20 February 2019

Sale of Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Cosmetics Continues Unabated in Region IV-A Despite Ban (EcoWaste Coalition Finds Banned Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Creams on Sale in 9 Cities in CALABARZON)

A watch group tracking toxic chemicals in products and wastes scored the flagrant sale in Region IV-A of dangerous skin whitening cosmetics laced with mercury despite being banned by health authorities.

The EcoWaste Coalition exposed the illegal trade of mercury-containing skin whitening creams imported from China after procuring the proscribed products from retailers in nine cities in Region IV-A, also known as the CALABARZON region.

“We are appalled by the traders’ utter disregard for consumer health and safety that is threatened by mercury in cosmetics that promise to brighten and smoothen the skin,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Mercury, which is forbidden in cosmetic product formulations, is hazardous to health.  Chronic exposure to this highly toxic chemical can cause damage to the kidneys, nervous system, and to the skin itself,” he added.

“Now that the news is out, we expect our national and local government agencies to act with dispatch to rid CALABARZON of these dangerous products to protect consumers, especially women who unsuspectingly patronize such poison cosmetics,” he stated.   

In line with the country's laws as well as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the EcoWaste Coalition exhorted local government units where the illegal products are sold to take action, including adopting ordinances banning mercury-contaminated skin whitening products like what Quezon City recently did.

In test buys conducted from February 15 to 18, the group bought 22 skin whitening cosmetics costing P60 to P200 each from stores selling beauty and herbal products in the cities of Cavite and Imus in Cavite province, Biñan, San Pablo and San Pedro in Laguna province,  Batangas and Lipa in Batangas province, Antipolo in Rizal province and Lucena in Quezon province.  Many of the sellers provided official receipts.

The products bought were among those already covered by various public health warnings issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against skin whiteners with mercury above the trace amount limit of 1 part per million (ppm) as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

The group then screened the products for mercury using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.  As per XRF screening, mercury exceeding the 1 ppm limit was detected in all the 22 samples.

S’Zitang 7-Day Specific Whitening & Spot A B Set was found to contain 3,058 ppm of mercury, Jiaoli Miraculous Cream 2,638 ppm, Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set 2,636 ppm,  S’Zitang 10-Day Whitening & Spot Day-Night Set 2,627 ppm, Mifton 1155 ppm, JJJ Magic Spot Removing Cream 976 ppm, and Erna Whitening Cream 925 ppm.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to immediately stop using these health-damaging products and to seek medical attention, especially if they are starting to experience the side effects of using such products.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO),  “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”  It noted 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.”  Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy, said the WHO.

The FDA has likewise warned “the transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life.”

To halt the illegal trade of mercury-containing cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to go after erring importers, distributors and sellers and to charge them under Republic Act 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Act.

RA 9711 states that any person who violates the law shall, upon conviction, suffer the penalty of imprisonment from one to not more than 10 years or a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P500,000.  Stiffer penalties and fines await erring manufacturers, importers or distributors.


Interesting product claims as indicated on the product label or insert:

1.  Jiaoli Miraculous Cream: "Prepared from famous Chinese traditional medicine... quickly and thoroughly remove pigment and whiten the skin."
2.  JJJ: "With ancient medical recipe... a super spots removing cream.... makes skin shining within 7 days."
3.  Mifton: "Witness the white skin after seven days."
4.  S'Zitang: "Based on secret recipe of Chinese medicine... it is the true effective product for you to renew your youth and recollect your self-confidence."


18 February 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Reminds Poll Bets to Follow QC Ordinance Banning Plastic Propaganda Materials

A waste and pollution watch group urged national and local candidates campaigning in Quezon City for the 2019 mid-term polls to follow a local ordinance that will help in reducing the volume of plastic waste during the campaign period.

In a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition exhorted concerned parties and individuals to abide by SP N0. 2202, series of 2013, “prohibiting polyethylene plastic advertisement and propaganda materials within the territorial jurisdiction of Quezon City.” 

“We urge all parties and candidates campaigning in Quezon City to conform with the said ordinance.  Full compliance will contribute to reducing the volume of plastic campaign litter polluting the environment,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Violators of SP 2202 shall be meted the following fines: notice of violation for the first offense; a fine of P3,000 and three-day community service for second offense; and a fine of P5,000 fine and a three-day community service for third offense.
Any firm or corporation caught selling, transporting or in possession of propaganda materials for use or installation in Quezon City shall face a fine of P3,000 up to P5,000 and revocation of mayor’s permit to operate.

“While the prohibition is restricted to polyethylene plastic materials, we appeal to everyone to limit their use of polyvinyl plastic election tarpaulins as these may contain cadmium and other hazardous chemicals that pose risks to human health and the environment,” Dizon pointed out.  

Adhering to the requirements of SP 2202, the group said, will be in line with COMELEC Resolution 10488, which provides for the rules and regulations implementing Republic Act 9006, or the Fair Election Act, in connection with the May 13, 2019 elections.

“In local government units where local legislation governing the use of plastic and other similar materials exist, parties and candidates shall comply with the same,” the resolution from the poll body said.

“Parties and candidates are encouraged to use recyclable and environment-friendly materials and avoid those that contain hazardous chemicals and substances in the production of their campaign and election propaganda,” it further said.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition renewed its call on all parties and candidates not to put campaign materials in places not allowed by COMELEC Resolution 10488.

The group particularly assailed the tacking or nailing of campaign materials on trees as this could harm and make trees vulnerable to decay-causing micro-organisms, bad insects, and diseases causing, which can lead to stunted growth, shorter lifespan and premature death.

Republic Act 3571, as amended by Presidential Decree 953, prohibits the “cutting, destroying or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises or in any other public ground.”







15 February 2019

Group Calls Out DoE for Unused Lamp Waste Management Facility that Risks Becoming A White Elephant

A waste and pollution watch group has called out the Department of Energy (DoE) for the non-utilization of a costly facility that is supposed to provide a solution to the unsafe disposal of mercury-containing lamp waste.

Through a letter sent to the DoE, the EcoWaste Coalition drew attention to the Lamp Waste Management Facility (LWMF) that has been gathering dust since 2014 and could be turning into a white elephant.  The letter was sent yesterday to DoE Secretary Alfonso Cusi and to Energy Research and Testing Laboratory Services Director Amelia de Guzman.

“Considering the almost five-year delay in getting the LWMF operational, we call upon the Office of the DoE Secretary to convene an urgent meeting to apprise the stakeholders about the state of non-operation of the facility and what can be done to address this matter,” wrote Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group, as part of its work on mercury pollution prevention, has been writing the DoE regarding the LWMF since August 2016 in the hope of getting the facility up and running to ensure the proper recycling of mercury-added lamps.

Health-damaging mercury vapor in a mercury-containing lamp can be released if it breaks in the waste stream, is dumped, burned or recycled in uncontrolled conditions, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

According to government information, the DoE in 2013 procured a set of equipment capable of recovering mercury from lamp waste from MRT System International of Sweden for $1.37 M plus taxes and customs duties.

The establishment of the LWMF, a component of the DoE-led Philippine Energy Efficiency Project supported by a loan from the Asian Development Bank, is supposed to address the problem with residual mercury that is expected to increase with the use of energy efficient but mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). 

The DoE operated the facility, located at a 1,000 square meter warehouse in Bagumbayan, Taguig City, during the pilot phase in 2014.

The EcoWaste Coalition is concerned that the non-use of the facility can affect the expensive and sensitive equipment consisting of a lamp processor, high-density discharge processor, batch process distiller, drying oven and vapor monitor.

“The non-operation of the facility for a long time can take its toll on the equipment, while the improper disposal of mercury lamp waste persists,” Dizon said.

According to “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps,” a report by the EcoWaste Coalition, broken and burned-out lamps are generally disposed of along with ordinary municipal solid waste and hauled to landfill facilities.

“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,” the report said, exposing humans, including waste workers, to mercury, a highly toxic substance.

“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,” the report noted.

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, dental fillings, etc.

“Exposure to mercury and other hazardous and toxic substances in the waste stream is a major threat to waste workers’ health,” the report pointed out.


DoE’s powerpoint presentation on the LWMF
“The Toxic Silence of the Lamps”

14 February 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Urges FDA to Test Fragrance Products Sold By Sidewalk Vendors for Harmful Chemicals (“The fragrance you are wearing could be making you and others around you sick.”)

Beware of the fragrance you are wearing that could be making you and others around you sick.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, drew attention to the potential health risks   linked with fragrance products that are widely sold in the market as these may contain allergenic and hormone disrupting substances.

Through a letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the group notified the agency about the proliferation of cheap fragrance products sold by sidewalk vendors that have no valid cosmetic product notifications.  The letter was sent yesterday via e-mail to Director General  Nela Charade Puno and Center for Cosmetic Regulation and Research  Director Ana Trinidad Rivera.

The group expressed  concern over the undisclosed ingredients in perfume products, particularly in the “fragrance” or “parfum”, which may contain chemicals that can trigger allergies, asthma, migraine headaches, and other health problems.

According to Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database, “the word ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.”

“Our monitoring shows that fragrance products carrying different brand names are widely available in the informal market, particularly in the streets of Quiapo, Manila, where we managed to procure 16 different items,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“We are deeply concerned with the proliferation of such products that are within the purview of the FDA because the products have not undergone quality and safety assessment, and the actual composition of the fragrance in these products is unknown,” he said.

The products, which are supposedly imported from China, are sold by sidewalk vendors for P50 per bottle of 35 ml.

Among these are  imitation products of popular perfume brands, including “Boos Orange” (for “Boss Orange”), “Euphorie” (for “Euphoria”),  “Pqlq” (for “Polo”), and “Vercage” (for “Versace”), the group said.

While the packaging provides for basic information, including the product’s name, manufacturer, country of manufacture and ingredients, as well as precautionary statement, no information is given about the product’s importer or distributor.   

To protect consumers against unwanted exposure to undisclosed substances in fragrance products that may cause health problems for users as well as non-users, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the FDA to:

1.  Issue a public health advisory informing and warning consumers against the use of unnotified fragrance products such as perfume, cologne, aftershave, etc.

2.  Analyze samples of unnotified fragrance products for banned or restricted substances, especially those linked to allergic reactions , hormone disruption, cancer and other hazardous health conditions.

3.  Conduct law enforcement activities to stop the sale of illegal fragrance products.

To curb exposure to chemicals of concern in fragrance products, the EcoWaste Coalition, a proponent for a zero waste and toxics-free society, proposed that users should limit their use of perfume to special occasions, apply perfume in well-ventilated place, and seek out natural products that are free from parabens, phthalates, solvents and other synthetic chemicals.




13 February 2019

Watch Out for Kissable but Poisonous Lips (EcoWaste Coalition’s Latest Market Investigation Nets 61 Toxic Lipsticks)

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a toxic chemical tracker has revealed that some lipsticks are laden with hazardous substances way above permissible trace amounts.

The EcoWaste Coalition cautioned lipstick lovers against putting on lip color from adulterated and misbranded lipsticks that can expose them to lead and other chemical poisons that are harmful to human health.  

The group gave a word of warning about poison lipsticks after screening 115 samples, representing 11 brands, for heavy metal contaminants using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.

The group bought the samples for P10 to P50 each from cosmetic vendors in Baclaran, Cubao, Divisoria and Quiapo on February 5, 7 and 8.  None of the samples are notified or registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Out of 115 samples, 61 (53 percent) were found to contain lead concentrations above the 20 parts per million (ppm) limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).  Of the 61 lead-laden samples, 41 contained lead above 1,000 ppm, with levels ranging from 1,026 to 44,800 ppm. 

“The levels of lead in these lipsticks are way beyond the permissible limit and, without a shred of doubt, a serious safety concern.  Teen girls and adult women should avoid these poison lipsticks as lead, a cumulative toxicant, can build up in the body over time with frequent application of such lipsticks.  There is no safe level of lead exposure,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Aside from lead, some samples also screened positive for mercury (32 samples), arsenic (53 samples), and cadmium (10  samples) in excess of the ACD’s trace amount limits for these heavy metals (1 ppm for mercury, and 5 ppm for both arsenic and cadmium).

According to toxicologist Dr. Erle Castillo of the Medical Center Manila and the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT): “The human body has no use for these toxic metals, which are harmful even at low levels of exposure and can cause a host of health problems, including damage to the brain and the central nervous system, hormonal changes and menstrual irregularities, infertility in both women and men, birth defects, as well as cancer.”

Avoiding poison lipsticks and other cosmetics laden with hazardous substances will also protect the environment from being contaminated with chemicals that are washed down the drain, which can harm fish and other marine organisms, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

Samples of Qianxiu lipstick and imitation MAC lipstick topped the list of products with dangerously high concentrations of lead, and some of which were among those submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition to the FDA last September 2018 for product verification and appropriate regulatory action

Topping the list of lipsticks per variant with the highest levels of lead contaminant include:

1. Qianxiu Hello Kitty #01 (pink canister), 44,800 ppm
2. MAC Mariah Carey #02 (brown canister), 38,900 ppm
3. Qianxiu Hello Kitty #10 (black canister), 28,700 ppm
4. MAC Mariah Carey #06 (red canister), 12,600 ppm
5. Qianxiu Unicorn #10, 11,900 ppm
6. MAC Zacposen Rudy Woo #12, 9,571 ppm
7. MAC Charm Red Lips Rudy Woo #12, 8,788 ppm
8. Qianxiu Fashion #01, 6,013 ppm
9. Baby Lips Perfect Match, 3,187 ppm
10. Monaliza Series #10, 1,808 ppm

As these adulterated and misbranded lipsticks are imported, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to strengthen border controls to prevent the entry of such cosmetics.

“We also think that national and local government agencies should conduct nonstop law enforcement activities, including on-the-spot confiscation of contraband items and preventive closure of erring business establishments, to rid the market of toxic cosmetics,” Dizon said.

There may be a need for the next Congress to enact a Special Law on Counterfeit Cosmetics imposing heavy fines and penalties that will make it unprofitable for manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to engage in such business, he added.


12 February 2019

Groups Press PM Trudeau to Take Back Stranded Canadian Garbage in the Philippines (Canadian and International NGOs Back EcoWaste Coalition’s Latest Push for PM Justin Trudeau to Resolve Canada’s Illegal Waste Dumping Controversy)

Canadian and international environmental, health and human rights organizations have taken up the cudgel for the EcoWaste Coalition in its latest bid to get the reeking garbage from Vancouver returned to its source. Canada illegally dumped the waste in the Philippines in 2013 - 2014. 

On January 30, 2019, the EcoWaste Coalition sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna urging the Canadian government to resolve the dumping scandal involving 103 containers of mixed garbage shipments, approximately 2,500 tons, which has dragged on for five years without resolution. Neither government official has yet responded to the EcoWaste Coalition letter.

“The dumping of Canadian wastes in the Philippines is immoral and illegal. We respectfully request that the Canadian government provide a clear and definite date by which it will repatriate its garbage so that this protracted ordeal can finally be promptly ended,” wrote Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“Prime Minister Trudeau has promised that Canada will act in an environmentally responsible manner and fulfill its obligations under the Basel Convention, which forbids dumping wastes overseas. Words are not enough. South Korea has acted on the first part of its wastes and after five long years of delay, it is time for the Canadian government to demonstrate commitment to international environmental law and take back its wastes.  Environmentalists in Canada and around the world are calling on PM Trudeau to take action now to end this shameful misconduct,” said Kathleen Ruff, Director of the human rights group RightOnCanada.

Through a letter sent to Trudeau, as well as to the leaders of Canada’s Conservative Party, New Democratic Party, Bloc Québécois and Green Party, tenCanadian and international organizations, as well as a number of health and environmental experts, have expressed their strong support for the appeal made by the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We call on you to take the following actions they (the EcoWaste Coalition) have requested: 1) ensure the expeditious return to Canada of the wastes illegally exported from Canada and dumped in the Philippines, as is required by the Basel Convention, and 2) ratify the Basel Ban amendment, which would prohibit the export of hazardous waste for any reason from more developed countries to less developed countries,” the signatories said.

“We call on you to demonstrate commitment to the Basel Convention and fulfill the actions requested by the EcoWaste Coalition,” they stated, stressing that the said treaty on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste and their disposal is an important UN agreement “to uphold environmental responsibility and environmental justice.”

Among the groups that signed the letter sent to Trudeau on February 11, 2019 were  RightOnCanada, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Basel Action Network, Citizens’ Network on Waste Management, European Society for Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Greenpeace Canada, Health and Environmental Justice Support International, IPEN, Occupational Knowledge International, and the Toronto Environment Alliance.  Noted academicians, medical doctors and scientists also endorsed the letter.

The EcoWaste Coalition thanked the said groups and scientists for amplifying their call for decisive Canadian action to settle the festering illegal dumping problem, describing their support as important for advancing the rule of law and environmental justice.


10 February 2019

Poll Candidates Dared to Roll Out an Eco-Friendly Campaign (EcoWaste Coalition to Candidates: Green Your Campaign Please)

A waste and pollution watch group dared all political parties, party-list groups and individuals taking part in the midterm polls to protect the environment from being defiled further by irresponsible campaign activities.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged parties and candidates to “green” both their electoral platform and campaign strategy ahead of the start of the official campaign period this Tuesday for senatorial bets and party-list groups,

“We dare all political parties and candidates to incorporate ecological sustainability into their electoral platforms.  We challenge them to present green solutions to the electorate that will address our nation’s problems with environmental degradation, dirty energy and climate change, chemicals and wastes, including the plastic pollution crisis,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Politicians should tell the public where they stand with regards to burning environmental issues such as single-use plastics and plastic packaging, electronic and plastic waste importation, dumpsite closure, waste-to-energy incineration, among other concerns,” he said.

“We further ask them to show their concern for Mother Earth by rolling out an eco-friendly campaign that will not harm and pollute the ecosystems,” he added.

An eco-friendly campaign, the EcoWaste Coalition said, will be compliant to the country’s electoral, environmental and health laws, particularly the Fair Election Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Tobacco Regulation Act, etc.

Instead of the usual  4Gs (guns, goons, gold and garbage) of dirty politics, the group urged politicians and their backers to embrace the 4Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle, respect) of clean politics.

For a cleaner campaign, the group pushed for compliance to COMELEC Resolution 10488 providing for the rules and regulations implementing Republic Act 9006, or the Fair Election Act, in connection with the May 13, 2019 national and local elections.

The group specifically drew attention to Section 6 on “lawful election propaganda” in the said resolution where “parties and candidates are encouraged to use recyclable and environment-friendly materials and avoid those that contain hazardous chemicals and substances in the production of their campaign and election propaganda.”

The resolution also asked parties and candidates to comply with local ordinances governing the use of plastic and other similar materials.

The EcoWaste Coalition last week revealed that laboratory tests found high levels of cadmium, a highly hazardous chemical, in plastic vinyl tarpaulins that have become a favorite material for election posters.

As currently no law bars the use of cadmium-laden plastic tarpaulins, the group can only appeal to parties and candidates to keep their campaign tarpaulins within proper limits and to ensure that such materials will be taken down as soon as the polls are over for environmentally-sound management.

Following the Okada balloon drop controversy, the EcoWaste Coalition asked parties and candidates not to engage in any balloon dropping or releasing gimmicks and other activities that will only add to the country’s environmental woes, including throwing confetti and lighting firecrackers and fireworks during political sorties and meetings.




07 February 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Raises the Alarm Over Toxic Cadmium in Plastic Tarpaulins (Group urges poll candidates to avoid excessive use of plastic tarpaulins to control cadmium pollution)

A waste and pollution watch group exhorted poll candidates to avoid immoderate use of plastic vinyl tarpaulins ahead of the start of the official campaign period for senatorial aspirants and party list groups on February 12.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that plastic tarpaulins may contain cadmium, a heavy metal with a high toxicity that is used as plastic colorant and/or stabilizer.  Cadmium is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” along with arsenic, asbestos, dioxins, lead, mercury and other highly hazardous substances.

Cadmium and its compounds are also included in the expanding list of priority chemicals that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) “has determined to potentially pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment.”

“The mass production of tarpaulin banners and posters for the midterm election campaign will surely add to the plastic pollution that our country is wrestling with.  It’s not a simple solid waste issue as these popular campaign materials are laden with toxic chemicals such as cadmium that may negatively impact on our people’s health and the environment,”  said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Cadmium, according to the WHO, exerts toxic effects on the renal, skeletal and respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen.  

“After the campaign, the used tarps will be removed and buried in landfills where cadmium and other chemical additives may be discharged as the dumped materials break down.  Some of these tarps may even end up being burned, a process that will cause the formation and release of dangerous byproducts of combustion called dioxins,” he added.

To draw attention to the toxicity of ubiquitous plastic tarpaulins, the EcoWaste Coalition sent five tarpaulin samples of fictitious poll candidates named after popular “teleserye” lead characters to SGS, a global testing company, for cadmium analysis.  Two laboratory tests were done for each tarpaulin sample: first, on the scraped coatings, and, second, on composite materials.

The colorful samples measuring 24 by 36 inches and costing P100 to P150 each were made by commercial sign makers located in Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Pasay and Quezon Cities.  

Based on test reports received last February 1, 2019, the samples, which were analyzed for cadmium in paint and other similar surface coatings, were found to contain cadmium in the range of 515 to 1,038 parts per million (ppm).  The average cadmium content of the samples was 718 ppm, exceeding the 100 ppm limit set by the European Union for cadmium in plastics.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “products containing cadmium are not typically collected separately from the general waste stream in developing countries. Therefore cadmium discards will end up in municipal waste and disposed of in landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping.” 

“Some of the cadmium in these products will be released to the environment, the extent of which depends on disposal method, control technologies applied and other factors,” the UN agency said.

To prevent cadmium pollution and reduce their associated health effects, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the DENR, particularly the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), to fast track the approval of a strong Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Cadmium and Cadmium Compounds.

It will be recalled that the EcoWaste Coalition through a letter sent to the DENR-EMB in March 2016 requested the agency to initiate the crafting of a CCO following the group’s detection of high concentrations of cadmium in certain materials and products. 

“We believe that a CCO is urgently needed to prohibit, limit or regulate the use of cadmium, particularly in the production of certain products that could expose the public from preventable sources of cadmium exposure, or pollute the environment with cadmium through unsafe disposal practices,” the group said.   

In the absence of a clear-cut regulation banning or restricting cadmium in plastics, including tarpaulins, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to all poll candidates to adhere to the COMELEC rules on lawful campaign propaganda, keep materials within proper limits, and ensure that such materials are removed promptly after the polls for environmentally-sound management.

- end -




Note: European Commission Regulation No. 494/2011 prohibits manufacturers from placing mixtures and articles produced from plastic material containing cadmium “equal to or greater than 0.01 % by weight,” or 100 ppm.

04 February 2019

Luck Seekers Warned against Lucky Charms and Amulets Laden with Toxic Cadmium and Lead

An environmental and health watch group cautioned luck seekers from purchasing Feng Shui charms and amulets that are laced with dangerous levels of cadmium and lead, two highly hazardous chemicals. 

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the precautionary warning as many Filipinos rush to get their luck activators and enhancers in time for the celebration of the Chinese New Year of the Earth Pig.

The group over the weekend purchased 20 assorted lucky charms and amulets, costing from P25 to P300 each, from retailers in Binondo and Quiapo and had them screened for toxic metals using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical instrument.

“Some lucky charms and amulets that are supposed to attract energy, health, fortune and happiness are unluckily contaminated with cadmium and lead, two highly hazardous substances that belong to the WHO’s list of 10 chemicals of major public health concern,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Out of the 20 items, 15 were found to be contaminated with excessive levels of lead and cadmium way above the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in paint under Philippine and US laws, and 100 ppm limit for cadmium in jewelry under the European Union regulation .

Cadmium amounting to 1,906 to 293,000 ppm was detected in the pendants adorning 4 red fabric bracelets and steel chain necklaces, while lead ranging from 1,324 to 57,300 ppm was discovered in 11 lead-painted lucky charms and amulets, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed.

“Cadmium and lead, which can accumulate in the body and damage human health, should not be present in consumer products, especially for items that are supposed to enhance good health and better life,” Dizon said. 

Among the worst samples found by the group were a stainless steel necklace with a pig pendant that has 293,000 ppm of cadmium, and a red fabric bracelet with a pig adornment that has 238,800 ppm of cadmium.

“Five lucky objects” that promise to yield five blessings (longevity, wealth, peace, wisdom, and righteousness) were among those heavily laden with lead: a holy gourd  with 57,300 ppm of lead, dragon 52,500 ppm, lotus flower 22,000 ppm, windhorse 20,300 ppm and 3-legged frog with 19,500 ppm of lead.  A lucky peach trinket was also found to contain 56,300 ppm of lead   

According to the World Health Organization, lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”  Lead exposure  among children even at low levels can interrupt and damage brain development and cause lifelong learning and behavioral problems, while exposure among adults can bring about miscarriage in women, reduced sperm count in men, hypertension and other health issues.

To protect children, women and workers from lead exposure, the Philippines took a globally-recognized move to phase-out lead-containing decorative paints in 2016, and is currently on the way to eliminating lead in industrial paints this year.

Cadmium is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “carcinogenic to humans,” and is also recognized as a reproductive and developmental toxin associated with reduced birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion and birth defects in humans, as well with behavioral and learning disabilities.

Instead of cadmium and lead-laden lucky charms and amulets, the EcoWaste Coalition advised luck seekers to go for the tried and tested formula to attract health, fortune and happiness:  healthful lifestyle, positive relationships with fellow beings and the environment, “sipag at tiyaga” (hard work and perseverance), and prayers and good deeds.

If buying painted lucky charms and amulets could not be avoided, the group suggested that buyers pick those with plastic laminate that will protect the paint from chipping and crumbling.


List of 15 lucky charms and amulets with high cadmium and lead content:

1.  Stainless steel necklace with pig pendant, 293,000 ppm cadmium

2.  Red fabric bracelet with pig adornment, 238,800 ppm cadmium
3.  Stainless steel necklace with money pouch pendant, 182,800 ppm cadmium
4.  Red fabric bracelet with twin cherry adornment, 1,906 ppm cadmium
5.  Holy gourd lucky object,  57,300 ppm lead,
6.  Lucky peach trinket, 56,300 ppm lead 
7.  Dragon lucky object, 52,500 ppm lead,
8.  Lotus flower lucky object, 22,000 ppm lead
9.  Windhorse lucky object, 20,300 ppm lead
10. 3-legged frog lucky object, 19,500 ppm lead
11. Golden lucky coin, 8,917 ppm lead
12. Good luck pat-kua (medium), 7,643 ppm lead
13.  Good luck pat-kua (small), 5,093 ppm lead
14.  Good luck pat-kua (big), 3,644 ppm lead
15.  Lucky golden dragon, 1,324 ppm lead

List of 5 lucky charms and amulets without cadmium and lead:

1.  Holy lotus charm

2.  Holy gourd charm
3.  Welcoming wealth door fu
4.  Red fabric bracelet with fish pendant
5.  Fabric red bracelet with peanut pendant

Notes on Cadmium and Lead Regulations:

Under the EU Regulation 494/2011, cadmium in jewelry is restricted to 0.01 % (or 100 ppm) by weight of the metal in metal beads and other metal components for jewelry making,  metal parts of jewelry and imitation jewelry articles and hair accessories, including bracelets, necklaces and rings, piercing jewelry, wrist-watches and wrist-wear, brooches and cufflinks.

Under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and  DENR Administrative Order 2013-24, lead in paint shall not exceed the 90 ppm total lead content limit.





Group Cheers the Arrival in South Korea of First Batch of Returned Illegal Garbage Shipments (EcoWaste Coalition Presses South Korea to Hasten Re-Export of Remaining 5,100 Tons of Dumped Garbage)

The 51 containers of illegal trash exports from South Korea finally reached Pyeontaek City today, February 3, after leaving the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) in Misamis Oriental last January 14.

Based on the information sent by MICT Port Collector John Simon to the EcoWaste Coalition, M/V Spectrum, the marine vessel carrying the garbage shipments, arrived this morning at the Pyeongtaek Container Terminal (PCTC).

As confirmed by the PCTC website, the actual time of berth (ATB) of M/V Spectrum was at 9:03 a.m. today.

The arrival in Pyeongtaek City of the first batch of returned Korean garbage amounting to 1,400 tons drew cheers from the EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit waste and pollution watch group in the Philippines. 

“We mark this occasion as a special day to celebrate the rule of law and the reign of environmental justice, and we thank the governments and peoples of the Philippines and South Korea for making this happen,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The unloading of the botched garbage shipments from M/V Spectrum provides a solid proof that doing the right thing for public health and the environment is not impossible,” she said.

“However, this landmark victory is still incomplete as bulk of the dumped garbage, over 5,100 tons, are still stranded in the town of Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental posing health and environmental hazards,” she pointed out.

The group had earlier written to Ambassador Han Dong-man last January 15 to thank South Korea for its expeditious response, and to urge it to continue its positive collaboration with the Philippine authorities to ensure the speedy re-export of the remaining garbage.

In their letter, the EcoWaste Coalition also expressed its objection to “any move to delay the repatriation of the illegal garbage cargoes or to have (them) treated or disposed of in the Philippines.”

“For the last six months, the waste materials dumped in Tagoloan have been exposed to direct sunlight and rain.  Many of the bags are now damaged and have to be replaced in preparation for their re-export to South Korea,” Lucero said. 

“To speed up their re-export, we request the South Korean government to intercede and assume responsibility for their re-bagging as the consignee has failed to do its job due to alleged lack of resources,” she added.

It will be recalled that in July 2018, a boatload of plastic waste materials arrived at the MICT in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.  The waste shipments, wrongly declared as “plastic synthetic flakes,” were exported by the Korean company Green Soko and consigned to a Filipino-Korean company Verde Soko. 

Another batch of similar mixed waste cargoes entered the same port in October 2018 bringing the total shipments to 6,500 tons.  Last January 14, 51 containers, or about 1,400 tons of garbage, left MICT for PCTC.

Among the materials found in the unsorted plastic waste shipments were plastic bottles, straws, gloves, shower hose, utensils, toothbrushes, Styrofoams, wrappers, and  cellophane.  Also found were  textiles, wood, metal rods, vinyl tiles, broken glasses, paper boxes, spray cans, shoes, slippers, gloves, diapers, as well as electronic waste. 

The garbage shipments violated Philippine and South Korean laws, as well as international law via the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

03 February 2019

Chinese New Year Warning: Watch Out for Toxic Piggy Banks and Decors

With lead content

A waste and pollution watch group has advised consumers to be cautious of lead-glazed or lead-painted piggy banks and pig-inspired decorations as the Chinese New Year is celebrated starting Wednesday, 5 February.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the warning after detecting high concentrations of lead in three out of 10 pig-inspired coin containers and related adornments to welcome the year of the earth pig, the 12th of the Chinese zodiac animals.

“Lead-tainted ceramic piggy banks and related decors could end up in the hands of curious children who love to play with colorful and nice-looking figures,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Lead exposure may occur if the product is broken or if its surface is chipped or corroded,” he pointed out.

As part of the group’s campaign for a toxics-free Philippines, the EcoWaste Coalition last week bought 10 pig-inspired items costing P35 to P200 each from retailers in Makati, Manila and Quezon Cities.

Based on chemical screening using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, three ceramic samples were found to contain 3,090, 4,929 and 5,042 parts per million (ppm) of lead, respectively.

Lead maybe attributed to the glaze used to give the products glasslike or smooth finish or to the colorful coatings used.

With low or non-detectable lead content

All the sampled products had no labels, and provided no information about their chemical composition.
“As safer substitutes are available on the market, we advise consumers to stay away from products containing lead,” Dizon said.

“Not patronizing lead-containing products sends a clear message to the industry that consumers nowadays prefer safer products that will not put the health of children at risk,” he stated.

“We also do not want any of the broken, chipped or corroded piggy banks and Chinese New Year decorations to add to the toxicity of our household waste,” he added.

Lead, a highly toxic substance can affect people of all ages, and can harm children and unborn babies at much lower levels of exposure, the group warned.  As a cumulative toxicant, lead builds up in the body, so even small quantities can pose a health hazard over time, it added.

Long-term effects of lead exposure include, among other things, mental retardation and other learning disabilities, language, speech and hearing disorders, attention deficit and other mental problems, aggression and other behavioral challenges.




02 February 2019

30 January 2019

Right Honorable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5K9, Canada
E-Mail:  pm@pm.gc.ca.

Subject: Appeal to Canadian government to Take Action on Canadian Garbage Illegally Exported to the Philippines

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Greetings from the Ecological Waste Coalition of the Philippines, Inc. (EcoWaste Coalition), a non-profit environmental network of over 140 public interest groups working for a zero waste and toxics-free society.

We write to appeal to you, to take action to resolve the dumping scandal involving the illegal export of wastes from Canada to the Philippines. At issue are 103 shipping container vans of mixed garbage from Canada that were illegally exported and dumped in the Philippines. The scandal has dragged on for five years without resolution, despite promises from the Canadian government to address the problem, including public statements made by yourself as Prime Minister.

Household trash, used adult diapers, and electronic waste

The 103 shipping containers of mixed garbage from Canada, wrongly declared as scrap plastics for recycling, entered our ports in 2013-2014.  The waste actually contained household trash, used adult diapers, and electronic waste. Our Bureau of Customs intercepted the illegal shipments upon notification by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). According to the DENR, the garbage shipments are in violation of DENR Administrative Order 2013-22, which states that “no importation of heterogenous and unsorted plastic materials shall be allowed” and that “all plastics shall have no traces of toxic materials.”  The shipments further violate the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, which says that “the State of export shall ensure that the wastes in question are taken back by the exporter or the generator or, if necessary, by itself into the State of export.”

Prime Minister promised return of the waste in 2017 

During your visit to the Philippines in November 2017 for the 31st ASEAN Summit, you assured President Rodrigo Duterte and the 105 million Filipinos that you were working to get this illegal dumping issue settled.  At a press conference, you stated that Canada “is working hard to resolve the issue” and “it is now theoretically possible to get it [the garbage] back.” Many in the Philippines welcomed your statement, which inspired hope that finally Canada would act responsibly and fulfill its obligations under the Basel Convention.  But over 13 months later your pledge to take back Canada's garbage remains an unfulfilled promise. 

Philippines government finds two-thirds of Canadian waste mis-declared

According to the waste analysis and characterization study conducted by the DENR in 2014, approximately 64 percent of the intercepted Canadian garbage shipments were “baled municipal solid waste or garbage destined for immediate local disposal and cannot be recycled.”  In 2015, wastes from 26 of the 103 containers were illegally disposed of at a private landfill in Tarlac province angering officials and citizens.  

Philippines government orders return of the waste to Canada

Your office might also be aware that in June 2016, Judge Tita Bughao-Alisuag of the Regional Trial Court of Manila (Branch 1) ordered the return of the garbage-filled containers covered by Criminal Case No. 143-11191 stressing that the Philippines is not a “trash bin” and that the dumping incident “should not be made a precedent for other countries to follow.”  The EcoWaste Coalition is a “complainant-in-intervention”, together with other public interest groups, in the court case against the importer and customs broker for the botched garbage shipments.

South Korea provides a stark contrast to Canada

In contrast to Canada’s apparent disinterest in resolving this issue, South Korea has acted to address illegal waste shipments to the Philippines. On January 13, 2019, 51 containers of mis-declared and unsorted Korean garbage were sent back to South Korea with a promise from the Korean Ministry of Environment to promptly address the remaining 5,176 tons. These wastes were illegally exported from South Korea to the Philippines in 2018 and acted upon the same year. The stark contrast between South Korea’s actions and Canada’s indifference to its dumped waste has captured public attention and stoked anger at what is viewed as both disrespectful and illegal conduct by Canada.

Canada’s claims do not match its actions

The Canadian government publicly states that it fully complies with the Basel Convention claiming that, “As a Party Canada actively implements the prior-informed consent, classification and tracking, reporting and other obligations related to the transboundary movement of wastes as well as promotes the general obligations pertaining to waste minimization and management.” However, this statement is not true in the case of the Philippines waste dumping. Furthermore, we find Canada’s illegal dumping of wastes in the Philippines to be especially ironic considering that Canada itself has served on the Basel Convention Implementation and Compliance Committee. A recent study using GPS devices found Canadian electronic waste illegally exported to Hong Kong and Pakistan in violation of the Basel Convention. To prevent future illegal dumping in any country, we call on Canada to ratify the Basel Ban amendment.

Five years have lapsed and the Canadian garbage is still languishing in our land: 77 containers are sitting at the ports of Manila and Subic (wastes from the other 26 containers are already rotting at a local landfill).

The dumping of Canadian wastes in the Philippines is immoral and illegal. We respectfully request that the Canadian government provide a clear and definite date by which it will repatriate its garbage so that this protracted ordeal can finally be promptly ended. 

We appeal to you to take just and expeditious action. We await your response with much hope.

Sincerely yours,

Aileen Lucero
National Coordinator
EcoWaste Coalition

Copy: Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment