14 July 2020

Customs Urged to Block Entry of Dangerous Leaded Paints

The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has called on the customs authorities to block the entry of paint products containing dangerous levels of lead in violation of the country's regulation banning lead in all paints.

The group pressed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to step in after detecting dangerous concentrations of lead in 37 samples of imported spray paints representing 19 brands manufactured mainly in China, Taiwan and Thailand.

"We appeal to the BOC to instruct port authorities to reject paint imports lacking verifiable certificate of analysis confirming compliance to our country's lead paint regulation," stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

"It's completely unfair to allow the entry of leaded paints while local paint manufacturers follow the ban on lead paints to protect our children and other vulnerable sectors against lead exposure," he pointed out.    

In a joint study with the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) released last Friday, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that 37 of the 87 analyzed samples had lead levels hundreds of times higher than the 90 parts per million (ppm) maximum limit set by DENR's Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

Of the 37 leaded spray paints discovered, 29 contained dangerously high lead concentrations ranging from 11,700 to 82,100 ppm.

The report "Lead in Spray Paints for Consumer Use in the Philippines" provides the first publicly available data on the lead content of paints in aerosol cans sold in the country, which are typically used as a touch-up paint for appliances, cars, accessories and decors, as well as a material for school projects.  

The 87 samples were obtained from hardware stores, home improvement centers, general merchandise marts, and school and office supplies shops in 20 cities and one municipality in Luzon.  SGS Philippines carried out the laboratory tests.

The Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) confirmed that none of the analyzed samples in the said study was produced by one of its 25 affiliated paint producers. 

“Lead paint is a major source of childhood lead exposure affecting large numbers of children in the world. To protect children’s health, governments and other stakeholders across the globe, including the Philippines, are taking measures to ban lead in all paints,” said Dr. Sara Brosché, Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign Manager, IPEN. 

“Together with the EcoWaste Coalition and PAPM, we support the effective implementation of laws and regulations that will keep children and other vulnerable groups safe from irreparable harms caused by exposure to lead in contaminated paint, dust and soil,” she added.

Lead-containing decorative paints in the Philippines were phased out in December 2016 and lead-containing industrial paints in December 2019 in accordance with DENR A.O. 2013-24.

- end - 

Link to the report "Lead in Spray Paints for Consumer Use in the Philippines":

To see relevant photos, please go to:

10 July 2020

New Philippines Study Reveals Dangerous Levels of Lead in Spray Paints Being Sold in Retail Outlets

A new report by the environmental health groups EcoWaste Coalition and International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) finds spray paints with dangerous lead concentrations on sale in the Philippines in violation of the country’s law banning lead in paints.

The report “Lead in Spray Paints for Consumer Use in the Philippines” provides the first publicly available data on the lead content of paints in aerosol cans sold in the country, which are typically used as a touch-up paint for appliances and cars, as a material for school projects, and as a convenient stuff for sprucing up accessories and decors.   

While the hazards of spray paint fumes due to their volatile organic compound (VOC) ingredients like acetone, toluene and xylene, which can be directly inhaled, are quite known, studies had barely paid attention to lead lurking in such paints, the groups noted.

The report shows that out of 87 analyzed spray paints for consumer or general use, 37 samples exceeded the total lead content limit above 90 parts per million (ppm) of which 29 had dangerous lead concentrations topping 10,000 ppm.  The samples were obtained from various retail outlets, including hardware stores, home improvement centers, general merchandise marts, school and office supplies shops, in 20 cities and one municipality in Metro Manila and various parts of Luzon.  SGS Philippines conducted the laboratory tests.

As confirmed by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) with the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN, none of the spray paints analyzed in the study was produced locally by its affiliated companies.  

“The unlawful sale of spray paints containing lead points to the need for strict monitoring of business compliance to the Chemical Control Order prohibiting lead content above 90 ppm in all types of paint products.  Paints in aerosol cans are definitely not exempted,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The authorities need to ensure that only lead-safe paints are sold in the market as the country has already phased out lead-containing decorative paints in December 2016 and lead containing industrial paints in December 2019.  Further efforts are needed to rid the market of non-compliant paint products such as those coming from overseas,” said Derrick Tan, President, PAPM.

“Lead paint is a major source of childhood lead exposure affecting large numbers of children in the world.  To protect children’s health, governments and other stakeholders across the globe, including the Philippines, are taking measures to ban lead in all paints,” said Dr. Sara Brosché, Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign Manager, IPEN. “Together with the EcoWaste Coalition and PAPM, we support the effective implementation of laws and regulations that will keep children and other vulnerable groups safe from irreparable harms caused by exposure to lead in contaminated paint, dust and soil.”

Exposure to lead, the groups pointed out, can seriously damage the brain. When a young child is exposed to lead, the harm to her or his developing brain and nervous system makes it more like that the child will have difficulties in school and engage in impulsive and violent behavior.  Lead exposure in young children is also linked to increased rates of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, failure to graduate from high school, conduct disorder, juvenile delinquency, drug use and incarceration.  Lead exposure impacts on children continue throughout life and have a long-term impact on a child’s work performance, and are related to decreased economic success.

According to the PAPM, which brings together 72 paint manufacturers and raw materials suppliers, safe and cost effective substitutes to lead additives are available for all paint categories, making the elimination of lead paint in the Philippines and globally a feasible goal.  To assure consumers that their paint products comply with the country’s lead paint law, three leading paint companies in the Philippines have even gone beyond what the regulation requires by successfully obtaining third-party Lead Safe Paint® certification.  

Key findings of the study:

-  37 out of 87 analyzed spray paints representing 19 brands were lead paints, i.e., they contained lead concentrations above 90 ppm, dry weight.  In addition, 29 paints contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm.

- 19 out of 37 analyzed brands sold at least one lead paint, i.e., a paint with lead concentration above 90 ppm.  Also, 16 of the 37 analyzed brands sold at least one paint with dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm.

- 35 of the 73 bright-colored paints were lead paints, i.e., they contained lead concentrations above 90 ppm.  Yellow paints were the most hazardous with 14 paints containing lead concentrations greater than 10,000 ppm, while 11 green paints also contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm.

Key recommendations arising from the study:

- For the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to convene a multistakeholders’ dialogue to recognize successes, determine gaps and identify steps toward a more effective enforcement of the regulation banning all lead paints.

- For paint manufacturers, importers and distributors to take back their remaining stocks of old lead-containing paints from all retail outlets.

- For paint manufacturers, including those that export to the Philippines, to obtain third-party Lead Safe Paint® certification to assist consumers in making an informed choice when buying paints.

- For consumers to insist on their rights to product information and to product safety and to refrain from buying inadequately labeled and uncertified paint products.

- For all stakeholders to support policies and programs that will contribute to reduced children’s, women’s and workers’ exposure to lead from lead-containing paint, dust and soil.



EcoWaste Coalition is a non-profit network of over 140 groups promoting a zero waste and toxics-free society where communities enjoy a safe and healthy environment  (http://www.ecowastecoalition.org/,http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com/).

International Pollutants Elimination Network is the global environmental network of nearly 600 public interest NGOs in over 125 countries working to eliminate and reduce the most hazardous substances to forge a toxics-free future for all (https://ipen.org/). 

06 July 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes For E-Waste Importation Ban

A waste and pollution watchdog group has urged the government to ban the importation of electronic waste as the production of such waste across the world soared to 53.6 million tonnes in 2019 due to higher consumption rates of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), among other reasons, according to a newly-released UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020.

The global generation of e-waste, which is classified as hazardous waste under the Basel Convention due to the presence of brominated flame retardants, lead, mercury and other toxic substances, is projected to reach 74.7 million tones by 2030.

“The global surge in the production of e-waste is deeply concerning for developing countries like the Philippines that still allow the importation of electronic junks.  End-of-life computers, TVs, mobile phones and other unwanted EEE from overseas might end up flooding our ports if no preventive action is taken,” said Roxanne Figueroa, E-Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“As the demand for computers and other e-gadgets grows with their increased use in online activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be extra vigilant against the potential rise in shipments of pre-owned electronics nearing or at the end of their useful lives, which can only add to our toxic waste woes,” she said.

As stated in the latest Global E-Waste Monitor, “a considerable amount of e-waste is still exported illegally or under the guise of being for reuse or pretending to be scrap metal.”

“In middle- and low-income countries, the e-waste management infrastructure is not yet fully developed or, in some cases, is entirely absent. Hence, e-waste is managed mostly by the informal sector. In this case, e-waste is often handled under inferior conditions, causing severe health effects to workers as well as to the children who often live, work and play near e-waste management activities,” the report said.

“Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures. One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment,” noted Maria Neira, Director, Environment, Climate Change and Health Department of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For his part, Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “To put a stop to the entry of e-waste and other wastes into our country and to protect public health and the environment, we need to plug loopholes in regulation and ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, an international law prohibiting all hazardous waste exports from developed to developing countries.”

Such a bold action will encourage developed countries not to transfer their unwanted e-waste here, as well as drive the electronic industry to shift to clean production and take full responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the product life-cycle, including their reuse, buyback or recycling, he pointed out.

Last year, the group wrote to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu proposing a comprehensive ban on the importation of wastes, including plastic and electronic wastes, which is still permitted by the agency under DENR A.O. 2013-22.

DENR A.O. 2013-22 allows the importation of “recyclable materials” such as scrap metals, scrap plastics, electronic assemblies and scrap, used oil and fly ash subject to certain limiting conditions and compliance to the requirements set by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

EMB, which is currently reviewing and revising the said administrative order to update the requirements and address emerging issues,  has drafted the “Guidelines on the Environmentally Sound Management of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment,” which is yet to be issued.




21 June 2020

Groups Pitch for Poison-Proof Households as the National Poisoning Prevention Week is Observed

In a bid to prevent poisoning incidents that can endanger children and adults alike, a toxicology experts group and a toxics watchdog group jointly urged families to poison-proof their homes.

Coinciding with the observance of the National Poisoning Prevention Week (NPPW), the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT) and the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to all families to take precautionary steps to protect everyone from being exposed to poisoning agents via ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption. 

Celebrated every fourth week of June as per Proclamation No. 1777, the annual NPPW aims to increase people’s awareness on the importance of poisoning prevention at home, school, work and the general environment. 

“Preventing members of our families from getting poisoned is indeed better than cure, especially during these days when hospitals are preoccupied with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.  By taking steps to poison-proof our homes and educating our families about poisoning prevention, we surely can avoid life-threatening medical emergencies and unnecessary medical bills,” said Dr. Carissa Dioquino-Maligaso, President of PSCOT and Chairperson of the Department of Neurosciences of the Philippine General Hospital.     

While poisoning can affect persons in every age bracket, young children are known to be more susceptible to the toxic effects of poisons in the environment.

“Children are more vulnerable to the injurious effects of poisonous substances than adults,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, noting that “their body defense systems are still undeveloped, they breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water in proportion to their weight, they have thinner skin, and they often put their hands and even objects, which may contain germs and chemical contaminants, in their mouths.”    

For safer, poison-proof homes, both PSCOT and the EcoWaste Coalition encourage households to observe the following preventive measures:

1. Handle, use, store and dispose of products safely at all times. 

2.  Read the product labels carefully, be mindful of hazard pictograms and precautionary warnings, and follow safety instructions. 

3.  Return all products to their proper storage immediately after use. 

4.  Never place poisonous products in beverage and food containers.  Keep them in their original containers.

5.  Store food and potential poisons in separate cabinets.

6.  Keep medicines, bleaching, cleaning and laundry products, e-cigarette liquid refills, insecticides, paints, varnishes and thinners, and car maintenance materials out of children’s sight and reach in a securely locked cabinet or area.

7.  Never allude to medicine as “candy,” “chocolate” or any other name that appeals to a child.

8.  Safely get rid of unused, unwanted or expired medicines, vitamins, and supplements.

9.  Do not mix household cleaning products together to prevent the formation of dangerous fumes.

10.  Never reuse pesticide and other chemical containers for storing food and water. 

11.  Secure the battery compartment of games, toys and other items powered by small button-cell batteries, which can cause choking and chemical risk if ingested.

12.   Wash children’s toys and other play things regularly to lessen the risk of ingesting lead-containing dust and other environmental pollutants.

13.   Teach kids how to safely use art materials such as crayons, water colors, glues and other adhesives and remind them not to eat or drink while doing their art assignments.

14.  Be aware of plants inside and outside your home as some of them may be poisonous to children, as well as pets.

15.  Put the National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC) emergency phone numbers on your mobile phone and call the center for advice and referral: 85241078, 85548400 local 3976, 0966-7289904 and 0922-8961541.




18 June 2020

Groups Flag Hazards of Burning Seized Mercury-Containing Cosmetics (Customs authorities cautioned from burning confiscated cosmetics containing mercury)

Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Customs

Non-government organizations have cautioned the customs authorities from burning confiscated skin whitening products tainted with mercury to reduce the harm of mercury pollution to human health and the environment.

Last week, the Bureau of Customs NAIA sent to a pyrolysis disposal facility in Trece Martires City some 1.5 tons of seized imported goods, including 400 kilos of unregistered Goree skin lightening cosmetics that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned in 2017 due to their mercury content.

The incineration of the intercepted mercury-containing cosmetics prompted the EcoWaste Coalition and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) to weigh in on the manner the confiscated products were disposed of.    

“While commending the BOC for preventing these toxic cosmetics from entering the market, including online stores, we are concerned that the mercury content of these products may have been released into the atmosphere through the facility’s flue gas,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Even if the facility has functional anti-pollution control devices (which may reduce but not eliminate mercury emissions), mercury can still be discharged into the broader environment via the by-product ash,” Dizon said, noting that “mercury in the ash can be released back to the atmosphere by volatilization.” 
Lee Bell, IPEN Mercury Policy Advisor, stated: "Incineration of mercury contaminated cosmetics in a pyrolysis process must be avoided as it presents a high risk of releasing mercury vapor to the atmosphere. The vapor is toxic and a threat to process workers and the general public. The Minamata Convention guidance on this issue warns that the only way to avoid such emissions is to prevent mercury from entering the waste stream that will be incinerated."

"There are much safer ways to dispose of this hazardous waste such as sending it to a dedicated mercury waste treatment plant which is specifically designed to extract and separate any mercury from the waste and then subject it to stabilisation with sulphur,” he explained, stressing “this dramatically reduces the toxicity, volatility and bioavailability of the mercury and allows it to be stored safely."  

Through a letter sent to BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the bureau not to burn confiscated mercury-containing imports, but to keep them in a secure storage facility in the interim as the country still lacks a non-burn mercury waste treatment plant for such mercury-bearing discards.

Such a storage facility must comply with the requirements and conditions under the DENR A.O. 2019-20, or the Revised Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds, and DENR A.O. 2013-22, or the Revised Procedures and Standards for the Management of Hazardous Wastes. "with provisions for appropriate emergency response in case of chemical incidents and spills.”  

Also, all treatment and disposal of mercury-bearing or mercury-contaminated wastes must be approved by the Environmental Management Bureau and should be in conformance with RA 8749, or the Clean Air Act, and other applicable laws and regulations, including the Minamata Convention, which seeks to cut mercury emissions and releases. 

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, BOC’s vigilance against the entry of poison cosmetics will go a long way in protecting the health of consumers, particularly women and girls, as well as the health of the ecosystems against mercury contamination.

The seizure of banned Goree cosmetics contributes to the implementation of the country’s "National Action Plan (NAP) for the Phase-Out of Mercury-Added and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes,” the group said.

The NAP was developed with inputs from various stakeholders, including the EcoWaste Coalition, and completed in 2019 through the assistance of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Government of Switzerland. 

“We hope the customs authorities will take our recommendation into account as we anticipate a surge in the volume of mercury-containing skin whitening products to be seized and disposed of as the global phase-out for such products takes effect this year,” the EcoWaste Coalition concluded.







11 June 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Urges DENR to Review Implementation of National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Solid Waste Management (Group urges government to address needs of the informal waste sector amid the COVID-19 outbreak)

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society, has requested the government to conduct an implementation review of a framework plan that is meant to alleviate poverty in the informal waste sector (IWS).

Through a letter e-mailed last Monday to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu, concurrent chairperson of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), the group pushed for a rapid review of how the "National Framework Plan for the Informal Waste Sector in Solid Waste Management" has been implemented since it was adopted by the commission in 2010.

"We propose a critical review of the Framework Plan 10 years after it was adopted in the hope of identifying responsive measures that will address the needs of the IWS amid the still unfolding coronavirus pandemic," said Eileen Sison, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

"The improvement of the working and living conditions of the IWS, a crucial sector in the country’s  climate mitigation and sustainable development strategy, should be part of the post-COVID ‘better normal’ that we are aspiring for," she emphasized.

The group proposed three activities to be undertaken with stakeholders’ participation: a rapid assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the IWS, a rapid review of the Framework Plan’s implementation, and a rapid upgrading of the said plan based on the analysis of post-COVID needs of the IWS.

The group underscored the need to conduct the above activities in a rapid manner "as members of the IWS are in dire straits following extended work stoppage due to the COVID-19 public health emergency." 

“Among the worst affected are persons at the bottom of the IWS recycling hierarchy, the waste reclaimers, who are already living in extreme poverty even before the pandemic,” said Sison.

As defined in the Framework Plan, the IWS includes "individuals, families, groups or small enterprises engaged in the recovery of waste materials either on a full-time or part-time basis with revenue generation as the motivation."

Among those that make up the IWS are the Itinerant waste buyers, paleros (garbage trucks crew), ‘jumpers’ (those who jump into collection trucks to recover recyclables), small junk shop dealers, waste pickers in dumpsites and communal waste collection points, informal waste collectors,  and waste reclaimers.

The NSWMC adopted the Framework Plan via Resolution No. 47, series of 2010.

According to the resolution, "the Framework Plan hopes to empower the informal waste sector that is recognized as a partner of the public and private institutions, organizations and corporations in the promotion and implementation of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) of solid waste management in the Philippines with the end in view of alleviating poverty."

The requested implementation review of the Framework Plan, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, should generate critical information as to how the following interventions have been addressed so far:

1.  What has been achieved to support waste reclaimers in entering new service roles in waste collection and recycling?

2.  What has been done to assure access by waste reclaimers to sorting space at waste transfer stations and landfills?

3.  What has been carried out to support better market leverage for the IWS?

4.  What has been done to facilitate communication and dialogue between the IWS and the formal stakeholders to support the mainstreaming of the former in the formal waste management?

5.  What has been undertaken to promote occupational safety and health among the IWS?




09 June 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Proposes Lead Paint Hazard Survey as Schools Stay Closed Due to COVID-19

The Department of Education (DepEd) should take advantage of the closure of schools due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID) to screen facilities for lead paint hazard, which can affect children’s developing brains and behavior.

The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition through a letter sent to DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones requested the agency to undertake a lead paint hazard survey in selected public elementary schools in Metro Manila before the resumption of classes on August 24, 2020. 

“The delayed opening of classes for basic education offers a unique opportunity for DepEd to conduct the said survey and generate useful data while the students are on extended vacation due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” wrote Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

According to the group, the lead paint hazard survey will help in promoting compliance to DepEd Order No. 4, s.2017 on “Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints in Schools” and related regulations issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, and some local government units.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has undertaken lead paint studies and has successfully advocated for lead paint control laws and regulations, signified its utmost interest to collaborate with DepEd in developing further the suggested lead paint hazard survey and its eventual implementation.

As said by the group, lead-containing paints have been widely used in home, school, playground and workplace settings in the Philippines prior to the completion of the six-year phase-out period for such paints last December 31, 2019. 

Solvent-based paints with lead additives, in particular, have been used for decorating wooden, metal and other surfaces such as interior and exterior walls, gates, doors, windows, cabinets, chairs and tables.  

Lead paint that has aged, cracked, peeled and deteriorated over time releases lead to indoor dust and outdoor soils posing a considerable health risk, especially for young children, the group said. 

“Children are exposed to lead if they ingest lead-contaminated dust or soil on their hands or on objects such as toys, swallow lead paint chips, or breathe lead dust when surfaces coated with lead paint are disturbed, for instance, during renovation activities,” explained Dizon. 

Globally, lead paints are recognized as a significant source of childhood lead exposure.  Even in the USA, which banned lead decorative paints in the 1970s, lead painted homes and schools continue to threaten children’s health and safety, and thus requiring lead-based paint hazard control and reduction measures.

According to the World Health Organization, which lists lead among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern,” lead exposure can have serious effects on children's health, particularly to a child’s developing brain.  Specific health effects of lead exposure in children include learning disabilities, lower intelligence quotient, speech and language difficulties, hearing loss, attention deficit disorder, slow physical growth and behavioral problems.

The WHO has stated “there is no safe level of human lead exposure, and no threshold level below which lead causes no injury to the developing human brain.”

The group pointed out that lead exposure is also harmful to adults, particularly to pregnant women and to workers.  

“Lead is known to cross the placenta and harm the developing fetus in the womb,” the group said, while “the health of workers is put at risk when they ingest lead-containing dust on their hands, cigarettes, food or beverage, or if they breathe lead dust during unsafe work activities such as sanding or scraping paint.”






08 June 2020

Toxics Watchdog Group Calls for Cautious Use of Bleach Disinfectant Solution after Death of Front Line Doctor

A medical frontliner who succumbed not from the dreaded novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but from the supposed inhalation of a bleach disinfectant solution, should strengthen safety protocols on the preparation and use of such a mixture, especially in quarantine facilities.

The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition called for improved disinfection protocols following the untimely death of Capt. Casey Gutierrez, a 31-year old doctor of the Philippine National Police (PNP) assigned at the PhilSports Arena, which has been repurposed as a quarantine facility.

“We mourn the death of another heroic doctor on the frontline of our nation’s fight against COVID-19,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  

Gutierrez died last May 30 due to “massive pulmonary embolism,” which may have been triggered by the inhalation of a toxic substance according to police authorities. 

"His untimely death should lead to better workplace safety protocols on decontamination to avoid a repeat of such a toxic tragedy," Dizon said.

"We support a full and impartial probe on the doctor's death led by toxicological experts from the Department of Health (DOH)," he added.

Gutierrez was hospitalized for a few days after being sprayed with a disinfectant solution containing sodium hypochlorite, a caustic chemical found in bleach, after attending to a patient last May 24.    He was wearing his personal protective equipment (PPE) when he was sprayed with the said solution after which he unexpectedly suffered from breathing difficulties.

COVID-19 front liners wearing full PPEs may be subjected to misting or spraying of disinfectant solution as per the DOH.
According to DOH Memorandum No. 2020-0157, “individuals in full PPEs, characterized as having no external skin exposure, may be subjected to misting or spraying before doffing their full PPEs with careful consideration of the eyes, nose, mouth/throat.”

Two more police front liners at the PhilSports Arena, Staff Sgt. Steve Rae Salamanca and Cpl. Runie Toledo, have been taken to the PNP General Hospital due to difficulty in breathing after undergoing the decontamination process.  

PNP Chief, Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, on Sunday instructed PNP Deputy Chief for Administration. Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, to coordinate with the DOH for an independent investigation on Gutierrez’s death.  




Quiapo Church Urged to Stop Misting Black Nazarene Devotees with Chemical Disinfectant

The environmental health group EcoWaste Coalition urged the administration of Quiapo Church not to spray or mist Black Nazarene devotees with chemical disinfectant, a practice that is not recommended by health scientists.

The group specifically urged the church authorities to dismantle the disinfecting tent located at the main gate as its continued use may do more harm than good.

“We fully appreciate the safety protocols being implemented by the church with the help of the Hijos del Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno to cut the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during worship activities,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“But the misting of disinfectant solution on churchgoers has to stop at it may be more harmful than helpful,” he said.

“Health scientists have clearly said that spraying the external part of the body does not kill the virus inside the body and may worsen the clinical condition of the individual infected with the coronavirus,” he added.

The group cited the guidance document published by the World Health Organization (WHO) stating that “spraying individuals with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel, cabinet, or chamber) is not recommended under any circumstances.”

“This could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact, the WHO said.

WHO warned that “spraying individuals with chlorine and other toxic chemicals could result in eye and skin irritation, bronchospasm due to inhalation, and gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting.”

The Department of Health has echoed the WHO’s advisory stressing “DOH does not recommend spraying or misting.” 

Citing information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the DOH said that the use of misting tents for persons wearing regular clothes without personal protective equipment (PPE) may pose safety issues.

“Based on literature, commonly used chemical disinfectants such as hypochlorite are irritant to the skin and the mucous membrane (eyes, nose, and throat). It may also have adverse health effects when inhaled in an enclosed environment,” the DOH said.

“Pending additional studies on demonstrating safety and efficacy, the use of disinfection tents, misting chambers, or sanitation booths for individuals without full PPE shall not be allowed,” according to DOH Memorandum 2020-0157 issued on April 10, 2020.

In a related advisory issued on April 18, 2020, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) advised local government units (LGUs) to prohibit the use of disinfection tents, misting chambers or sanitation booths for individuals without PPE in reference to the said DOH advisory.






06 June 2020

Groups Push for Tighter Heavy Metal Restrictions on Vapor and Heated Tobacco Products to Protect Public Health and the Environment

Two non-government organizations pressed for stringent restrictions on heavy metal contaminants in vapor and heated tobacco products (HTPs) amid calls for a 100% smoke-free environment as part of the “better normal” following the novel coronavirus crisis.

In a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition (a waste and pollution watchdog group) and HealthJustice Philippines (a public health think tank and advocacy group) jointly pitched for the strictest limits to protect citizens from being exposed to toxic metals in the refills and cartridges of HTPs and vapes, also known as e-cigarettes.

While generally in support of the draft guidelines developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the regulation of vapor products and HTPs, the groups thought that the allowable trace amount limits for heavy metals, particularly lead (a potent neurotoxin), could be further lowered to protect public health.

“The public, especially the youth, should not use heated tobacco and vapor products for they are both harmful to humans and the environment. They are not safer than regular cigarettes and should be strictly regulated”, said Atty. Benedict Nisperos, Policy Consultant, HealthJustice Philippines. 

"Believing in the need to eliminate human exposure to toxic metals in the lifecycle of products, and applying the precautionary principle, we seek the strictest maximum trace amount limits for antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in vapor refills and HTP cartridges and refills,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

Through a position paper sent to Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo, Health Undersecretary and concurrent OIC Director General of FDA, the EcoWaste Coalition also emphasized the need to set restrictions on aerosol pollutants from heated tobacco and vapor products.

“To protect users and non-users of  vapor and heated tobacco products from potentially harmful aerosols, we urge the FDA to address this concern in the revised guidelines,” the group said.

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise flagged the problem with the arbitrary disposal of HTPs and vaping products noting that discarded e-juice plastic pods, capsules or cartridges and vape pens are not chemically benign. 

“As the impacts of e-cigarette waste on the health of land environment and the oceans are only starting to be noticed and understood, we find it necessary for the authorities to take preventive measures that will avert a potential waste problem similar to the much littered cigarette butts or filters,” the group said.

To address this concern, the group proposed the inclusion of extended producer responsibility in the guidelines that will make the manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of HTPs and vapor products responsible for the post-consumer stage of their products, including their safe collection, treatment and disposal.

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and HealthJustice Philippines are optimistic that the FDA-draft guidelines on vaping products and HTPs will be further strengthened by the inclusion of these pollution prevention measures.  


31 May 2020

First Anniversary of Re-Exportation of Canadian Garbage: Groups Call for Strong Measures to Stop Foreign Waste Dumping

Today is the first anniversary of a historic victory that saw 69 of the 103 container vans of illegal garbage shipments from Canada being returned to their origin after six years of controversy and protest.

To recall, 103 containers of mainly residual garbage amounting to 2,400 tons arrived in the Philippines from Vancouver, Canada between 2013 to 2014.  Customs and environmental officials intercepted the trash imports falsely declared as recyclable plastics sparking calls for "return to sender" in the streets and the halls of Congress.

"Like a thief in the night" as critics would say, wastes from 26 containers were illicitly emptied on a private landfill in Tarlac in 2015.  On May 31, 2019, following a strongly-worded ultimatum by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, 69 containers were finally shipped back to Canada. The other eight containers could not be accounted for.

To mark the momentous occasion that is considered a victory for environmental justice and the rule of law, concerned civil society leaders looked back on what had transpired and what should be done to avoid it from being repeated.

Dr. Angelina Galang, President of Green Convergence, remarked “that tons of illegal waste can pass through the authorities of an advanced country and being allowed to sit at the port of a developing country for several years is beyond any measure of acceptability.”

“The private persons who were the exporter and the importer must be held accountable,” Galang, an environmental educator said, as she urged Canada “to compensate the Philippine government for the damage done and costs incurred.”

“Our long and difficult struggle to get the Canadian garbage returned to its source shows that existing regulations are weak and subject to grave abuse by unscrupulous waste traders,” said civil society ally and former Ang NARS Party-list Representative Dr. Leah Paquiz, who in 2014 called for a congressional inquiry on the unlawful importation.

“In fact, illegal waste shipments arrived from Hong Kong and South Korea while we were in the thick of the campaign.  To really protect our country from becoming a top destination for foreign waste, the government has to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment and bar all waste imports,” she emphasized.

For Rene Pineda, one of the intervenors in a court against the garbage importer and customs broker, “the Philippines cannot escape from being the favorite dumping ground of hazardous waste by developed nations if we fail two urgent steps.”  According to Pineda, “first, we should ratify the Basel Ban Amendment and second, we should stop tinkering with legalizing the burning of waste through waste-to-energy (WtE) proposals.”  He added that “common sense dictates that developed nations who are proponents of WtE technologies cannot incinerate the waste they export to us.”

“Kasama kami sa mga pagkilos para maibalik ang basura ng Canada sa kanilang pinagmulan.  Mahalaga ang naging paglahok ng mga grupo mula sa komunidad para maipanalo ang ating minimithi,” (We are involved in the actions to send back Canadian waste to their source.  The involvement of groups from the communities is crucial to winning our aspirations) said Charina Davin, Vice-President of the Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal sa Capulong (an informal waste sector group), who, together with other citizens took part in  the “return to sender” activities organized by environmental health and justice groups outside the Canadian Embassy and the ports of Manila and Subic.

Sustainable development advocate Noli Abinales, Adviser of Buklod Tao, said the controversy reinforced his despise against dumping.  “Locally and globally, dumping is abhorrent,” he declared.  He rejects the dumping of unsegregated garbage in the protected mountain and watershed areas of San Mateo, Rizal, as he deplores the dumping of foreign garbage, like those from Canada, “in my beloved country.”  Abinales is concerned that “garbage dumping nowadays could contain COVID 19-infected protective personal equipment (PPE) and other biomedical wastes.”

For Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, “our country’s battle with dumping is far from over as we have not decisively shut the doors against foreign waste imports.”

“As the entry of foreign waste will likely persist unless corrective regulations are put in place, we call upon President Duterte to implement his abhorrence against waste dumping through a law banning the importation of all wastes, including plastics intended for recycling,” she said, noting that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has yet to rescind its policy allowing the importation of waste, including “recyclable materials containing hazardous substances,” particularly electronic, metal and plastic scraps, fly ash and used oil.

30 May 2020

Green Groups: Total Ban on Waste Importation Now More Urgent to Protect PH from Post-COVID Health and Environmental risks

Environmental groups Greenpeace Philippines and EcoWaste Coalition today made renewed calls for a total ban on waste importation, citing the need for improved protection of Filipinos against health risks from hazardous waste imports beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The call marks one year since the repatriation of 69 of 103 container vans of Canadian garbage, which was among the most controversial cases of illegal waste importation recorded in the country [1].
“The ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment (BBA) and the enactment of a total ban on waste imports is crucial, especially at a time when the nation grapples with recovery from a global pandemic that has led to the proliferation of medical and household waste,” Greenpeace Country Director Lea Guerrero said. “Lack of prohibitions on waste imports and poor enforcement of existing regulations leave the country open to future incidents of illegal waste trade, which often results in recipient countries shouldering the health and environmental costs of foreign waste.”
Citing a report [2] released last March, the groups pointed out that ratifying the BBA, which prohibits all exports of hazardous wastes from rich nations to countries like the Philippines [3], would address policy gaps that leave our country prey to illegal as well as legitimized waste trade.
In the past two decades, there have been several reported high profile cases of illegal waste trade in the Philippines, from mixed municipal waste clearly not meant for recycling, to shredded municipal waste meant as feedstock for cement kilns that double as waste incinerators, to toxic chemical wastes intended for dumping. 
Data from Greenpeace Southeast Asia show that, from 4,650 tons in 2016 and 4,267 tons in 2017, plastic waste imports to the Philippines ballooned to 11,761 tons in 2018. Most were exports from Japan, the United States, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. [4]
Beyond the statistics, the environmental and health threats arising from waste importation are magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without concrete policies, strict implementation and proper monitoring, Filipino communities, which are already burdened with public health concerns, waste management issues and the plastic crisis, are more likely to be exposed to hazardous waste.
“We need to fortify all our defenses from those who might take advantage of the COVID crisis and thwart any dumping incident as this can only exacerbate our country’s environmental, health and financial woes amid the contagion,” said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.  “The ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment and the prohibition on foreign waste imports, along with the ban on single-use plastics and other pollution prevention policies, should form part of our nation’s post-COVID green recovery agenda and action plan.”
Greenpeace and EcoWaste demand that the government uphold Filipinos’ right to a healthy and balanced ecology beyond the COVID-19 pandemic by taking advantage of the momentum on recovery plans to review policy loopholes that have allowed waste shipments into the country. Among these policy gaps are the inadequate definition of “waste” in Philippine laws  and the absence of stringent monitoring systems to ensure the proper handling of imported waste, which are often exploited by origin countries and regions.
Greenpeace Philippines, through its “Better Normal” campaign, has also been calling on the government to pivot to a transformative COVID recovery plan that puts the people and the environment at the center.  Know more about the campaign here: http://act.gp/betternormal

[1] Between 2013 and 2014, 103 shipping containers loaded with over 2,400 tons of waste from Canada—falsely declared as scrap plastics for recycling arrived in the Philippines. A subsequent waste analysis and characterization study (WACS) by the government found 64 per cent of the analyzed materials as residuals, or garbage that cannot be reused, recycled or composted. On May 31, 2019, the 69 containers of Canadian garbage eventually left the Port of Subic north of Manila on board the M/V Bavaria. 
[2] Greenpeace and EcoWaste recently released a report that analyzes policy gaps that turn the country into the world’s dumping ground. 
[3] The Basel Ban Amendment prohibits the export of hazardous wastes and “recycling” materials, including electronic wastes and obsolete ships, from rich countries belonging to Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Union (EU) and Liechtenstein to developing countries. The Philippines has yet to ratify the said amendment to the Basel Convention Ratification
[4] Table 1 in Southeast Asia’s Struggle Against the Plastic Waste Trade. Greenpeace Southeast Asia released this policy brief for the 34th ASEAN Summit.

Banning E-Cigarettes and HTPs Best Option vs Nicotine Addiction - Public Health Advocates

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Philippines and the EcoWaste Coalition support the position of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) banning e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products to prevent a new epidemic of nicotine addiction.

As this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme highlights the tobacco industry’s tactics to target the youth with cigarettes and novel tobacco products, ASH Philippines and EcoWaste Coalition together with its partners urge legislators to consider the ban or strict regulation of e-cigarettes, which is becoming increasingly popular among the youth.

“As these products do not have extensive evidence to back up claims on efficacy and safety, we encourage the government to be cautious in drafting policies on this subject. We wish them to always prioritize health over any other interests. If we really want to provide maximum protection to Filipinos’ health, banning these products is still the best option,” said ASH Philippines Executive Director and Pulmonologist Dr. Maricar Limpin.

Meanwhile, Ecowaste Coalition highlighted that e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products do not only pose a greater risk for health but also in the environment.

“Aside from nicotine, these products may contain toxic chemicals and can potentially leak heavy metals into the environment. As such, they may be qualified as both e-waste and biohazard waste. We already have issues in terms of conventional cigarette butts as the most visible toxic litter in our surroundings, we are expecting that the disposal of e-cigarettes along with its components is another environmental health hazard,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition.

A recently released position paper from The Union analyzes scientific evidence regarding the health effects of novel nicotine products and cautions policymakers to be especially vigilant as these novel tobacco products to hook new users and expand the nicotine market in their own countries.

Even if it is marketed as a safer alternative that has fewer toxins compared to traditional cigarettes, it is becoming increasingly apparent that e-cigarettes possess their own unique health harms and that comparison to cigarettes should not be the only relevant question in determining its impact to health.

Last year, the Department of Health recorded the first case of e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI) from a 16-year-old girl from Visayas which sparked the call for regulation of the novel tobacco products in the Philippines.


28 May 2020

Banning Waste Imports Urged to Protect PH from Becoming a Garbage Bin for Other countries (Groups pursue ban on waste trade as the first anniversary of the re-exportation of Canadian garbage dumped in the Philippines on May 31 nears)

Civil society groups marked the first anniversary of the repatriation of 69 container vans of rotting Canadian garbage to their source with a resounding plea for decisive policy actions to prevent its recurrence and to defend environmental justice and the rule of law.

In a joint statement released ahead of the May 31 anniversary, the EcoWaste Coalition, RightOn Canada and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) called on both Canada and the Philippines to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, an international law forbidding the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries for reuse, recycling, recovery or disposal.

“While bulk of the garbage had been returned to Canada a year ago, the threat to public health and the environment from imported waste persists.  Despite earlier pronouncements, the government has yet to formally invalidate old regulations allowing the entry of electronic, plastic and other hazardous wastes into our ports under the veil of recycling,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To put an end to this iniquitous practice, we renew our appeal to the authorities to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, disallow the importation of waste, and step up efforts to ensure the environmentally sound management of waste materials generated by our own industries, institutions and households,” she added.

"Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment is a fundamental next step for both the Philippines and Canada to prohibit hazardous waste trade,” said Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisor, IPEN, a global environmental network that counts EcoWaste Coalition and RightOnCanada among its partners. "However, if the Philippines really wants to avoid becoming a waste bin for other countries, it needs a comprehensive ban on all waste imports,” he pointed out.  

Kathleen Ruff, Founder and Director of RightOnCanada, who was instrumental in obtaining a legal opinion confirming that the export of Canadian garbage to the Philippines constituted illegal traffic under the Basel Convention, said that "UN Conventions, such as the Basel Convention are very important. But it required the support of Filipinos and the determined activism of the civil society to make the Canadian government finally, after six years, fulfill its obligations under the Basel Convention and take back its wastes.”

Under the Basel Convention, Canada is legally obliged to ensure that wastes illegally exported to a developing country like the Philippines are returned to Canada by the exporting company or by the government within 30 days of having been notified by the receiving country.

“Citizens and environmental organizations need to stay involved and active if we are to achieve environmental justice,” Ruff said, stressing “it is time for Canada and all countries to support the Basel Ban Amendment and finally stop the destructive and unjust practice of wealthy countries exporting their wastes to developing countries.”

To recall, 103 shipping containers loaded with over 2,400 tons of waste from Canada -- falsely declared as scrap plastics for recycling -- arrived in the Philippines between 2013 - 2014.  Inspection conducted by customs and environmental authorities revealed mixed plastics, electronic waste, household trash, and used adult diapers among the intercepted cargoes.  A subsequent waste analysis and characterization study (WACS) by the government found 64 per cent of the analyzed materials as residuals, or garbage that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.  

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted the dumping issue in two subsequent trips to the Philippines in 2015 and 2017, but refused to commit to re-importing the illegal waste shipments. His predecessor Stephen Harper failed to settle the issue before finishing his term.

In 2019, the Canada-based Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation at the request of RightOnCanada issued a legal opinion that found Canada’s refusal to take back its garbage constituted illegal traffic, among other violations of the Basel Convention.

On April 23 last year, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened war against Canada over the unresolved garbage scandal, recalling its ambassador and other embassy officials after Canada missed the May 15 deadline.

On May 31, the 69 containers of Canadian garbage eventually left the Port of Subic north of Manila on board M/V Bavaria.  The trash shipments reached the Port of Vancouver on June 29 and transported for disposal at the Burnaby waste-to-energy incinerator.

Before this, wastes from 26 containers were unlawfully disposed of in 2015 at a private landfill facility in Tarlac province without the approval of the local government, infuriating local officials and residents. 

The other eight containers could not be located despite the EcoWaste Coalition filing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request in 2019 to know where the missing garbage went.



EcoWaste Coalition is a non-profit network of over 140 groups promoting a zero waste and toxics-free society where communities enjoy a safe and healthy environment  (http://www.ecowastecoalition.org/http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com/).

International Pollutants Elimination Network is the global environmental network of nearly 600 public interest NGOs in over 125 countries working to eliminate and reduce the most hazardous substances to forge a toxics-free future for all (http://www.ipen.org/). 

RightOnCanada is a project of the Rideau Institute, an independent research and advocacy group based in Ottawa, providing research, analysis and commentary on public policy issues to decision makers, opinion leaders and the public (https://rightoncanada.ca/).