31 May 2011

Binondo Shops Urged to Stop Selling "High-Risk" Products from Taiwan until Proven Safe from DEHP

“AlerToxic Patrollers” belonging to the health and environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition today went to Chinatown to request shop owners to desist from selling “high-risk” products from Taiwan that have not been declared safe from DEHP, a cancer-causing plastic additive.

The event took place amid the ongoing drive by the Taiwanese government to crack down on six categories of DEHP-tainted products, namely: fruit jams and preserves, fruit juices, sports drinks, teas, food powders and food or food supplement tablets. To date, almost 500 product items manufactured by 155 Taiwanese food and drink companies have been found to contain DEHP.

Data from the website of the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration show that, as of last Friday, up to 465,638 bottles of DEHP-tainted beverages have been pulled out from store shelves. Also, up to 270,822 boxes and 68,924 packs of powdered probiotics and 28,539 kilos of fruit juices, fruit jam, powder and syrup, and yoghurt powder have been removed from shelves.

Carrying placards in Chinese and in English that say “don’t sell unless proven DEHP-free,” the “AlerToxic Patrollers” went store-hopping to persuade merchants to voluntarily remove “high-risk” Taiwanese goods from store shelves.

From Binondo Church to Santa Cruz Church, the “AlerToxic Patrollers” strolled through the busy street of Ongpin and the adjacent streets of Carvajal, Salazar, Masangkay, T. Alonzo and T. Mapua, talking to shop owners and blowing whistles to catch public attention.

They provided supermarkets, grocery shops and drug stores in the area with a list of DEHP-contaminated products that the EcoWaste Coalition downloaded from the Taiwanese government website.

“We have come here today with an urgent plea to all importers, distributors and vendors of high-risk beverage, food and medicinal goods from Taiwan to temporarily stop from selling such products until consumer safety from DEHP is totally guaranteed,” said Aileen Lucero, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We think it is a very reasonable demand given the toxic crisis that is sadly affecting Taiwan’s food industry,” said Lucero.

As a precautionary action, the EcoWaste Coalition has suggested the following steps that businessmen should take into consideration to promote consumer health and safety from DEHP-tainted goods:

1. Temporarily remove from store shelves beverage, food and medicinal products that have been classified as “high-risk” by the Taiwanese government.

2. Ask the importers or distributors of the “high-risk” products to produce verifiable certificates that the goods are not tainted with DEHP.

3. Put back goods to the store shelves only after being confirmed as DEHP-free.

4. Return products that have failed to secure DEHP-free certifications back to importers or distributors for safe disposal.

“Amid the Taiwan toxic food scare, it is only fair and rational for local businessmen to assure their customers that only certified DEHP-free products are being sold in the market,” said Lucero.

“The burden of proof lies with the manufacturers, importers, distributors and vendors,” she reiterated.

“Loyal customers will surely thank and reward businessmen who look after their health and safety,” she added.

DEHP, a suspected carcinogen, belongs to a family of industrial chemicals called phthalates that are used to soften or to make plastic pliable.

Animal studies have shown that phthalates can damage the kidneys, liver, lungs and the reproductive system, particularly the developing testes. Other scientific studies have linked exposure to DEHP to impaired male fertility

It is the same developmental and reproductive toxicant that the EcoWaste Coalition found in some of the plastic toys that the group sent to Taiwan for laboratory analysis in December 2010.

30 May 2011

Environmental Leaders Back Lawyer Marlon Manuel as "People's Ombudsman"

Environmental leaders have signified their support to the nomination of public interest lawyer Marlon J. Manuel as the “People’s Ombudsman.”

In a letter sent today to Chief Justice Renato Corona, Chair of the Judicial Bar Council, they threw their support behind Manuel, one of the 27 candidates to the post vacated by Merceditas Gutierrez who resigned amid corruption allegations.

In backing Manuel’s appointment, the environmentalists called attention to his unblemished career as a public interest litigator, a human rights educator and as a social justice and environmental defender, and his relatively young age of 41.

Among those endorsing Manuel’s appointment were Father Peter Montallana, recipient of the 2011 “Father Neri Satur Award for Environmental Heroism”; Manny Calonzo, recipient of the 2009 “Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan”; and Von Hernandez, 2007 "Time Hero for the Environment" and recipient of the 2003 “Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia.”

Also backing Manuel’s nomination were environmentalists Noli Abinales, Betty Cabazares,Lia Esquillo, Rodne Galicha, Albert Gavino, Romy Hidalgo, Neneng Jocson, Marie Marciano, Atty. Amang Mejia, Dr. Helen Mendoza, Sonia Mendoza, Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, Rene Pineda, and Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.

“Atty. Manuel’s steadfast advocacy for the least and the last in our society, his consistent defense of the poor against the excesses of the wealthy and influential proves he will be not be swayed by fear, favor or riches as Ombudsman,” said Atty. Amang Mejia, counsel of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The leaders gave Manuel high marks for “his deep appreciation of the struggles and hopes of the poor, including their yearning for a clean and responsive government,” which makes him “a most fitting representative of the public” they said.

“As the ‘people’s Ombudsman’ who is not beholden to business or political interests, we can expect him to execute law and justice with resolve, fairness and speed and with the national welfare in mind,” said Dr. Helen Mendoza, a respected climate action and justice advocate.

“Atty. Manuel’s track record that combines litigation, policy reform and community outreach, including the provision of human rights education to the grassroots, has contributed to his authentic understanding of the needs and aspirations of the common tao,” the environmental leaders noted.

P-Noy’s anti-corruption “Social Contract with the Filipino,” the leaders insisted, “will benefit from having a much younger lawyer who is ready and able to fulfill the exacting job associated with being the country’s Ombudsman. “

“At 41, Atty. Manuel will not only hit the ground running, but also complete the arduous job of the Ombudsman with nothing but the interest of our country and our people in mind,” they observed.

Manuel is the Coordinator of the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), a coalition of twenty groups involved in social development-oriented legal assistance and practice. He also teaches at the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law and at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law.

Former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) undersecretary Hector Soliman and former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod separately nominated Manuel as Ombudsman to the JBC.


29 May 2011

FDA Urged to Stop Sale of High-Risk Taiwanese Products Until Proven Free of Toxic DEHP

(Photo by Manny Calonzo)

A toxic watchdog has requested the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to go beyond “monitoring” imported beverage and food products amid the still unfolding massive food safety scandal in Taiwan.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the FDA to order wholesale and retail outlets selling high-risk products from Taiwan to immediately stop further sale until they have shown documentary evidence indicating that their products are DEHP-free and safe for human consumption.

The group made the proposal after purchasing today 30 bottles of various Taiwan-made beverages from seven grocery stores and supermarkets along Ongpin, Salazar and T. Alonzo Streets in Binondo, Manila and from a convenience store at Matalino St., Quezon City, with the objective of checking the availability of the products in the local market.

The Taiwanese government last week ordered a massive recall of six categories of beverage and food products suspected of being tainted with DEHP, or di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, a cancer-causing plasticizer, that has been illegally added to a “cloudy agent” or emulsifier (a legal food additive), leading to contamination. DEHP is strictly prohibited in beverages and foods.

The six categories of high-risk beverages and foods include fruit juices, sports drinks, teas, fruit jams and preserves, food powders, and food or food supplement tablets.

Citing figures from Taiwan FDA, the EcoWaste Coalition said that, as of last Friday, up to 465,638 bottles of DEHP-tainted beverages have been pulled out from store shelves. Additionally, up to 270,822 boxes and 68,924 packs of powdered probiotics and 28,539 kilos of fruit juices, fruit jam, powder and syrup, and yoghurt powder have been removed from shelves.

“We urge our FDA to take its cue from what the Taiwanese government has done so far to ensure consumer safety from DEHP-tainted goods,” said Manny Calonzo, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.

Information gathered by the group from the Taiwan FDA website and from Taiwanese media reports indicated that warehouse retailers, supermarkets and convenience stores have been ordered by their government to remove all products containing emulsifiers that might contain plasticizer unless they have been certified safe.

“Like what the Taiwanese did, the FDA should instruct wholesale and retail outlets to, as a matter of precaution, halt the sale of high-risk beverages and foods imported from Taiwan until these are certified as DEHP-free,” he pointed out.

“The photos and product details of proven DEHP-free goods should be published in the FDA website and in at least two newspapers with national circulation before such items are returned to the store shelves,” Calonzo added.

As a further precautionary step, the Taiwanese government has likewise ordered schools to remove such products from canteens, candy shops and vending machines until they are proven safe, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

According to the DOH-FDA Advisory 2011-006, the agency “is currently monitoring high risks products from Taiwan (sports drinks, fruit juices and soft drinks) to ensure that they are safe for consumers.”

In 1999, the FDA, then known as the Bureau of Food and Drugs, issued Advisory 1999-05, where it warned that "phthalates may cause adverse health effects such as liver and kidney wounds, reproductive abnormalities and immune system defects."



From Taiwan FDA:

From Philippine FDA:

27 May 2011

Toxic Watchdog Welcomes DOH's Plan to Conduct Probe on Lead-Tainted Toys

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for children’s health and safety from harmful chemicals, welcomed the plan by the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct its own probe on wooden toys that were tested with high levels of lead, a neurotoxin.

Reacting to the EcoWaste Coalition’s toxic toy investigation, the DOH last Thursday (May 26) told the EcoWaste Coalition they will get samples of the lead-tainted toys and have them analyzed for lead.

"If a toy tested positive with high levels of lead, we will issue a letter to the toy manufacturer or distributor for them to recall the said product," said Engr. Renato Ongkoy, Division Head of the DOH's Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health and Research as he assured the group of the department's commitment to protect children from lead exposure.

“We welcome this pronouncement made by the DOH. As a precautionary action, we further urge our health authorities to immediately stop the sale of the lead-tainted toys until a new analysis has proven them safe for children 12 years and under,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Last Tuesday, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that six of the 11 imported and locally produced toys that it bought from registered shops and sent to the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA for laboratory analysis using atomic absorption spectroscopy were found to contain elevated quantities of lead.

One sample, a colourful nautilus puzzle made by a Cebu-based toy manufacturer had lead levels between 6,039 to 45,671 parts per million (ppm), which is way above the 90 ppm "maximum allowable total lead content" for children's products under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

The other toy samples with parts loaded with lead include a wooden ornamental pin with one part containing up to 20,740 ppm lead; a tractor with wagon with lead concentrations between 2,055 and 11,764 ppm; another pin with two parts having 4,101 and 4,888 ppm lead; a “learn to count” puzzle with lead levels up to 152 ppm; and a barnyard puzzle with one part having 95 ppm lead.

Toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center, who spoke at the launch of the test results, identified a range of health problems linked with children’s exposure to lead such as the damage to the brain and the nervous system.

Other problems associated with lead poisoning include speech and language handicaps and other developmental delays, low intelligence quotient and other learning disabilities and disorders, attention deficit disorder and other behavioral problems, reduced bone and muscle growth, etc.

During the event, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated its appeal to the DOH to strengthen the enforcement of DOH Administrative Order 2007-0032 regulating the issuance of license to operate to companies that manufacture, import or distribute toys for the local market.

It also urged the government to ask toy manufacturers to examine the lead content of items that they have sold in the past and to include them as well in the recall if found to contain lead.

Old toys still present a health risk to children and may even become more dangerous as the paint tends to become chipped and loose with time, the EcoWaste Coalition also emphasized.

Toys can last for some time and those contaminated with lead can pose a health hazard for as long as they are accessible to children, the group said.


26 May 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Urges LGUs to Step Declogging Operations as Typhoon Chedeng Nears

As the country braces for typhoon Chedeng, a waste and pollution watchdog urged local government units (LGUs) to declog storm drains and creeks to ease flood risk.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the appeal as Chedeng further gains strength and threatens to dump rains in many parts of the country, including Metro Manila.

“We urge local authorities, as well as neighborhood associations, to remove garbage and other debris in waterways that can worsen the flood situation, especially in flood-prone areas,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Whether Chedeng will change its course and hit Metro Manila or not, it’s important for all canals and creeks to be garbage-free to prevent localized flash floods after downpours,” he added.

“It’s better for our communities to be ready rather than be caught flatfooted by floods,” he emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded the public to recall the “epic floods” of Ondoy and fulfil our environmental responsibility to minimize the effects of nature’s wrath.

“Environmental discipline is necessary to keep our waterways garbage-free,” Alvarez said.

Towards this, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public, especially Metro Manila’s over two million households, to reduce their waste size, shun littering and dumping, and to separate their discards at source for reusing, recycling and composting.

“By cutting our waste size and safely managing our discards, we avoid turning our streets and rivers into dumping sites and flood ponds after heavy rains,” he added.

Among the high flood risk areas as identified by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the EcoWaste Coalition said, are Sampaloc and Rizal Avenue corner R. Papa in Manila; Makati Diversion Channel along South Superhighway and Buendia Avenue in Makati City.

Also considered as flood-prone areas are Maysilo Circle, Boni Avenue, Panaderos Street, Kalentong Street, Acacia Lane and Shaw Boulevard, all in Mandaluyong City; Barangay Salapan and Bagong Bato in San Juan City; and Barangays Imelda, Damayang Lagi, Tatalon and Talayan in Quezon City.

Aside from enforcing the salient provisions of R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the EcoWaste Coalition also urged LGUs to rehabilitate drainage facilities in their respective areas, noting that some canals are heavily silted or have collapsed in the course of time.

“A systematic rehabilitation of our aging drainage system will go a long way in reducing destruction to life and property caused by flood woes,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.


24 May 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Brain Poison in Toys

“Toys with lead can damage children’s brains and their future.”

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for chemical safety awareness and action, made this statement as it pointed to the high levels of lead, a neurotoxin, in some wooden toys sold in the domestic market.

At a press conference held today in Quezon City, environmental and health advocates led by actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez drew attention to the alarming concentrations of lead, a nerve and brain poison, in some children’s toys.

“Our investigation confirms the disturbing quantities of lead in some painted wooden toys that can harm our children’s smaller and still growing brains and bodies instead of providing them with educational and recreational benefits,” said Gutierrez, who is also a Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We urge the authorities to take tough actions to rid the toys market of lead-tainted products, including recalling toys that are unfit and unsafe for children’s use. We can and we must prevent lead poisoning of our children from toys,” she pleaded.

Toys purchased in past years still present a health risk to children and may even become more dangerous as the paint tends to become chipped and loose with time, the EcoWaste Coalition also emphasized.

Six of the 11 imported and locally-produced wooden toys bought by the EcoWaste Coalition and sent to the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA for laboratory analysis using atomic absorption spectroscopy were found to contain high levels of lead, the group reported.

A colourful nautilus jigsaw puzzle made in the Philippines tested with the highest amounts of lead in 14 of its component parts with lead levels between 6,039 to 45,671 ppm.

The other toy samples with parts loaded with lead include a wooden ornamental pin with one part containing up to 20,740 ppm lead; a tractor with wagon with lead concentrations between 2,055 and 11,764 ppm; another pin with two parts having 4,101 and 4,888 ppm lead; a “learn to count” puzzle with lead levels up to 152 ppm; and a barnyard puzzle with one part having 95 ppm lead.

As a reference value, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the maximum allowable total lead content of 90 ppm for children’s products, including toys, under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, with a caveat from health experts that there really is no safe ceiling for lead exposure in children.

Speaking at the press conference, toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center identified a range of health problems linked with children’s exposure to lead, including damage to the brain and the nervous system, speech and language handicaps and other developmental delays, low intelligence quotient and other learning disabilities and disorders, attention deficit disorder and other behavioral problems, reduced bone and muscle growth, etc.

For his part, Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats), outlined several action points addressed to key government departments.

1. For the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue a health-based Chemical Control Order for the elimination of lead-added paints and articles to curb childhood exposure to lead.

2. For the Department of Health to strengthen the enforcement of DOH Administrative Order 2007-0032 regulating the issuance of license to operate to companies that manufacture, import or distribute toys for the local market, to test toys for lead and to initiate the recall of lead-contaminated toys.

3. For the Department of Education to screen donations of toys and school supplies for DepEd’s K+12 Basic Education Program, and also to order the compulsory use of lead-free paints in school painting and re-painting activities.

4. For the Department of Trade and Industry to review the Philippine National Standards (PNS) for toys to prohibit the production, importation, distribution and sale of toys and other children’s articles loaded with lead and other chemicals of concern such as phthalates.

5. For the Department of Finance through the Bureau of Customs to exert all measures to stop the entry of untested, unlabelled and unregistered toys from overseas.

The EcoWaste Coalition also urged the government to ask toy manufacturers to examine the lead content of items that they have sold in the past and also include them in the recall if found to contain lead.

Toys can last for some time and pose a health hazard for as long as they are accessible to children. In fact, as the toys age they are more likely to have their paint become loose, be more available to kids and thus contribute to lead exposure.

To illustrate the magnitude of this toxic challenge, the EcoWaste Coalition said that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued 137 recall orders from 2007 to 2009 for over 10 million imported toys due to high lead content.


US 90 ppm lead limit:

17 May 2011

Toxic Watchdog Urges Consumers to Watch Out for Unsafe School Supplies

As parents prepare their shopping lists of “must have” items in time for the resumption of classes, a toxic watchdog advised shoppers to be careful with school supplies that can leach harmful substances.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group promoting chemical safety awareness and action, specifically suggested to back-to-school shoppers to abstain from buying goods made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), also known as vinyl or plastic number “3”.

“PVC products are loaded with many additives that can transfer into the environment, posing chemical risks to humans, especially to young children, and, as a precautionary measure, must be avoided,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

“One of the additives of concern is a family of industrial chemicals called phthalates, which are added to PVC plastics to make them softer, more flexible and durable,” he pointed out.

“To minimize children’s exposure to chemical poisons in school supplies, we urge parents to assert their lawful rights as consumers to demand for complete product information and for safe products without hazardous contents such as phthalates,” he said.

Dizon recalled that five common school supplies bought by the EcoWaste Coalition in May 2010 and sent to Taiwan for laboratory analysis were found to contain high levels of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate or DEHP, a suspected human carcinogen.

Found to contain elevated levels of DEHP were a green long plastic envelope (19.881 percent DEHP), a PVC plastic book cover (18.997 percent DEHP), a PVC notebook cover (18.543 percent DEHP), a PVC plastic lunch bag and a PVC bagpack (both with 17.120 percent DEHP).

As per US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the limit for DEHP and five other phthalates is 0.1% of any children's product for ages 12 and under.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s toxic findings prompted then Education Secretary Mona Valisno to promise a probe on the toxic contents of school supplies.

“We are not sure if the Department of Education was able to conduct its own investigation as promised by then Secretary Valisno. If they did, we request them to publicize their findings,” Dizon said.

Numerous studies in animals and humans have linked phthalates to serious ailments such as endocrine disorders, reproductive abnormalities, asthma, kidney damage and liver cancer, causing the European Union in 2005 and the United States in 2008 to take action by prohibiting six types of phthalates in children’s toys and products.

To prevent children’s exposure to phthalates, the EcoWaste Coalition has adopted the following tips for avoiding PVC school supplies from the US-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice:

1. Art Supplies: Avoid modeling polymer clays made of PVC .

2. Backpacks: Avoid backpacks with shiny plastic designs as they often contain PVC and may contain lead.

3. Clothing and Accessories: Look for PVC-free materials in rainwear (i.e. rain boots and raincoats), prints on clothing, and accessories such as handbags, jewelry and belts.

4. Food Wrap: Use PVC-free butcher paper, waxed paper, parchment paper, low density polyethylene (LDPE) or cellulose bags.

5. Lunchboxes: Avoid plastic lunch boxes that are made of or line with PVC. Use cloth lunch bags or metal lunchboxes.

6. Utensils and Dishware: Use stainless steel utensils.

7. Notebooks: Avoid notebooks containing metal spirals encased in colored plastic. The colored plastic coating on the metal spirals usually contains PVC. Select notebooks with uncovered metal spirals to avoid PVC.

8. Organizers and Address Books: Choose organizers/ address books made with sustainably harvested wood, metal, or paper covers. Avoid those made of plastic – these sometimes contain PVC.

9. Packaging of School Supplies: Avoid single-use disposable packaging, or those marked PVC or plastic number 3, whenever possible. Avoid products packaged in unlabeled plastics, such as clamshells and blister packs, which may contain PVC. Choose products with packaging made from more easily recycled materials like paper or cardboard.

10. Paperclips: Stick to the plain metal paperclips. Colored paper clips are coated with PVC.

11. Three-Ring Binders: Use cardboard, fabric-covered, or polypropylene binders. Most 3-ring binders are made of PVC.

12. Umbrellas: Avoid shiny and colorful plastic umbrellas as these are typically made out of PVC. Look for those made out of other materials such as nylon.


15 May 2011

Groups Want Justice Served for Slain Youth Recycler, Launch Campaign for "Respect and Justice"

(Photos by Manny Calonzo)

Environmental groups urged the authorities to ensure justice for 13-year old youth recycler Christian D. Serrano who was reportedly killed by a police officer last Monday, May 9, in Makati City.

In a bid to honor Serrano who will be brought to his final resting place today, May 15, the EcoWaste Coalition and other green groups are launching a campaign dubbed as “Project Respect and Justice” (PRJ) to prevent all forms of harassment and brutality against informal recyclers.

Serrano of Barangay Santa Cruz, Makati City was fatally shot while reclaiming scrap metal from an abandoned building located at the corner of Bagtikan and Kamagong Streets.

Serrano, fourth in a brood of seven, was allegedly shot by Chief Inspector Angelo Germinal, Station Commander of Police Community Precinct 5 and his two other police companions PO1 Nicolas Apostol, Jr. and PO3 Robert Riñon.

Parents Armando and Salvacion on Saturday told the EcoWaste Coalition that Christian and his three other teen friends went to the building to collect recyclables, but were supposedly driven away and then shot by the police officers.

“We condemn the killing and join the Serranos in their cry for justice. We hope that this terrible incident that took a young man’s life would not befall any family again,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our ‘Project Respect and Justice’ hopes to create a compassionate awareness about the plight of the informal recyclers, particularly the waste pickers, who have to endure harassment, intimidation and even death in the course of their work on top of the occupational health risks and social stigma they have to come to grips with,” said Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

PRJ will promote society’s recognition of the essential role being played by the informal waste sector in climate mitigation and environmental conservation and protection, and will seek their inclusion and participation in formal waste management systems, the groups said.

It will help in monitoring human rights violations committed against informal recyclers and will assist victims obtain redress and justice by connecting them with responsible agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights.

Citing information from the “National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Waste Management,” the groups said that middlemen, police authorities and politicians frequently exploit informal recyclers due to their lack of formal education.

“Scavenging is regarded as the lowest kind of work and (waste reclaimers) are often portrayed as criminal elements. Thus, they are prone to harassment and encounter difficulties in getting access to gated communities or commercial establishments because of their informal status,” the report said.

Another report, the “Respect for Recyclers: Protecting the Climate through Zero Waste” published by GAIA, stated that “most local authorities do not value the contribution of waste pickers to the environment and to municipal services, and do not officially recognize or engage with waste picker organizations.”

According to GAIA, “local and national governments should recognize the informal recycling sector’s contribution to climate change mitigation, and adopt inclusive and comprehensive planning processes that give waste pickers a voice and a vote at every stage of policy and project design.”


14 May 2011

DepEd Urged to Carefully Screen Toy Donations for Kindergarten Kids

A group promoting children’s safety from health-damaging chemicals urged education officials to be on their guard against toxic toy donations for incoming kindergarten pupils.

The EcoWaste Coalition raised the specter of toxic exposure following the public appeal by Secretary Armin Luistro of the Department of Education (DepEd) for toys to be given to pre-grade I kids in public schools.

“While commending Secretary Luistro for his good intentions, we find it necessary for DepEd to see to it that toys loaded with injurious substances are kept out of the gift-giving to welcome our pre-school learners,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

“We urge DepEd to enlist the help of health authorities in weeding out the toxic toys, as well as those that pose choking, laceration, physical and strangulation hazards to young children,” he added.

“DepEd should take all precautionary measures to shield and save children from unsafe toys. They should come out with a health-based criteria on what toys can be donated and received,” he emphasized.

“We should not let our guards down knowing that children are most prone to chemical and other hazards,” he said.

Children are more at risk to toxic exposure than adults, the EcoWaste Coalition said, because of their frequent hand-to-mouth and object-to-mouth activities and their still immature immune and other vital systems.

A member of the Europe-based Safe Toys Coalition, the EcoWaste Coalition has been pushing for the removal of hazardous chemicals in toys and for their adequate labeling to guide consumers in making informed choices.

Last December 2010, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that 6 of the 7 plastic toys bought by the group from Divisoria and sent to Thailand for analysis have toxic plastic additives called phthalates despite a government health warning.

Also in 2010, the group sent painted wooden toys to USA for testing and found some of the samples with high levels of lead, a neurotoxin. .

Aside from phthalates, the other chemicals of concern often found in toys include aniline, bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants, cadmium, chlorinated paraffins, chromium, formaldehyde, lead, nonylphenol, organotin, perfluorinated chemicals and triclosan.

Safe Toys Coalition Toys Guide:

DepEd's Press Release re Toys

11 May 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Bats for Pollution-Free “Brigada Eskwela” Cleanup Drive

A toxic watchdog has called for a pollution-free cleanup and repair of school facilities as the Department of Education (DepEd) gears up for the annual back-to-school cleanup by “Brigada Eskwela” volunteers.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the reminder as parents, students and other participants get ready for the DepEd-initiated “National Schools Maintenance Week” from May 23 to 28.

“We request concerned citizens to support the cleanup and repair of our classrooms, libraries, canteens and other school amenities such as activity areas and waiting sheds in a way that will not cause further pollution,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our admirable desire to make our schools spick and span in time for the resumption of classes need not result to the creation or release of harmful pollutants that can jeopardize our children’s health,” he added.

The open burning of discards, the unsafe removal of lead paint and the application of lead-added paint during the cleanup drive are polluting activities that must be avoided, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Open burning, a prohibited act under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, can pollute the surroundings with dozens of nasty pollutants such as air-borne particulate matter and dioxin, a proven human carcinogen, the group warned.

While sanding or scraping lead paint from flaking doors, walls, ceilings and windows will scatter dust containing lead, a neurotoxin that attacks the brain and the nervous system, cautioned the group.

Eating or inhaling lead-laden paint chips and dust, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, can expose children to lead and cause irreparable health problems.

A health study released in 2006 found 21% of children tested in the Visayas for blood lead levels (BLL) with lead up to 20 micrograms per deciliter in their blood, which exceeds the “allowable limit” of 10 mcg/dcl.

The study conducted by University of the Philippines health economist Dr. Orville Solon and other local and international collaborators identified paint chips as one of the “multiple possible sources of lead exposure” for the said children.

Citing information from the World Health Organization (WHO), the EcoWaste Coalition warned that lead poisoning can cause serious health problems, especially to the developing brains of fetuses and young children and to pregnant women.

According to the WHO, "too much lead can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and the kidneys, and can cause high blood pressure and anemia. Lead accumulates in the bones and lead poisoning may be diagnosed from a blue line around the gums."

"Lead interferes with the metabolism of calcium and Vitamin D. High blood lead levels in children can cause consequences which may be irreversible, including learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation. At very high levels, lead can cause convulsions, coma and death," said the WHO.

To minimize children's exposure to lead-containing paint and dust, the EcoWaste Coalition has called upon Brigada Eskwela organizers, volunteers and donors to shun lead-dispersing cleanup practices, and to ensure that school facilities are only painted with certified lead-free paint.





10 May 2011

Tondo Recyclers Meet to Tackle Mercury Hazard from Lamp Recycling

Amid a cloudy post-Bebeng weather, over 50 informal recyclers and barangay and city officials today converged at the covered court of Barangay 105, Zone 8, District I in Tondo, Manila to tackle the danger posed to workers’ health and the environment by mercury pollution from lamp waste recycling.

The meeting held at the auspices of the Barangay Council and the Manila Health Department was in response to a recent “toxic investigation” conducted by non-governmental environmental groups that found high levels of mercury vapor in lamp recycling sites close to the Pier 18 Garbage Transfer Station.

According to Barangay Chairman Luisito Reyes, the Office of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim had instructed the Manila Health Department to address the said toxic expose and provide health information to affected city residents.

“Mercury is toxic to human health and the ecosystems. Steps must be undertaken to prevent mercury-containing waste from being thrown into regular trash and thus endangering the health of families who depend on recycling for livelihood and survival," said Mila Valenzuela, Sanitary Officer of Manila District I.

Speaking at the meeting, representatives of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives cited the need for chemical safety information and other precautionary measures to avoid waste workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals, especially from the recycling of waste electronic and electrical equipment, or e-waste.

“Being informed and alert about mercury and other toxic chemicals in products and wastes should lead to reduced workers’ exposure to chemical hazards in recycling activities,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing Toxic Chemical Threats).

“Our community recyclers in Tondo and elsewhere play a huge role in solving our ecological and climate woes and deserve nothing less than safe and humane working and living conditions. Our pursuit for an environmentally-sound management of spent lamps and other e-waste, including a producer take-back program, should help in easing waste toxicity in the recycling stream and in protecting workers’ health,” said Manny Calonzo of GAIA, which runs a “respect for recyclers” campaign.

During the meeting, the participants discussed and agreed to take practical steps to minimize toxic pollution from recycling activities that can put the health and safety of waste workers, their families and their surroundings at risk.

These steps include carefully retrieving spent lamps from the waste stream for safe and temporary containment and storage, and not breaking the glass housing of the discarded lamps to avoid the release of health-damaging mercury vapor.

The collected lamps should then be sold to participating junk shops and resold to government-accredited transport, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities for environmentally-sound recycling.

According to the NGOs, the costs involved should be in the interim paid for by the government until a comprehensive producer take-back program has been put in place.

Also known as extended producer responsibility (EPR), the mandatory take-back scheme will make lamp manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers accountable for the management of their end-of-life products and thus avoiding their recycling in sub-standard conditions or their disposal in dumpsites, landfills and incinerators.

At the end of the meeting, Barangay Councilors Marlene Tumbokon and Dan Aliman both pledged to craft a health and environmental ordinance that will, among others, prohibit the breaking of mercury-containing lamp waste in their area.


06 May 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Secretary Luistro to Push Schools to Excel in Waste Prevention

6 May 2011, Quezon City. As schools get ready for the opening of the new academic year, a pollution watchdog has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to push the country’s 55,230 public and private elementary and secondary schools to go for “Zero Waste.”

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically requested Education Secretary Armin Luistro, FSC to issue a memorandum that will remind school administrators to put in place appropriate policies and systems for reducing and managing school discards if they have not yet done so.

The last time the Education Department issued a reminder on the implementation of ecological solid waste management in schools, observed the EcoWaste Coalition, was in 2001 during the term of then Secretary Andrew Gonzalez, FSC.

“With another La Sallian brother at the helm of department, we hope to see more schools becoming centers of excellence in terms of eliminating garbage and promoting environmental stewardship and action among our students and citizens,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Zero waste resource management will contribute to a healthy and socially-responsible school system that will not add to the 35,000 tons of trash that the whole country generates each day,” he emphasized.

Alvarez recalled that DECS Memorandum No. 33-2001 provided for the monitoring of school implementation of ecological solid waste management, including the promotion of “sorting-at-source,” the “use of recycled materials” and “banning any form of open burning.”

“Now is the best time for DepEd to reiterate school involvement on Zero Waste resource management as this will complement the government’s national green agenda, particularly in preventing and reducing trash,” said Christina Vergara of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The memorandum can also include attractive incentives for schools to enforce and shine in ecological waste management, including morale-boosting commendations for practising schools,” she added.

According to the Coalition, the country is not lacking in model schools in both public and private sectors that can provide aspiring educational institutions with practical knowledge on how to “green” their schools.

The group cited the grand winners of the “National Search for Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Schools,” namely, the Peñablanca East Central Elementary School in Peñablanca, Cagayan, La Castellana National High School in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, and Palawan State University in Puerto Princesa; the recipients of the “Dark Green School” label from the Environmental Education Network of the Philippines such as the De La Salle University- Dasmariñas Cavite, Miriam College in Quezon City and Visayas State University in Baybay, Leyte; and the Cavite Institute in Silang, Cavite, which the World Bank cited for its innovative recycling for scholarship program.

01 May 2011

Groups Push Government to Enforce Collection System for Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste

2 May 2011, Quezon City. Green groups today pressed the government to draw up a strategy for the collection of spent fluorescent lamps following a “toxic investigation” indicating informal recyclers’ exposure to health-damaging mercury vapor from broken lamps.

In a statement issued in observance of Labor Day, the EcoWaste Coalition and related groups urged the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to formalize a system that will prevent the disposal of mercury-containing lamp waste, particularly from households, into regular waste bins.

“By taking action now, the DoE and DENR, with support from local authorities, businesses and consumers, can reduce the occupational risks being faced daily by our waste workers from the handling and recycling mercury-containing discards,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“A mandatory ‘take back’ program involving producers, including manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of both ‘branded’ and ‘unbranded’ CFLs will be essential in this regard,” he said.

The groups had earlier detected harmful levels of mercury vapor from the informal recycling of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) at Pier 18 Garbage Transfer Station in Manila using a mercury vapor analyzer called "Jerome," with the highest reading recorded at 502.45 mcg/m3.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has warned that a “worker’s exposure to mercury vapour shall at no time exceed (the) ceiling level” of 0.1 milligram per cubic meter (or 100 mcg/m3), the agency’s “permissible exposure limit” for mercury vapor.

Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme's publication on "Mercury in Products and Wastes," the groups warned that "when products containing mercury are discarded into the general waste stream, the mercury pollutes the environment - in waterways, wetlands, and the air - and endangers people both locally and globally."

To put a stop to improper lamp waste disposal, the groups had presented to both the DoE and the DENR a proposal for the collection of lamp waste generated by households and small business and institutions.

Such a system, according to the groups, should:

1.Reiterate and enforce the prohibition against the disposal of used lamps in dumpsites, landfills and incinerators under the country’s major environmental laws and regulations (RA 6969, RA 8749, RA 9003).

2. Notify household consumers about the proper management of used lamps through popular means of communication, stressing that mercury-containing lamp waste should be sorted at source and appropriately treated as hazardous waste to reduce mercury releases from waste.

3. Assign Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), also known as Ecology Centers, in every barangay or cluster of barangays as primary drop-off points for used lamps, ensuring that items received are safely stored (e.g., in “baulbilya” or “baul ng bumbilya”).

4. Designate as many convenient drop-off points or depositories for used lamps with appropriate receptacles provided such as in barangay halls, churches, public markets, supermarkets, malls and hardware stores.

5. Provide incentives for residents to bring their used lamps to designated barangay drop-off points such as by introducing food exchange scheme (e.g., egg for CFL) or rebate scheme for returned lamps. Alternatively, local authorities can:

a. specify barangay collection days for used lamps (e.g., every first and third Friday of the month or any time convenient for the community). For non-collection days, residents can bring their used lamos to designated drop-off points.

b. contract waste pickers to do house-to-house collection during designated barangay collection days for used lamps.

6. Require LGUs or authorized handlers and recyclers of mercury-containing lamp waste to collect the items from the drop-off points (e.g., every first and third Saturday of the month or any time convenient for the community) and to keep records of lamp waste collected.

7. Require lamp importers to disclose lamp importation data, as well as require lamp waste treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities to make information accessible to the public.

Among the groups who provided inputs to the said proposal were the Ang Nars, Ayala Foundation, Ban Toxics, Citizens Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, Health Care Without Harm, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives Miriam PEACE, Sanib Lakas ng mga Aktibong Lingkod ng Inang Kalikasan and the EcoWaste Coalition Secretariat.