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?