) in the two products, way in excess of the allowable limit of 1 ppm.

The group on Saturday saw more retailers of beauty and herbal products at Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall in Pasay City selling the banned Goree products and other prohibited mercury-contaminated skin whitening products such Golden Pearl Beauty Cream and Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream..

The latest appeal from the EcoWaste Coalition followed a report of a 47-year old woman from Sacramento, California, USA who fell into a coma for weeks after using a skincare product that has been adulterated with methylmercury, a very poisonous form of mercury.

As announced by the Sacramento County Public Health Services last September 9, “the woman obtained the skin cream through an informal network that imported the cream from Mexico. This type of cream is used by consumers as a skin lightener and to remove spots and wrinkles.”

It said that “methylmercury can enter the nervous system and can also cause severe illness among household contacts, especially in pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.”

Signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning include the following: difficulty concentrating, memory loss, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia,  headaches, weight loss, fatigue,  tremors, and numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or around the lips.

Over the last nine years, over 60 cases of mercury poisoning linked to the use of foreign brand, unlabeled, and/or homemade skin creams have been documented in California.

“The mercury poisoning tragedy that befell the unidentified Californian woman should stir Filipino consumers of unregistered skin whitening cosmetics into exercising extreme caution, including stopping the purchase and use of such products, to avoid mercury exposure risk,"  the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.






11 September 2019

Davao City Retailers Continue to Peddle Toxic Cosmetics with Lead and Mercury (Groups Push for Tougher Sanctions to Stop Sale of Poison Cosmetics)

Davao City/Quezon City.  A non-profit toxics watchdog group has again alerted Davao City consumers, especially women and girls, against buying and using  contraband and counterfeit cosmetics that are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury and lead.

The EcoWaste Coalition put consumers on full alert after a visiting team from the group’s office in Quezon City procured dozens of skin whitening creams and lipsticks containing mercury and lead above the regulatory limits of 1 and 20 parts per million (ppm), respectively.

The group bought the dangerous products on September 7 and 8 from downtown Davao retailers for P20 to P120 each, and subsequently screened them for heavy metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device. 

Out of 20 skin whitening products, 13 were found to contain mercury in excess of the 1 ppm limit.  Mercury amounting to 1,187 to 2,330 ppm was detected in Erna, Jiaoli and S’Zitang creams, which have long been banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their high mercury content.

Out of 100 lipstick products, 24 had lead levels ranging from 118 to 30,500 ppm.  Counterfeit lipsticks bearing the names MAC Vivaglam, Dermacol and April Skin were found to be laced with lead way above the 20 ppm limit. 

“Both lead and mercury are highly toxic and are not permitted as ingredients in cosmetic product formulations.  The continued sale of cosmetics laden with these poisons, most of which are contraband and counterfeit items, is putting the health of consumers at risk and should be stopped,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The group’s latest exposé provides a compelling reason for the city government to act.  As this appalling trade in toxic cosmetics has been going on for years, we urge the City Council to consider enacting an ordinance as a deterrent to such an unlawful act,” said Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS).

In addition to regular monitoring of business compliance to product safety regulations, the EcoWaste Coalition and IDIS urged city authorities to impose tougher sanctions, including hefty fines, jail time and business permit cancellation, against erring establishments and individuals, especially those who repeatedly engage in the unlawful manufacture, importation, distribution or sale of unsafe goods that can harm human health and the ecosystems.    

Both groups believed that combined national and local government action has to be strengthened to protect public health and the environment from dangerous chemicals lurking in consumer products such as cosmetics.

“Aside from the health benefits that such action will bring about, halting the sale of poison cosmetics will prevent the leakage of lead and mercury into the environment, particularly when these chemicals are discharged into the wastewater and into water bodies,” the groups pointed out.    

Both mercury and lead are highly toxic even at low levels, are well-studied neurotoxicant, and recognized endocrine disrupting chemicals.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed lead and mercury among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern.”

Exposure to mercury and lead of developing fetuses in pregnant women, babies and young children can cause developmental delays, learning difficulties, reduced attention span, language skills and verbal memory, and reproductive disorders. 

Adult exposure to mercury can cause physical tremors, vision abnormality, irritability and memory problems, while adult exposure to lead can cause joint and muscle paint, high blood pressure, difficulties with concentration or memory, mood disorders, and miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women.

According to the WHO, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”  It added that “mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”

The Minamata Convention on Mercury has set a global phase-out target by 2020 for cosmetics such as skin lightening creams and soaps with mercury content above 1 ppm.  

This Philippines, which has signed but not yet ratified the said chemical treaty, launched last July 2019 a "National Action Plan (NAP) for the Phase-Out of Mercury-Added Products and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes."

The NAP, developed with support from UNIDO and the Swiss Government and with inputs from public and private stakeholders, including the EcoWaste Coalition, contains a detailed account on what "the government is planning to take to address the environmentally sound management of mercury-containing products with a life-cycle approach in accordance with the Minamata and Basel Conventions."






Photos: Toxic Cosmetics Containing Lead and Mercury Contaminants On Sale in Davao City

09 September 2019

Green Groups Push for a Ban on Single-Use Plastics (SUPs) in Davao City and the Rest of the Philippines

Two environmental health organizations have added their voices to the chorus of citizens seeking a phase-out of the most wasteful evidence of our throw-away society: single-use plastics or SUPs.

For the Davao City-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and for the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition, SUPs, also referred to as disposable plastics, have to go to stem the tide of chemicals and plastics polluting the natural environment, including the world’s oceans.  

IDIS, a group championing the protection and management of life-sustaining watersheds from ridge to reef in South-Central Mindanao, is pushing for a citywide ban on SUPs, while the EcoWaste Coalition, a group advocating for a zero waste and toxics-free future, is pushing for a law that will ban SUPs nationwide.   
SUPs typically include plastic items intended to be used once before they are disposed of or recycled such as bottles, cutlery, cups, sachets, stirrers, straws, and the ubiquitous plastic bags and polystyrene containers or Styrofoam.

“Banning SUPs will have a huge impact on Davao City’s daily waste generation estimated at 570-600 metric  tons per day,” said Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director, IDIS, noting that SUPs and other residual wastes make up 29% of the city’s trash.    

“This will translate to less plastic being produced, consumed and disposed of, less plastic being dumped or burned, and less plastic leaking to the Davao Gulf and into the Pacific Ocean.  Aside from the benefits of cutting plastic pollution, banning SUPs will also help in re-shaping people’s behavior with increased awareness on the need to cut down on plastic use and the overall disposable culture,” she added.  

With Councilor Diosdado Mahipus Jr. chairing the Committee on Environment, IDIS and the Davao CSOs - Sustainable Davao Movement are optimistic that an ordinance banning SUPs will be enacted before 2019 ends.  The councilor, who is co-organizing the "Ban SUPs" symposium today, had earlier expressed his commitment to prioritize the enactment of the said measure for which the environmental groups are most thankful. 

For her part, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, pointed to the need for the 18th Congress to fast track the passage of a law that will ban SUPs.

“We urge Congress to legislate a national ban on SUPs to curb chemical and waste pollution that is causing untold harm to the natural environment,” she said.

“Such a law is needed to stimulate and strengthen actions by local government units to address the scourge of throw-away plastic.  It should set a phase-out target and timeline,  promote alternatives, and provide for incentives to encourage consumer and industry shift to eco-friendly products and packaging,” she further said.

Citing a 2018 UN report on SUPs, IDIS and the EcoWaste Coalition enumerated some of the environmental problems associated with SUPs, including plastic bags clogging waterways and exacerbating natural disasters, plastics being ingested by marine animals who mistake them for food, and toxic emissions from the burning of plastic wastes.

“There is evidence that the toxic chemicals added during the manufacture of plastic transfer to animal tissue, eventually entering the human food chain,” the report said.

According to the same report, “Styrofoam products, which contain carcinogenic chemicals like styrene and benzene, are highly toxic if ingested, damaging the nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs. The toxins in Styrofoam containers can leach into food and drinks.”  



https://reloopplatform.eu/wp- content/uploads/2018/06/UNEP- report-on-single-use-plastic. pdf

08 September 2019

Baguio City Council’s Move to Ban Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Creams Gets Thumbs Up from Toxics Watchdog Group

The ongoing effort by the Baguio City Council to enact an ordinance banning mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics got a thumbs up from a toxics watchdog group.

The Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition lauded the successful first public hearing last September 4 for the proposed measure that was filed by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan after being certified as "urgent" by Mayor Benjamin Magalong last July 18. 

Councilor Philian Weygan–Allan, Chairperson of the Committee on Market, Trade, Commerce and Agriculture, presided over the public hearing that brought together stakeholders from the regional offices of the Departments of  Health, Environment and Natural Resources, and Trade and Industry, as well as representatives from the private sector, including business establishments and shopping malls.

In an e-mail sent to the EcoWaste Coalition on September 5, Councilor Allan said “we all agreed that we need to pass the ordinance and we need more advocates” as she thanked the group for its “work and commitment” that brought the matter to the attention of the city authorities.

“We are pleased with the progress made so far by the City Council to legislate an ordinance that will soon make the illegal trade of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in Baguio City a thing of the past,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The anticipated approval and enforcement of the ordinance will serve as Baguio City’s contribution to the looming global phase-out by 2020 of skin whitening cosmetics with mercury content above one part per million (ppm),” he pointed out.

Dizon explained that the Minamata Convention of Mercury, which the Philippine government signed on October 10, 2013, listed cosmetics such as skin lightening soaps and creams containing mercury above 1 ppm among the mercury-added products (MAPs) to be phased out by 2020.

In this connection, the DENR, with inputs from public and private sector stakeholders and with support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Swiss Government, has developed a “National Action Plan (NAP) for the Phase-Out of MAPs and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes.”

If approved, the proposed Baguio City ordinance will prohibit and penalize the “manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale of cosmetics with mercury content in excess of 1 ppm.

It will also prohibit the “sale, wholesale or retail, (of cosmetics) that have not been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or have not complied with labeling requirements as required by the FDA. “

Lastly, the ordinance will further prohibit the “open dumping or open burning or disposal of banned/recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics along with regular city solid waste.”

Mercury, a highly toxic chemical, “is a potent bio-accumulating and bio-magnifying neurotoxin that can cause neurological damage affecting behavior and cognitive facilities, mental disorder, infertility, kidney damage, and respiratory failure,” according to the NAP.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”




06 September 2019

Groups Seek Justice for Filipina Worker in Taiwan Who Died from Chemical Burns at Electronics Factory

Source: Deserie Castro Tagubasi Facebook

Philippines/Taipei, Taiwan.  Environmental health groups from Taiwan and the Philippines have joined the mounting clamor for justice for Filipina worker Deserie Castro Tagubasi who died from an acid spill while working at Tyntek  electronics factory in the Chunan Science Park, Miaoli County. 

In a joint press statement, the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation (EQPF) of Taiwan and the EcoWaste Coalition of the Philippines condoled with the co-workers of Tagubasi and her family in Isabela province as both groups echoed the need for full and impartial investigation of the fatal incident and the strengthening of rules to prevent occupational hazards. 

“The Ministry of Labor should initiate a complete investigation report on this case, including Tyntek Corporations' work distribution, hazard notification, protective measures, emergency procedures, etc., especially whether there is unreasonable differential treatment for foreign female workers,” said Dr. Ying-Shih Hsieh, Chairman, EQPF and President, Taiwan Society of International Law (TSIL).

“We also demand that the government of Taiwan should adopt the ‘International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families’ as soon as possible,” he added, echoing the call by the Taiwan Society of International Law (TSIL). 

Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, said the appalling incident should compel Tyntek  and other electronics companies into developing a new process, with workers’ participation, that will ensure occupational health and safety in the multi-billion dollar industry.

“It’s high-time for the electronics industry to stop putting the health of their workers at risk due to exposure to highly toxic substances used in the manufacture of e-devices.   Hazardous chemicals must be replaced with safer alternatives that will not poison workers nor pollute the environment ,” he said.

“With respect to the ongoing investigation on Tagubasi’s death, we demand that company executives should be held accountable for the serious lapse in safety procedures, and that Tagubasi’s family should be justly compensated,  noting that no amount can truly compensate for their loss,” he added.

For his part, Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Adviser of IPEN said: "Ms. Tagubasi's untimely death at work is a tragic wake-up call about an industry built on toxic chemical use.  Regulations governing the industry  should be carefully reviewed, strengthened, and enforced to prevent any injuries or deaths in the future."  IPEN is a global civil society network for a toxics-free future that includes the EQPF and the EcoWaste Coalition among its over 500 members in 120 countries. 

As reported by the Central News Agency (CNA), 29-year old Tagubasi suffered fatal burns on August 28 when she accidentally dropped a small container of hydrofluoric acid that she was carrying.  The acid splattered her legs, causing burns that resulted in her death later in the day at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, where she had been transferred from a hospital Miaoli, the CNA said.

But, as pointed out by Fidel Macauyag, Director of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Taiwan, the company did not provide Tagubasi and her co-workers with full body protection from hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic chemical, and were not given adequate safety training.  The labor official also revealed that, as told to him by other workers, the factory did not even have the chemicals on hand to neutralize the chemical in case of accident.   

Hydrofluoric acid, also known as hydrogen fluoride, is a highly corrosive agent that is used in industrial applications such as in electronics manufacturing.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “even small splashes of high-concentration hydrogen fluoride products on the skin can be fatal.”







03 September 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Bares Toxic K-Pop Accessories

Attention of Pinoy K-Pop fans: Not all cute K-Pop accessories are safe from toxic chemicals that can harm human health and pollute the environment.

Waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition made this statement after screening unofficial K-Pop merchandise that the group bought from retailers in Divisoria. Manila for P35 to P240 each and subsequently analyzed for heavy metals using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

“Some plastic accessories inspired by popular South Korean K-Pop bands and artists contain lead and other toxic metals,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  

As per XRF screening performed by the group on 11 K-Pop merchandise, six items, mostly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic key chains and luggage tags, were found to contain lead in the range of 414 to 5,831 parts per million.  The highest lead content was detected on a “Cooky” luggage tag.

Traces of arsenic and cadmium were also found on some of the items that screened positive for lead, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.

On the other hand, a black “BTS” rubber wrist baller, a necklace with “Chimmy” pendant, a white “RJ” luggage tag, a “Tata” hair clip, and a water container with a “Chimmy” character tested negative for toxic metals, the group said.

None of the 11 K-Pop accessories had product labeling information, including cautionary warning about their chemical ingredients, the group added.

“We make this information public not to spoil the pleasure of Pinoy K-Pop fans, but to encourage them to be inquisitive when buying items featuring their idols,” Dizon emphasized.  

“Consumers have the right to be protected against products that may pose hazards to health or life,” he added.

“In fact, this right is recognized by the Consumer Act of the Philippines, which directs the government to implement measures that will protect consumers against hazards to health and safety,” he said.

PVC plastic products such as school supplies,  toys and K-Pop accessories may contain harmful chemical additives such as lead and other heavy metals, which can be toxic to human health.

According to the report “PVC: The Poison Plastic” by US non-profit Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), “no other plastic contains or releases as many dangerous chemicals. These include dioxins, phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, lead, cadmium, and organotins. There’s no safe way to manufacture, use or dispose of PVC products.”

“The toxic additives on PVC plastic products can leach out or disperse into the air over time, posing health risks, especially to children.  Their disposal is also problematic as burning or incinerating PVC will cause the formation of highly toxic byproduct pollutant called dioxins,” said Dizon.

Dioxins belong to a growing list of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) targeted for global action under the Stockholm Convention on POPs, which counts on the Philippines among the state parties to this chemical treaty.






02 September 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Vacuum Flasks Coated with Lead Paint

While cute and reusable, some yellow and red coated vacuum flasks may present a lead exposure risk, especially to children.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, made this revelation after screening for lead content six vacuum flasks that it recently bought from retailers in Manila and Quezon Cities for P100 to P388 each.

“Out of six samples, we found four to be decorated with yellow and red paint containing high levels of lead way beyond the 90 parts per million (ppm) regulatory limit,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Lead is toxic if ingested and can cause adverse health problems, especially for vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women,” he said.

“Children could touch and ingest the lead in paint on the exterior surface of the flask when they drink from it, especially if the paint has started to chip due to scratching and frequent use,” he explained.   

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group found a “Minions” flask coated with lead paint at 84,100 ppm, a “Living Quality” flask with bunnies and carrot design at 38,600 ppm, a “Stainless Steel Vacuum Cup” with SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star characters at 33,800 ppm, and a "Happy Day for You" flask at 6,108 ppm

None of the samples carry any information about their manufacturers or distributors.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that lead is banned in the manufacture of, among other things, toys, school supplies and packaging that comes in contact with beverage or food as per the "Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds" issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  The CCO also sets a maximum limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint.

To protect consumers, especially children, from potential lead exposure, the group urged health and trade authorities to act on the issue and stop the sale of lead painted vacuum flasks and other similar water containers.

The group noted that, outside the country, regulatory agencies have been taking action on vacuum flasks, insulated water bottles and tumblers that were found to contain high concentrations of lead on their surface coatings.

For example, the Korea Consumer Agency on August 29, 2019 announced that four metallic paint-coated tumblers were found to be covered with lead paint ranging from 4,078 to 79,606 ppm, prompting concerned companies to recall the products in question.  

On April 19, 2018, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a recall order for “Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends” water bottles because the pink paint on the outside of the bottle contains levels of lead exceeding the federal lead paint standard of 90 ppm.

According to a fact sheet published by the World Health Organization (WHO), “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.”

“Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” the WHO said. 

“Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight,” the WHO further warned.







31 August 2019

Group Backs Neutral, As Well as Lead-Safe, Desks for Students

The environmental and health advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the signing of a new law requiring all schools to provide neutral desks to all students.

On August 22, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act 11394, or the "Mandatory Provision of Neutral Desks in Educational Institutions Act," addressing the needs of left-handed students for appropriate writing desks.

At the same time, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded school authorities to ensure that student chairs and tables should be compliant to Department of Education (DepEd) Order No.4, series of 2017 requiring the use of lead-safe coatings or paints in all preparatory, elementary and secondary schools.

“We welcome the obligatory provision of neutral desks to all students as this will prevent neck, shoulder and back strain associated with the use of regular armchairs by left-handed students.  With the provision of such desks, we can expect all students to sit and study comfortably,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, who is left-handed himself.

Under a proposed DepEd five-year replacement plan, the 18 million armchairs currently used in public schools nationwide could be replaced with neutral desks at a cost of over P16 million per year.

“As the non-neutral desks are replaced with neutral ones, we remind school authorities to ensure that all replacements are not coated with lead-containing paints consistent with the DepEd directive on the mandatory use of lead-safe paints in schools,” he added.

According to DepEd Order No. 4 issued by Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones in 2017, “lead is one of the identified toxic and regulated chemicals that pose hazards and risks to human health and the environment.” 

“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,” DepEd said.

To avoid children’s exposure to lead, “the use of independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings shall be mandatory to all painting and/or repainting works of school facilities, building, amenities, other structures, furniture, fixtures, learning materials, tools and equipment,” according to DepEd.

While the replacement plan for the non-neutral desks is being implemented, the EcoWaste Coalition further requested the government to initiate an inventory of painted desks in all the country’s schools .

The inventory should help the authorities in devising an action plan to screen painted desks for lead content and to prioritize the replacement of those desks that could pose lead exposure risk to students, the group said.







29 August 2019

Toxics Watchdog Chides Online Sellers of Banned Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Creams

An environmental and health advocacy group chided online entrepreneurs for continuing to ignore public health warnings against skin whitening cosmetics containing mercury, a highly toxic chemical.

In a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed strong objection over the use of online shopping platforms Lazada and Shopee to sell skin lightening creams from Pakistan that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already banned way back in 2014 and 2017 due to their mercury content.

“The continued online sale of these mercury-contaminated skin whitening products is a direct defiance of our country’s cosmetic safety regulations,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“For the health and well-being of our consumers, we ask third-party dealers to desist from selling poison cosmetics that are laced with high concentrations of mercury,” he said.

“We also ask the management of Lazada and Shopee to tighten their policies and procedures to block the promotion and sale of cosmetics lacking market authorization from the FDA, especially products containing hidden toxic ingredients such as mercury,” he added. 

The group on Wednesday tracked cosmetic advertisements posted at Lazada and Shopee and found several dealers selling FDA-banned skin whiteners from Pakistan, namely Golden Pearl Beauty Cream, Goree Beauty Cream, and Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream.

Golden Pearl Beauty Cream was among the seven cosmetic products submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition to the FDA in 2014, which  the agency tested and confirmed to contain violative level of mercury beyond the 1 part per million (ppm) limit set by the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

In 2017, the FDA also tested and found the two variants of Goree skincare products contaminated with mercury above the 1 ppm limit.

To protect consumer health, the FDA issued advisories to urge the public not to purchase the said products, and to warn concerned establishments not to distribute them.

The  FDA further requested all local government units (LGUs) and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to ensure that these non-compliant products are not sold or made available in their localities or areas of jurisdiction.

Mercury in skin whitening products inhibits the production of melanin pigment leading to a “fairer” skin tone.  However, mercury can cause damage to the nervous, immune and renal systems, and also cause skin discoloration, rashes, and scarring, as well as reduce dermal resistance to bacterial and fungal infections as confirmed by health experts.

Mercury can also affect the endocrine and reproductive systems.  Studies have shown that increased mercury levels in the body have been linked with hormonal and menstrual disorders, infertility and miscarriage.

“Babies in the womb are not spared as mercury can cross the placenta during pregnancy and affect the developing brain and nervous system causing cognitive development problems. Fetuses, infants and young children are susceptible to mercury toxicity,” the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

The Minamata Convention, which the Philippine government signed but not yet ratified, targets a global phase-out of skin whitening cosmetics such as creams, lotions and soaps with mercury above 1 ppm by 2020.

The government recently drew up a National Action Plan for the phase-out of mercury-added products, including skin whitening cosmetics, and the management of their associated wastes.

“We need to put an end to the illegal trade of mercury-containing skin lightening cosmetics, including their sale through online shopping platforms,“ the EcoWaste Coalition said, “to protect public health and the environment from the adverse impacts of mercury poisoning.”



Relevant FDA Advisories:



Examples of Lazada and Shopee Advertisements for Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Cosmetics from Pakistan:












28 August 2019

Group Hopes PRRD’s Latest Foreign Trash Rant Will Turn Into a Strong Policy Banning Waste Importation

The EcoWaste Coalition renewed its call on the government to ban foreign waste importation following the latest presidential diatribe against waste from other countries being dumped into our shores.

Last Wednesday, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, speaking at the inauguration of a solar power project in Tablas Island, province of Romblon, lambasted developed countries anew for shipping their garbage to the Philippines in the guise of recycling.

“We had that experience of Canada and the rest of the industrialized countries exporting their garbage in the guise that they can still be used,” said the President.  “I’d like to say to the Western countries, do not make us a garbage dump.”

“The president’s abhorrence against garbage from overseas being dumped into our ports, which is shared by many if not all Filipinos, should be translated into a robust policy that will proactively prevent such a bad practice from continuing,” suggested Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our country needs to impose a total ban, not simply a moratorium, on waste imports to send a clear and unequivocal signal to trash traders and traffickers that sending contaminated plastics and other wastes to the Philippines is no longer a profitable option for them,” she said.

The group also repeated its call for the immediate re-export of 5,177 tons of contaminated plastic waste materials from South Korea, part of which caught fire last August 12, and the 211 tons of waste-derived processed engineered fuel from Australia, which are languishing in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

The EcoWaste Coalition and over a dozen public interest groups had earlier asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to completely and permanently ban all waste imports.

“If a complete ban is not enforced, would the authorities have enough trained personnel to actually sniff out all shipments of ‘recyclables’ that could contain hazardous materials in all ports?,” the groups asked.   

The EcoWaste Coalition also reiterated the need for the Duterte government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which aims to prohibit the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries for any reason, including recycling.

Two more ratifications from a list of eligible countries are required for the Basel Ban Amendment to enter into force.

The Philippines is one of the 24 countries whose ratification would count toward bringing the amendment into legal force, the group noted.  

“We believe President Duterte and his Cabinet appreciate this historic opportunity and will prioritize the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment and its eventual transmittal to the Senate this year for the required concurrence,” Lucero said.

A cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the DENR has concluded that the Philippines has the capacity to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment based on net positive assessment. 


Reference for PRRD’s latest statement on foreign waste:

23 August 2019

Ban Single-Use Plastics! – groups demand

“We can’t drown in single-use plastics (SUPs)! Ban SUPs now!”

This was the reverberating call echoed by more than 100 individuals representing civil society organizations, students, as well as local governments during today’s “Plastic 101” event that drew attention to the plastic pollution crisis and the need for sustainable solutions.

The call came in response to the ever growing problems caused by SUPs.

“We are drowning in plastics and dying inch by inch from their toxic releases!,” exclaimed Jovito “Jove” Benosa, Zero Waste Program Officer of EcoWaste Coalition. 

According to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternative (GAIA) report Plastics Exposed, each day, the country produces around “164 million pieces of sachets”, “48 million shopping bags” and “45.2 million pieces” of so called “plastic labo bag”.

“SUPs, which are designed for the dump (or for the fire), clearly have no place in an environment designed for perpetual recycling of resources that will truly promote and sustain life and health of this planet’s inhabitants,” Benosa continued.

“In view of this, the only way to deal with SUPs is to phase them all out,” he maintained.

Benosa pointed out that the country “in fact, has an existing law, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or RA 9003, which has clear mandate in Sections 29 and 30 to the National Solid Waste Management Commission to list down for a scheduled phase out non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging.”

“The law clearly singles out SUPs and similar products in its definition of non-environmentally acceptable in Section 3 (m): ‘re-usable, biodegradable or compostable, recyclable and not toxic or hazardous to the environment,’” he stressed.

According to the report “Plastic & Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet, “…roughly two-thirds of all plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and remains there in some form—as debris in the oceans, as micro- or nanoparticles in air and agricultural soils, as microfibers in water supplies, or as microparticles in the human body.”

The report explains that once in the environment, plastics “slowly fragments into smaller particles” where they contaminate the air, water, and soil, “accumulate in food chains, and release toxic additives or concentrate additional toxic chemicals in the environment, making them bioavailable again…”

To date, two related bills have been filed before the Philippine Senate to deal with these issues on SUPs: “An Act Regulating the Use of Plastic Bags, and for Other Purposes,” filed on 1 July 2019 by Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay and “An Act Regulating the Manufacturing, Importation and Use of Single-Use Plastic Products, and Providing Penalties, Levies and An Incentives System for Industries, Business Enterprises and Consumers Thereof,” filed on 1 July 2019 by Francis "Kiko" N. Pangilinan.

The Plastic 101 event was organized by Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) and EcoWaste Coalition to provide a venue for stakeholders to discuss issues with SUPs. ###


The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000

19 August 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Warns Against Lead-Laden Light Up Toy Swords

An environmental advocacy group campaigning against lead poisoning, especially among children, has revealed the sale in the local market of light up toy swords contaminated with lead, a health-damaging chemical.

Taking its cue from a product recall order in the United Kingdom (UK) last August 12 for a China-made light up toy sword due to its lead content, the EcoWaste Coalition over the weekend procured eight samples of such toys for P40 to P100 each from toy wholesalers and retailers in Divisoria, Manila.

The light up toy sword recalled in UK contains a silver paint with lead measuring 112 parts per million (ppm).  “A child may put the toy in the mouth,” the recall order said, noting that “exposure to lead is harmful for human health and cause developmental neurotoxicity.”

“We bought some light up toy swords, also known as flashing stick or Star Wars lightsabers, to check if such toys sold locally do not present a lead exposure risk to their young users,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, the group detected lead on two of the eight samples of light up toy swords.

One has 136 ppm of lead and the other has 944 ppm, exceeding the 90 ppm maximum regulatory limit for lead in paint.  Also, three of the samples were found to contain high levels of antimony and bromine. 

“We also found all the eight samples unlabeled or mislabeled with important information as age grading, cautionary warning and manufacturer’s marking missing,” he added.

“We therefore urge consumers to take the necessary precaution when buying toys for their loved ones.   Please exercise your right to product information, as well as your right to be protected against hazardous chemicals in products,” he said.

According  to the World Health Organization (WHO), “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.”

“Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” the WHO warned.

“There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” the WHO emphasized.




17 August 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Bats for Refiling of Senate Bill Banning Bisphenol A in Baby Food Packaging, Containers and Other Child Articles

Following the decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban industrial chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic infant feeding bottles and sippy cups, an environmental and health advocacy group wasted no time urging senators to re-file a Senate bill prohibiting the said substance in baby food packaging, containers and other child care articles.

“The re-filing and expedited consideration of the Senate bill authored by Senators Nancy Binay and Koko Pimentel, which was recommended for approval by two Senate Committees of the 17th Congress, is very timely as this will reinforce the recently-issued ban on BPA in infant feeding bottles and sippy cups,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Last August 9, DOH Usec. and concurrent FDA OIC Rolando Enrique Domingo issued FDA Circular 2019-004 “to better protect the health of the children and better reduce exposure” to BPA, a known endocrine disrupting  chemical or EDC.

At the last Congress, the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship and the Committee on Health and Demography recommended the approval of Senate Bill 2170 entitled "An Act Prohibiting the Use of BPA in Baby Food Packaging, Containers and Other Child Care Articles, Providing for Its Replacement with Safer Alternatives,” with Senators Binay and Pimentel as authors.

The committee report recommending the approval of the said bill  was signed by 14 senators from both the majority and minority blocs of the  17th Congress, nine of whom are sitting as members of the 18th Congress, including Senators Binay and Pimentel as well as Senators Sonny Angara, Franklin Drilon, Win Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Ralph Recto, and Juan Miguel Zubiri. 

“It will be a great service for the nation, especially for our young children, if our incumbent lawmakers will re-file and re-approve this public health measure, which has already hurdled and passed the required legislative deliberations,” Dizon added.

Senate Bill 2170 states that “no person or entity shall manufacture, sell, import or distribute in commerce 1) any baby food or beverage packaging, container or any child care article containing BPA, and 2) any infant formula or baby food stored in a packaging, container or children care article containing BPA.”

The bill further states that “manufacturers of child care articles are duty-bound to use safer alternatives as replacement of BPA.”

Under this bill, violators shall be fined not less than P50,000 but not more than P300,000, or imprisoned for not less than one year but not more than five years or both, upon the discretion of the court.

The bill assigns the Department of Trade and Industry as the implementing agency in coordination with the Departments of Health and Interior and Local Government.

According to a guide published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN (a civil society network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices), “most people are exposed by consuming food and beverages into which BPA has leached from the container.”  The leaching is said to be enhanced by environmental factors such as heat, sunlight, and acidity,

“As of 2014, nearly 100 epidemiological studies have been published associating BPA with human health effects, most notably disorders of reproduction, behavior and energy balance,” the guide reported. 

“Several agencies including the WHO and the National Toxicology Program have expressed concern regarding the impact of BPA on fetal brain development and behavior. Evidence from numerous animal models has shown that developmental BPA exposure elevates anxiety, aggression, and other behaviors effects, which have now been reported in children,” the guide noted.






14 August 2019

Groups Laud Ban on Toxic Bisphenol A (BPA) in Baby Feeding Bottles and Sippy Cups

Environmental and health groups lauded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for issuing a circular prohibiting the manufacture, importation and distribution of baby feeding bottles and sippy cups containing Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical that is commonly used in polycarbonate plastic.

The EcoWaste Coalition (a group that envisions a zero waste and toxics-free society) and Arugaan (a group that seeks to protect, promote and support breastfeeding) jointly commended the FDA for promulgating the BPA ban on August 9, 2019 after a long wait.

To recall, the EcoWaste Coalition and Arugaan, with support from over 70 civil society organizations formally petitioned the DOH in 2013 and 2014 to impose a ban on BPA in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups in light of global trends in BPA regulatory policy.  The groups have since then pressed DOH and FDA officials to take action against BPA for children’s health and safety.

Through FDA Circular 2019-004 that was uploaded yesterday in the agency’s website, the Philippines finally joined an expanding league of countries prohibiting BPA in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, USA and the 28-country European Union.

“The promulgation of this public health policy, which has been pending since 2013, is a pollution prevention measure that will help in reducing our children’s exposure to BPA, a substance of very high concern that interferes with normal endocrine function and with normal reproduction,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“The BPA ban, if effectively enforced, will protect the most vulnerable members of our society, the children, from this hidden toxin in polycarbonate plastic feeding bottles and cups.  Studies have indicated that BPA can leach, get into the food, and ultimately add to the synthetic chemicals contaminating our bodies,” said Ines Fernandez, Executive Director, Arugaan.

Both groups vow to assist the health authorities in promoting awareness and compliance to the BPA ban, while promoting collective actions to safeguard, advocate for and support breastfeeding, and to reduce chemical and waste pollution of our communities.

According to the FDA, “relevant epidemiological studies have shown that BPA affect the development of the nervous, immune and reproductive system and considered as endocrine disruptors which can alter the hormonal system of the human body. Extensive use of BPA in manufacturing products that come in contact with food increases the risk of exposure to this compound, mainly through the digestive tract.” 

The said FDA Circular will apply to “infant feeding bottles and sippy cups as child care article products containing BPA and the establishments that are engaged in the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offer for sale, distribution, donation, transfer, and where applicable, the use, testing, promotion, advertising, or sponsorship of any child care articles containing BPA.”

Signed by DOH Usec. Rolando Enrique Domingo, concurrent FDA Officer-in-Charge, the Circular provides for the following: 

a. The manufacture, importation and distribution of infant feeding bottle and sippy cups containing Bisphenol A (BPA) will not be allowed.

b.  All concerned establishments will  be given six (6) months phase-out period to recall from the market all infant feeding bottles and sippy cups containing BPA.

c.  It will be the responsibility of the manufacturer, trader, importer, distributor or wholesaler to conduct recall of their products to ensure that infant feeding bottles and sippy cups containing BPA, are removed from the market and will no longer be made available to the market after the phase-out period.

d. The manufacturer, importer and/or distributor of the banned products will conduct inventory and submit a report to the FDA one (1) month after the given phase-out period.

e.  The manufacturer, importer and/or distributor of the banned products will prepare a disposal plan in accordance with Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) rules and regulation subject to FDA approval.

Any establishment found to be in violation of the provisions of the said FDA Circular will be subjected to sanctions and penalties as prescribed under RA 9711 and its IRR.

The said circular will take effect 30 days after its publication in two newspapers of general circulation and its submission to the Office of the National Administrative Register at UP Law Center.




13 August 2019

EcoWaste Coalitions Urges Government to Leave No Stone Unturned in Verde Soko Fire Investigation

Photo Courtesy of Rep. Juliette Uy

The waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has thrown its support behind the call made by Misamis Oriental 2nd District Representative urging the authorities to investigate the fire that destroyed part of the 5,177 tons of illegal waste materials from South Korea that are due for re-export next month.

In her Facebook post yesterday, Uy posted photos of the burning waste materials as she sought for “immediate arson investigation.”  Her post can be seen here:

“I appeal to the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately go to the Phividec industrial estate to investigate and arrest all those responsible for this air pollution crime," she said.

In reaction, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition said: “We strongly deplore the fire incident that has only aggravated the pollution brought about by the dumping of illegal mixed plastic waste shipments from South Korea on a government land in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.”

“We urge concerned law enforcement agencies to leave no stone unturned in the investigation being conducted to bring the culprits to justice,” she added.

The perpetrators of this crime should be held liable under the country’s law on arson, as well as Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.  

The open burning of mixed plastic wastes, which are mainly comprised of chlorinated compounds, has certainly resulted to the discharge of toxic and poisonous fumes that are detrimental to human health and the environment, the group said.  

Among the contaminants resulting from the burning of chlorinated materials are byproduct dioxins and furans, which are targeted for global reduction, if not elimination, under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Other pollutants of concern resulting from open burning include heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and fine particles or particulate matter.

These pollutants are known to cause a variety of health problems such as headaches, eye, throat and skin irritation, impaired respiratory functions, aggravated asthma and chronic bronchitis, heart attacks and even cancers, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

According to RA 8749, “no person shall be allowed to burn any materials in any quantities which shall cause the emission of toxic and poisonous fumes.” 

“Such materials include but not limited to plastic, polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, paints, ink, wastes containing heavy metals, organic chemicals, petroleum related compound, industrial wastes, ozone depleting substances and other similar toxic and hazardous substances,” the law said.

RA 8749 further bans and penalizes any “establishment, firm, company, government or private entity or organizations… to burn or cause open burning of waste materials in their premises, area of jurisdiction, including recognized or unrecognized dumpsites in any quality or quantity.”

According to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 8749, “any person who burns municipal waste in violation of Sections 1 and 3 of Rule XXV shall be punished with two years and one day to four years imprisonment.”

While those found guilty of burning “hazardous substances and wastes in violation of  Section 1 of Rule XXV shall be punished with four years and one day to six years imprisonment.”

To prevent any further untoward incident that may delay the re-export of the South Korean wastes, the EcoWaste Coalition urged law enforcement agencies to ensure that the waste materials are secured 24/7 until these are shipped back to their origin in September 2019.