30 October 2012

"Cemetequette" - The Pinoy Cemetery Etiquette

(Eddie Leanillo, Remate)
A waste and pollution watchdog has released what it calls a “Pinoy Cemetery Etiquette," or simply “Cemetequette,” ahead of All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day as record numbers of people from all walks of life get ready to visit cemeteries, as well as columbaria, to pay their respects to their departed family members and friends.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a steadfast advocate of eco-friendly observance of timeless Filipino customs and traditions all year-round, crafted the “Cemetequette” to promote environmental responsibility and other “good manners”in the cemeteries, and draw attention to practices that inadvertently disrespect the dead, as well as the living.

“Our intent is not to preach, but to offer reminders and suggestions that could put to rights some unfitting practices, especially during the observance of Undas, which, in all honesty, bring shame on our beautiful and undying culture of remembering the dead,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Cemetequette” is essentially an application of the golden rule “do not do unto others what you do not want others do unto you” in a cemetery setting, according to the group. As “Dear Abby,” the famous advice column, put it: “treat the graves as you would the graves of your parents, or as you would like your own to be treated.”

The “Cemetequette” benefited from the practical inputs provided by Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. and environmentalists Noli Abinales, Beau Baconguis, Manny Calonzo, Froilan Grate, Romy Hidalgo, Dr. Helen Mendoza, Rene Pineda, Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Cathy Untalan and Chot Velasquez, as well as from applicable rules and regulations.

The EcoWaste Coalition urges cemetery visitors to bear in mind the following reminders and suggestions for a respectful, eco-friendly and toxics-free Undas, even as the group invites everyone to “be the change you want to see in the world” as Mahatma Gandhi stated.

I. Clean, scrub, polish the tomb of your departed ones in a safe and ecological manner. If you are repainting the tomb or parts thereof, pick latex paint, or enamel paint with no lead added. Be careful not to dry scrape or disturb old paint coatings, which may contain lead. Also, take precaution when wiping up, installing or replacing mercury-containing fluorescent lamps to avoid breakage. Keep the discards to the minimum and manage them properly sans dumping or burning. Be considerate: do not not dump thrash on other people's graves. Shun open burning as this unlawful act releases loads of microscopic particles called PM or particulate matter, and other major pollutants such as dioxins, one of the most toxic poisons known to modern science.

II. Enjoy the serenity and peace of a cemetery. Heed the police directives for your own and your family’s protection: do not bring beer and liquor, firearms, knives and other bladed or pointed objects into the cemetery. Cemetery policies, for instance in the Manila North and South Cemeteries, further prohibit visitors from bringing pet cats and dogs, kites, guitars and loud sound systems, including karaoke and videoke.

III. Refrain from playing blaring music with car stereos, CD players, mp3s, iPads, iPods, iPhones or radios. The cemetery is not an amusement park or a place to show off your new gadgets; use a personal headset so as not to get in the way of other people.

IV. Use your cell phone sparingly as sound tends to travel in open spaces like the cemetery; tone down your ringing tone or keep it on silent or vibrating mode.

V. Be happy with your departed loved ones without being boisterous. The cemetery is not a fish market or “palengke,” tone
down your voice so as not to disrupt or infuriate others.

VI. Refrain from engaging in disruptive or raucous activities such as playing board, card or computer games, bingo, mahjong,“truth or consequence,” “spirit of the glass,” etc.

VII. Be courteous (and stay out of trouble) by not walking over the tombs or standing on top of a grave.

VIII. Keep watch over your children and do not let them run wild around the place. Show them the meaning of paying respects to the dead. The cemetery is not a playground nor a theme park; no running over the graves and no fights and shouting matches, too.

IX. Take care of the plants and the trees; keep off the plants; do not pick flowers, even wildflowers; do not break tree branches; do not hammer a nail into a tree, which may hurt and damage

X. Walk, ride a bicycle or pedicab or take public transportation to the cemetery. If you are driving a car, coordinate with your family members for maximum carpooling. You do not only save on gas, but also help in decongesting cemeteries and nearby communities.

XI. Turn off idling engines to reduce energy consumption and avoid emitting toxic fumes.

XII. Follow the traffic signs, rules and regulations as instructed by the cemetery management or the local barangay or police.

XIII. Refrain from distributing real estate brochures, political leaflets and other promotional materials that could only add to garbage woe of the cemetery and its host community.

XIV. For your own convenience and safety, opt not to remain in the cemetery after dark, especially in places with no adequate lighting and security.
XV. For a zero waste, toxics-free observance of Undas, please consider the following:

1. Pick lead-free, clean-burning candles that do not yield black fumes or soot. Set alight a limited number of candles to reduce heat and pollution. Do not let candles’plastic receptacles or holders to burn.

2. Offer local fresh flowers, not plastic ones, or consider bringing potted plants and flowers instead. Simple, inexpensive flowers will do. Avoid wrapping floral or plant offerings in plastic, which will sooner or later end up as trash.

3. Bring your own water jug to avoid purchasing bottled water. Discarded plastic bottles add up to the country’s garbage problem
. Plastic bottles, which are petrochemical products, also require lots of oil and chemicals to manufacture. Please watch The Story of Bottled Water to find out why:
4. Go for waste-free meals. Say yes to reusable carriers, containers, and utensils such as lunchboxes and thermos, cloth napkins and silverwares. Say no to throw-away bags, wraps, foil or Styrofoam, paper napkins, and forks and spoons. Also, refrain from patronizing junk food and go for simple yet nutritious home-prepared baon.

5. Buy less or only as much as you know you will consume in terms of food and beverage to avoid spoilage or wastage. Bring bayong or other reusable bags to carry your stuff and purchases, and refuse plastic bags and wrappers from vendors.

6. Cut your waste size by not creating trash in the first place such as by purchasing products with the least amount of packaging and avoiding single-use plastic disposables.

7. Don’t litter, dump or burn trash in the cemetery. Do not throw cigarette butts, candy wrappers, discarded packaging, fruit peels, etc. on the ground. Remember to leave the resting place of your loved ones litter-free.

8. Put your discards into the recycling bins if available. Better still, bring your own discards bags and bring them home for sorting, reusing, recycling or composting.
9. Relieve yourself only in the proper place where one should. Keep the urinal or toilet bowl clean as a courtesy to the next user. Do not defecate or urinate in public places.

10. Refrain from smoking in the cemetery. Be considerate to the children, the elderly, pregnant
women and others around you who may be saddled with respiratory and heart ailments.


29 October 2012

Environmental Advocates Do "Gangnam Style" for Garbage-Free, Respectful "Undas"


Oh, taumbayan, ‘wag,‘wag, 'wag kang magkalat(sang to the tune of Gangnam Style).

This was the entertaining, but serious reminder from some 50 environmental advocates led by the EcoWaste Coalition as they paraded in their "Zombasura" look while dancing to the phenomenal Korean song Gangnam Style.“Zombasura,” the garbage-making Zombie, symbolizes the litterbugs who spoil cemeteries and surrounding places with rubbish

With a big green streamer that says “Igalang ang mga patay. Igalang ang kalikasan.” (Respect the dead. Respect the environment.) as backdrop, the Zombasuras parodied through mime, song and dance the litterbugs among us who irresponsibly throw their discards as if the cemetery is a big trash can.

Joining the Zombasuras were beauty titlists led by Miss Earth Philippines 2012 Stephany Dianne Stefanowitz who proudly held banners reflecting the green “3Rs”mantra “reduce,” “reuse,” “recycle,” plus “respect”as the 4th R. Also present were Miss Philippines Air 2012 Glennifer Perido, 
Miss Philippines Water 2012 Samantha Purvor, Miss Philippines Fire 2012 Thoreen Halvorsen and  Miss Philippines Eco-Tourism 2012 Candice Ramos.
The event drew participants from the Diocese of Kalookan Ecology Ministry, Malikhaing Landas na Magpapayabong sa Sining at Kultura, Miss Earth Foundation and also from the Manila North Cemetery Administration, Manila Department of Public Services, and the Sangguniang Kabataan of an adjacent barangay.

The pre-Undas event was held amid repeated reminders from national and city authorities to observe waste prevention and reduction as Filipinos prepare to pay their respects to their departed ones on November 1 and 2.

The Manila City Council, in particular, adopted a anti-littering resolution last Thursday reminding the public that the observance of Undas “must not be made as an excuse for litterbugs to pollute the surroundings, cause harm to human health and the environment, and show disregard and disrespect to the living and the dead.”

Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition said that the faithful should express homage and appreciation for departed relatives and friends in an eco-friendly and respectful way. “Honoring our loved ones is a Filipino custom that should remain in our hearts and minds. We should manifest deep respect to those who have gone before us by keeping the cemeteries waste-free, toxics free, and trouble-free,” she said.

Newly-appointed NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) Romeo Hidalgo cautioned cemetery-goers against careless disposal of trash. "Littering, open dumping and open burning are unlawful acts. I appeal to everyone, especially to cemetery visitors and vendors, to be mindful of their discards and not turn the cemeteries into instant stinking dumpsites," Hidalgo emphasized.

Hidalgo expressed concern that Metro Manila’s burgeoning waste generation soars during popular community celebrations and holidays.
According to the NSWMC, Metro Manila produces 8,400 to 8,600 tons of garbage daily, or about one fourth of the national daily waste generation of some 35,000 tons. The average daily waste generation in the metropolis is 0.7 kilo per person.

Miss Earth-Philippines 2012 winner Stephany Dianne Stefanowitz echoed her concerns by calling on all Pinoys to shun wasteful practices. “In what has become a throw-away society like ours, we are tremendously influenced by over-consumption, as well as the unnecessary usage of disposable items which turn into wastes. In order to help Mother Earth, let us avoid or limit the use of disposable products.”

Stefanowitz reminded the people that“everything we throw away comes back to haunt us in the future.” She said,“let us avoid using plastic bags, disposable products and wrappers. These are simple ways of preserving our finite earth for ourselves and for future generations.”

As practical guides to those who will go to the cemeteries on Undas, the EcoWaste Coalition offers the following eco-friendly tips:

1. Choose clean-burning, lead-free candles that do not yield black fumes or soot. Set alight a limited number of candles to reduce heat and pollution. Do not let candles’ plastic receptacles or holders to burn.

2. Offer local fresh flowers, not plastic ones, or consider bringing potted plants and flowers instead. Simple, inexpensive flowers will do. Avoid wrapping floral or plant offerings in plastic, which will sooner or later end up as trash.

3. Bring your own water jug to avoid purchasing bottled water. Discarded plastic bottles add up to the country’s garbage problem. Plastic bottles, which are petrochemical
products, also require lots of oil and chemicals to manufacture. Please watch The Story of Bottled Water to find out why: http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/

4. Go for waste-free meals. Say yes to reusable carriers, containers, and utensils such as lunchboxes and thermos, cloth napkins and silverwares. Say no to throw-away bags, wraps, foil or Styrofoam, paper napkins, and forks and spoons. Also, refrain from patronizing junk food and go for simple yet nutritious home-prepared baon.

5. Buy less or only as much as you can consume in terms of food and beverage to avoid spoilage or wastage. Bring bayong or other reusable bags to carry your stuff and purchases, and refuse plastic bags and wrappers from vendors.

6. Cut your waste size by not creating trash in the first place such as by purchasing products with the least amount of packaging and avoiding single-use plastics.

7. Don’t litter, dump or burn trash in the cemetery. Do not throw cigarette butts, candy wrappers, discarded packaging, fruit peels, etc. on the ground. Remember to leave the resting place of your loved ones litter-free.

8. Put your discards into the recycling bins if available. Better still, place them in your reusable bags and bring them home for sorting, reusing, recycling or composting.

9. Relieve yourself only in the proper place where one should. Keep the urinal or toilet bowl clean as a courtesy to the next user. Do not defecate or urinate in public places.

10. Refrain from smoking in the cemetery. Be considerate to the children, the elderly, pregnant women and others around you who may be saddled with respiratory and heart ailments.


28 October 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Recalled "Cancer-Causing" Korean Ramen in Local Korean Stores

Korean noodles that were recalled by the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) on October 25, for containing benzopyrene, a cancer-causing substance, are still on store shelves of Korean specialty shops in Makati City and Quezon City.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the discovery after conducting test buys on October 27 as part of the group’s observance of the National Food Safety Awareness Week (October 25-29) and the Consumer Protection Month this October.

“In the interest of consumer health and safety, Filipinos who are fond of Korean ramyeon (ramen) should refrain from consuming the recalled items, and shop owners should return the remaining stocks to the manufacturers at once,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

“We request our local FDA to look into this food safety issue and take appropriate action,” she added.

Last Thursday, the KFDA announced the recall of nine types of instant noodles, including six products manufactured by Nongshim Co. Ltd., after detecting concentrations of benzopyrene in the powdered seasonings.

Among those ordered withdrawn from the market were Nongshim's Mild Neoguri, Spicy Neoguri, Neoguri Cup Noodles (large and small), Saewootang Cup Noodles (large) and Seng Seng Udong.

The EcoWaste Coalition was able to purchase Mild Neoguri, Spicy Neoguri, Neoguri Cup Noodles (small), Saewootang Cup Noodles (large) and Seng Seng Udong from local Korean stores.
The KFDA had earlier tested 30 samples of Korean-made instant noodles and found benzopyrene, ranging from 1.2 to 4.7 parts per billion, in 20 items.

after the KFDA announcement, Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwanese health authorities ordered the removal of the recalled items from store shelves.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxicity and Exposure Assessment for Children’s Health (TEACH), benzopyrene is “a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) that is a byproduct of incomplete combustion or burning of organic items, e.g., cigarettes, gasoline, and wood, and is commonly found with other PAHs in cigarette smoke, in grilled and broiled foods, and as a by-product of many industrial processes.”
The US EPA classifies benzopyrene as a probable human carcinogen based on studies in several adult animal species demonstrating that the substance can increase the incidence of tumors.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that benzopyrene is carcinogenic in experimental animals and is probably carcinogenic in humans.


27 October 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Toxic Candles on Sale in Chinatown, Cautions Consumers from Burning Candles with Leaded Wicks

Imported candles with lead-cored wicks long banned in US and other countries are being sold in Chinatown like ordinary candles, a toxics watchdog revealed today.

In test buys conducted few days before Undas when the consumption of candles is expected to peak, the EcoWaste Coalition discovered that leaded wick candles, which are illegal to make and sell in US since 2003, can be bought locally, particularly in Binondo, Manila.

Despite being banned in the US, as well as in Australia, Canada, Denmark and other jurisdictions, to protect children from health hazards, some candle makers still insert thin lead wire into the braided or woven wick to support or straighten the wick.

"We were really shocked to discover that some imported candles made of gel or paraffin wax had lead-cored wicks that produce health-damaging lead vapor and dust during burning,” Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Lead builds up in the body, and even exposure to tiny amounts can add to the level of lead in the blood. This is utterly dangerous, especially for unborn babies and growing children,” he said.

The burning of candles with lead wicks, whether used indoor or outdoor, will contribute to lead levels in the surroundings, and contribute as well in human exposure to lead, the group said.

Out of the 12 candles bought on October 26, 2012 for P45 - P150 from specialty shops in Benavidez, Masangkay and Ongpin Streets in Binondo, the group found lead in the wicks of seven samples in the range of 34,800 parts per million (ppm) to 62,900 ppm, or an average of 43,943 ppm lead in the candle wicks.

Six of the seven lead-tainted items were also found to contain other heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury above levels of concern.

A portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer was used to screen the candle samples for heavy metals on October 27, 2012.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the manufacture and sale of lead-cored wicks and candles with lead-cored wicks in 2003 after determining that these could release huge quantities of lead into the air during burning.

According to the CPSC, “some of the candles tested by CPSC staff emitted lead levels in excess of 3,000 micrograms per hour - about seven times the rate that cold lead to elevated levels of lead in a child.”
“Children may then inhale the vaporized lead, placing them at risk. Children may also be exposed to lead by mouthing objects on which lead has settled or by handling such objects and then mouthing their hands,”the CPSC reported.

The impact of children’s exposure to lead are often irreversible, and can bring about life-long health problems, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

According to a fact sheet prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition, lead poisoning in children results to brain and nervous system damage, lower IQ, developmental delays, decreased bone and muscle growth, poor muscle coordination, hearing, speech and language difficulties, and behavioral problems.

To guard against lead exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers 1) to refrain from buying and using candles with metallic core unless it is certified to be a non-lead material, and 2) to patronize candles from reputable candle makers that are of good quality, non-toxic and locally-made.

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise appealed to the government to unilaterally ban candles with wicks containing lead and to constantly monitor the market to ensure that only safe candles are sold to consumers.



26 October 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Backs Manila's Call for Vigilance against Littering during Undas

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, welcomed a resolution adopted by the City Council of Manila to enhance ecological waste management during the observance of Undas.

“We recognize the City Council for its effort to avert a sure garbage headache and we appeal to all sectors to support waste prevention and reduction during the massive commemoration of Undas,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.       

Through the resolution, the City Council emphasized that “the observance of this time-honored tradition, which is uniquely Filipino, must not be made as an excuse for litterbugs to pollute the surroundings, cause harm to human health and the environment, and show disregard and disrespect to the living and the dead.”

Filed by District II Councilor Numero G. Lim and adopted in a session presided over by Councilor Marlon M. Lacson, President Pro Tempore, the City Council “strongly called for vigilance against littering, indiscriminate disposal of garbage and other wasteful acts in public cemeteries” in Manila.

The City Council urged the City Department of Public Services, the City Department of Health and concerned barangays and NGOs to “strictly enforce regarding prohibitions against littering and other forms of harmful practices such as open burning and open dumping,” which are unlawful acts under Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

The said agencies of the City Government and the frontline barangays bordering the cemeteries have the moral responsibility to maintain law and order, and secure public health and safety during the Undas, the resolution noted.

The City Council also urged the “deploy(ment) by the City Department of Public Services of adequate number of personnel before, during and after Undas (October 31, November 1 and 2) to help with the sanitation, clean-up and upkeep of cemeteries and adjacent communities, as well as with the enforcement of anti-littering ordinances.”

The City Council further urged concerned barangays to initiate the following waste prevention and reduction measures:

-“put up banners reminding visitors that their barangay and cemetery is a waste-free zone and litterbugs will be duly penalized”

-“put up recycling stations in high human traffic areas to assist visitors in properly managing their discards”

- “mobilize community volunteers and/or engage the services of waste pickers or informal recyclers to help with the cleanliness and the ecological management of discards”

- “require vendors to have their own waste bins and to clean up their assigned spots”

- “encourage vendors to refrain from using or giving single-use plastic disposables such as bags, cups, straws, etc. and to serve beverage and food in reusable glasses, mugs and plates”

In adopting the resolution, the City Council noted that the “deeply engrained and centuries-old cultural tradition of paying respects to our departed loved ones is oftentimes marred by the unwholesome habit of some people by strewing litter and other forms of trash within and (outside) the cemeteries.”

“Sadly it has been our experience of seeing these litterbugs casually throw or leave their trash on the streets leading to cemetery gates, as well as in the narrow alleys inside the cemetery premises,” the resolution said.


25 October 2012

Toxics Watchdog Asks Government to Regulate Harmful Chemicals in Cheap Jewelry


A toxics watchdog has asked the government to regulate cheap jewelry laced with hazardous chemicals that may get on children’s hands or end up in their mouths.

The EcoWaste Coalition pressed for a strong safety regulation after detecting cadmium up to 314,000 parts per million (ppm) and lead up to 69,700 ppm in some jewelries sold from P10 to P50 at bargain shops in Makati and Quezon Cities.

An X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer was used to screen the samples for cadmium and lead.

The screening was held to mark the lead poisoning prevention week that is observed in US from October 21-27.

Cadmium and lead are potent neurotoxins, or brain and nerve poisons, deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

According to WHO, “cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen,” while lead “affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

Exposure even to low levels of lead can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioural problems, learning difficulties, delayed growth, hearing loss and headaches. Acute lead poisoning in children can cause seizures, coma and death.
"Jewelries loaded with excessive amounts of cadmium and lead can poison young children who may naively play with, bite, chew, suck or swallow such items resulting to heavy metals getting into their blood,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

Jewelry includes a broad range of ornaments such as anklet, arm cuff, bling, bracelet, brooch, chain, charm, crown, cuff link, earring, hair accessory, necklace, pin, ring, etc.

Consumers will have no way of determining the presence of cadmium and lead in jewelry products due to the absence of a clear-cut policy banning or restricting their use, as well as the lack of policy requiring full disclosure of chemicals in such products, she pointed out.

“We need not wait for a child to get sick or to die from ingesting cheap, but poisonous jewelries. There must be a policy that will protect the public, particularly the children, from dangerous costume and fashion jewelry,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited the case of Jarnell Brown, a four-year old boy from Minneapolis, Minnesota who died on February 22, 2006 after ingesting a heart-shaped metal charm containing 99.1% (or 991,000 ppm) lead. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2008 fined the erring company a historic $1 million for violating the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

“Death due to acute poisoning from lead-tainted jewelry has happened in US and can be prevented from happening here with the promulgation of a strong policy,” stressed Lucero.

Cadmium and lead above levels of concern were detected in 14 out 17 samples.

Six of the worst samples include:
1. A double ring with flower and owl design that sells for P50 had 314,000 ppm cadmium.

2. A necklace worth P50 with a colourful peacock pendant had 201,800 ppm cadmium.

3. An earring set with a pink crown design priced at P10 had 69,700 lead.

4. A leather-type bracelet with black and yellow studs costing P20 had 55,400 ppm lead.

5. A necklace with a black and yellow Batman pendant selling for P40 had18,500 lead.

6. An orange coated earring set bought for P10 had 11,000 ppm lead.

In US, children’s products, including children’s jewelry, cannot contain lead above the federal limit of 100 ppm under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, while in Connecticut and Maryland, cadmium in children’s jewelry cannot exceed the state limit of 75 ppm.


24 October 2012

Environmentalists, Pulmonologists Remind Cemetery Caretakers, Cleaners: Open Burning is Illegal, Unhealthy


As the massive cleanup of cemeteries goes in full swing nationwide, a network of environmentalists and an organization of chest physicians advised tomb caretakers and cleaners to obey the prohibition against open burning that is enshrined in two major environmental laws.

In a joint statement, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians reminded the public that it would be both unlawful and unhealthy to burn discards from the clearing of tombs in preparation for the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day come November 1 and 2.

Among the discards commonly produced from the clearing operations include grass clippings, plant cuttings, downed or pruned tree limbs and branches and other organics, paint cans, thinner and varnish containers, soiled newspaper, plastic bags, bottles and other disposable items, food wrappers and cigarette butts.

The groups issued the advisory after spotting incidents of mixed waste open burning at the Manila North Cemetery and Manila South Cemetery during ocular visits conducted on October 21 and 22, 2012 (please see photos at http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com/)

“We call upon the general public, particularly the tomb caretakers and cleaners, not to set post-cleanup discards ablaze because doing so is both illegal and unhealthy. We also appeal to cemetery administrators to firmly enforce the ban,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Both Republic Act 8749, the Clean Air Act of 1999, and Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, ban the open burning of garbage.

Section 13, Rule XXV of RA 8749's Implementing Rules and Regulations states that "no person shall be allowed to burn any materials in any quantities which shall cause the emission of toxic and poisonous fumes," while Section 48 of RA 9003 prohibits "the open burning of solid waste."

“The ban on open burning in two landmark environmental laws is a clear indicator of the critical importance of such a prohibition for public health and welfare,” she said.

Open burning releases loads of health-damaging pollutants that are invisible to the naked eyes, including particulate matter (PM), dioxins and furans, lead, mercury and other heavy metals, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, halogenated carbons, and volatile organic compounds, the groups warned.

“Pollution from airborne PM is a major public health concern; the adverse effects of which, involving morbidity and mortality, are principally seen in the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. PM can trigger asthma and heart attacks in some people,” said health specialist Dr. Maricar Limpin, immediate past president of PCCP.

“Even the mere burning of dry leaves and other yard waste produces significant amounts of air pollutants that can put the public health at risk,” she said.

Citing a fact sheet from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the EcoWaste Coalition and PCCP warned that the common practice of burning dry leaves and other biodegradable discards yields “toxic, irritant, and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds” such as microscopic PM (also known as particles), hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.

“If inhaled, these microscopic particles can reach the deepest regions of the lung and remain there for months or even years. Breathing particulate matter can increase the chances of respiratory infection, reduce the volume of air inhaled and impair the lungs' ability to use that air,” the EPA explained.

According to the EPA, “hydrocarbons are chemicals that can exist as both gases and solid particles. Because leaves are often moist and burn without proper air circulation, they often burn poorly, producing high levels of hydrocarbons. Some of these hydrocarbons, such as aldehydes and ketones, cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. A substantial portion of the hydrocarbons in leaf smoke consists of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are known carcinogens."

“Carbon monoxide is an invisible gas that results from incomplete combustion, and burning leaf piles are ideal for creating carbon monoxide emissions. Carbon monoxide is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs and combines with red blood cells. This reduces the amount of oxygen the red blood cells can absorb and supply to body tissues. Unborn children, newborn infants, smokers, the elderly, and persons with heart and chronic lung disease are more susceptible to carbon monoxide than the general population,” the EPA said.

To avoid exposure to harmful chemicals resulting from open burning, the EcoWaste Coalition and the PCCP encouraged the public to prevent and reduce the generation of waste, and practice ecological management of discards at all times.





22 October 2012

Bishop, NGO Caution the Public vs. Wasteful Undas

A Catholic Bishop and an environmental watchdog jointly reminded the faithful to observe the upcoming Undas in a manner that will not squander resources and make the cemeteries stink.

In a shared reminder to the general public, both Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. and the EcoWaste Coalition advocated for an ecological observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day on November 1 and 2.
“As the holy days get closer, the Church finds it necessary to remind the people to be aware of the impact of their activities to the air, land and water and treat our fragile environment with utmost care and respect,” said Iñiguez, who concurrently serves as Chairperson of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“Our wasteful consumption and the tons of garbage we create daily defy the covenant between human beings and God the Creator, and this has to change if we are to get through the environmental and health woes facing our people,” he stated.

“We can help downsize the waste volume during the Undas by being more careful with what we consume and throw away,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition echoed Bishop Iñiguez’s plea for an ecological Undas with a parallel call for garbage prevention, particularly in cemeteries.

“We appeal to everyone to keep their trash to the minimum and not to turn the cemeteries into huge garbage bins,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It will be disrespectful to litter anywhere, especially in the final resting place of our departed loved ones. Cemeteries are consecrated sites, not dumpsites,” she said .

On October 29, the EcoWaste Coalition, together with the Malikhaing Landas na Magpapayabong sa Sining at Kultura (Malaya), Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry and Miss Earth Foundation, will stage a "Zombasura" action at the Manila North Cemetery to draw public attention and support for an ecological Undas.
"Zombasura," from "Zombies" and "basura," is a term introduced by the EcoWaste Coalition to describe inconsiderate litterbugs in cemeteries and surrounding places. -end-

18 October 2012

Toxics Watchdog: Lead-Tainted Christmas Mugs Not Merry; Funny Glasses Risky

A health and environmental watchdog detected alarming levels of lead, a highly toxic substance, in glasses with colorful fruit and flower designs and also in mugs decorated with Christmas symbols, which are common gift ideas during the yuletide season.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group dedicated to reducing childhood and occupational exposure to lead, rang the alarm bell after screening a total of 35 samples (12 pieces of glass tumblers and 23 pieces of ceramic mugs) for heavy metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

The group conducted the probe to generate data that will show the need to ban lead in glazes and paints used for food contact articles such as glasses, mugs and plates in the Chemical Control Order for lead and lead compounds being crafted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau.

The recent filing by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Resolution 2812 asking the House Committees on Health and Trade and Industry to conduct an investigation on the need to regulate lead and other chemicals of concerns in mugs and related products provided another impetus to initiate the probe.

The 35 samples were purchased from October 14-16, 2012 from bargain stores located in the cities of Mandaluyong, Manila and Quezon for P20 up to P99.

Of the 12 glasses analyzed, lead was detected in all the samples in the range of 14,700 parts per million (ppm) to 56,600 ppm, with the average lead content at 39,100 ppm, exceeding the US limit of 90 ppm used as a benchmark for lead in paint.

Of the 23 mugs, lead ranging from 106 ppm to 20,900 ppm was detected in 18 samples, with the average lead content at 12,025 ppm.

While no detectable levels of lead were found in five mugs, elevated levels of either cadmium, chromium or both were found in all of them.

Aside from lead, significant quantities of toxic metals above levels of concern were detected in all the 35 samples, including antimony (the highest level found was 1,121 ppm), arsenic (6,734 ppm), cadmium (9,296 ppm) and chromium (9,622), which may bring about multiple chemical exposures.

“We were shock to find extreme amounts of lead on beautifully decorated glasses and mugs that directly touch the lips of users, including children, and may come in contact with the beverage or food that is consumed,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Some of the tainted samples were embellished with popular yuletide emblems such as Santa Claus and his reindeers, Christmas trees, stars and other ornaments, she noted.

“Since lead is highly toxic and builds up in the body, health specialists recommend that we avoid lead as exposure even to minute levels may have a lifelong consequences, especially for developing fetuses and children,” she said.

“Lead-containing glazes and paints should not be used in beverage and food containers, vessels and utensils as a precaution against the possibility of lead leaching or seeping,” she emphasized.

“Also, dinnerware sold in the country should be properly marked to indicate if lead-based glaze or paint was used on the products. Consumers have the right to know what’s on their glasses, mugs and plates. There should be warning labels on items with lead,” she added.

To guard against lead exposure from beverage as well as food containers, the EcoWaste Coalition advises consumers to take the following precautions:

- Refrain from buying items, especially highly decorated ones, with no written assurance of being lead-safe. Check the labels.

- Avoid use of lead-glazed or lead-painted cups, glasses, mugs and plates, especially for hot beverages and foods.

- Do not store pickled fruits and vegetables, fruit juices and other acidic foods or preparations in ceramic containers, including collectibles or antiques that may contain lead.

-Do not store beverages in lead crystal containers.

- Do not feed babies from lead crystal bottles (breastfeed or opt for lead-free glass bottles or BPA-free plastic bottles).

-Do not use ornamental kitchenware or tableware to prepare, serve or store drinks and foods. Watch out for “Not for Food Use” or “For Decorative Purposes Only” warnings and follow them.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to lead can result in learning disabilities; attention deficit disorder; decreased intelligence; speech, language and behavior problems; poor muscle coordination; constipation; sleeping disorders; high blood pressure; muscle and joint pain; birth defects; and damage to the nervous system and kidneys.


Civic Leader Appointed NGO Representative to the NSWMC

Zero waste advocates welcomed the appointment of a civic leader as member of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).

Appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III last October 2, 2012, Romy Hidalgo will serve as NGO Representative to the Commission until August 1, 2014.

The NSWMC, chaired by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, oversees the implementation of solid waste management plants and prescribes policies to achieve the objectives of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Hidalgo comes with a rich community and civic experience given his background as a Rotarian, a Caritas social development advocate, an anti-landfill litigant and as a leader of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“I thank President Aquino, Secretary Paje and the NGO community for their trust and support. I plan to consult widely for a more effective representation of the public interest in our efforts to win the nation’s fight against wastefulness and pollution. I would like to see more emphasis on how organic discards should be managed to meet progressive waste diversion targets. Organics comprise at least 50% of the solid waste and more creative energies and solutions should be focused on managing these,” Hidalgo said.

“With Mr. Hidalgo's appointment, the EcoWaste Coalition will continue to ensure that the Commission fulfills its mandated function of advocating for real ecological waste solutions. Mr. Hidalgo will champion our vision and those of the communities aspiring to be part of the solution to our waste problems," said Von Hernandez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Former NGO representatives to the Commission (Eileen Sison, Dr. Metodio Palaypay and Sonia Mendoza) offered Hidalgo their best wishes and even provided some good advice.

“Up to now, the Office of the President has allocated no budget for the NSWMC, restricting what the Commission can do to the resources provided by the Environment Department. We need to advocate for adequate funding to enable the Commission to perform its critical functions,” said Eileen Sison from the Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives.

“Also, the Commission has hardly met except for the technical working group meetings and a lot of new implementing rules and regulations are waiting to be approved, including stricter guidelines on the siting of landfills,” she pointed out.

Dr. Metodio Palaypay from Zero Waste Philippines congratulated Hidalgo and informed him about the possibility and responsibility of presiding over the meetings of the Commission when the Environment Secretary is not available.

"We wish you all the luck and we assure you of the support of the Mother Earth Foundation (MEF). I know yours will be a voice in the wilderness most of the time at the NSWMC, but I know you will be steadfast in your commitment to Zero Waste as we have seen in your work," said Sonia Mendoza, Chairperson of MEF. As per R.A. 9003, the NSWMC, among a long list of functions, approves, reviews and monitors local solid waste management plans in accordance with its rules and regulations. 

The Commission is also tasked to “propose and adopt regulations requiring the source separation and post separation collection, segregated collection, processing, marketing and sale of organic and designated recyclable material generated in each local government unit.”

15 October 2012

"Do not turn the cemeteries into burial grounds for garbage" (Politicos Urged Not to 'Used' the Dead for Political Gains)

Do not turn the cemeteries into burial grounds for garbage.

This is the earnest plea of an environmental watchdog in anticipation of the huge throng of visitors who will be inundating cemeteries soon to visit the graves of their dearly departed ones.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate of waste prevention and reduction, asked Filipinos from all walks of life to perform the time-honored tradition of paying homage to the dead without turning the cemeteries into dumpsites for trash.

“We surely can express our reverence and gratitude for our departed relatives and friends sans unashamed littering and dumping. The festive occasion is not an excuse for litterbugs to dirty and defile the cemeteries and convert them from burial to dumping grounds,” said Romy Hidalgo, Board member of the EcoWaste Coalition, and newly-appointed NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

“Be responsible enough not to leave any trash behind the cemetery, a hallowed ground deserving our utmost respect. Please refrain from being a hardhearted Zombasura,” pleaded Hidalgo.

Zombasura is an EcoWaste Coalition’s wordplay combining “zombie” and “basura”to mortify unfeeling litterbugs who pollute cemeteries with their messy habits of dropping litter, piling trash or burning garbage.

“Let’s not forget the ‘bagsik ng habagat” (the southwest monsoon’s fury) last August that pounded and submerged Metro Manila and nearby provinces in floods,” said Froilan Grate, President of the Mother Earth Foundation and one of the framers of the Zero Waste Pilipinas movement.

Indiscriminate waste disposal aggravated the massive flooding that killed almost 100 people and caused enormous damage to agriculture and infrastructure.

“While it is already obvious, we still want to remind everyone that what we throw away will return to haunt us like the infamous post-habagat trashing of the Manila Bay esplanade. That is the law of karma,” Grate emphasized.

The southwest monsoon washed up tons of mixed trash toward Roxas Boulevard, from the Philippine Yacht to the US Embassy, instantaneously turning the landmark into a virtual dumpsite.

Personnel from the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Manila City Government spent weeks to clear the area of over 300 truckloads of garbage.

For a waste-free observance of Undas, the EcoWaste Coalition has encouraged the government to strictly enforce Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which prohibits and penalizes littering, among other unlawful acts.

Litterbugs can be penalized with a fine of P300 to P1,000, compelled to render community service at the local government unit (LGU) where the act was committed or be required to pay the fine as well as perform community service.

The EcoWaste Coalition further appealed to politicians, especially those running for the 2013 mid-term elections, not to take advantage of Undas for premature campaigning activities.

“We urge well-meaning politicos not to drown the cemeteries and their environs with banners that, by design or not, are meant to publicize their names with the electorate,” Hidalgo stated.

“In lieu of self-patronizing banners, we ask them to help cemetery administrators and surrounding barangays to ensure sufficient waste and sanitation services before, during and after Undas,” proposed Hidalgo.
For instance, politicians may pool their resources together for the provision of the following essential services:

segregated waste bins
potable water
clean toilets
first aid clinics

Politicians may also pay for the extra personnel needed such as "litter police" and streetsweepers in cemeteries and neighboring barangays.

“Let it not be said that the candidates ‘used’ the dead to amass political gains,” Hidalgo said.


13 October 2012

Campaign to Remove Lead in Paint Gains Momentum

(Photos by Faye Ferrer)

The country’s goal of creating a healthy and safe environment for children got a fresh boost with the launch of a project that seeks to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to lead-based paints and articles.

At the initiation ceremony held yesterday, the EcoWaste Coalition unveiled its three-year project with the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) and the European Union (EU) to phase out paints containing lead and, ultimately, eradicate the health risks that such products cause.

Recognizing that lead, a potent neurotoxin, poses a serious risk to children and can result to brain damage, developed countries had already banned its use in the production of household paints.
The EU, for instance, has taken some concrete measures to phase out the use of lead in paint in its common market.

Speaking at the project launch, Matthieu Penot, Environment Attache of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, said that member countries of the EU collectively banned the use of lead in paint in 1989, which was later complemented with related directives banning the use of lead compounds in consumer products such as cosmetics and toys.

EU Council Directive (89/677/EEC) states that lead compounds “may not be used as substances and constituents of preparations intended for use as paints, except for the restoration and maintenance of works of art and historic buildings and their interiors.”

“The harms caused by childhood lead exposure are very severe and better documented than the harms from virtually all other environmental contaminants. In fact, the science on lead’s harm to children is absolutely non-controversial at this point, and health scientists have recognized no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Chair, IPEN.

Some of the lead-induced neurological harms, which are often irreversible, include developmental delays, mental retardation, intelligence quotient shortfalls, poor school performance, attention deficit disorder, aggression, violence and other behavioral problems, Calonzo said.

At the launch, businessman Johnson Ongking announced to the delight of the multi-sectoral audience that the paint industry is supportive of the EcoWaste Coalition’s call to do away with leaded paint, saying that
“larger paint companies, with combined 80% market share, have voluntarily eliminated use of lead based raw materials” in paint production.

Ongking, who is the President of the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, also told the gathering that “red lead primers have almost disappeared from the market,” and that “many smaller paint companies have also stopped using lead driers.”

Ongking further cited three concerns affecting paint companies conversion from lead to non-lead: 1) “higher formulation costs for lead chromate replacement,”2) “lack of government regulation”, and 3) “lead driers and pigments can still be freely purchased.”
“We acknowledge the progress made by major industry players in eliminating lead pigments and driers in paint manufacturing. We trust that other paint companies will follow suit, innovate now and come up with products with no lead added for the sake of our children's health,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to take cue from the broad multi-stakeholders’ support for “no lead added” paint as manifested during the project launch and fast track the approval of the draft Chemical Control Order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds.
The DENR through the Environmental Management Bureau has drafted the CCO that provides for a mandatory total lead limit of 90 parts per million, a standard at par with that of the United States, and directs a phase-out period of two years for leaded paint upon its approval by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.


12 October 2012

Eliminate Lead Paints: Prevent Childhood and Occupational Lead Exposures

A historic gathering today of government, industry, healthcare, academic and civil society representatives in Quezon City saw the high-spirited launch of a multi-stakeholder effort to eliminate lead-based paint in the Philippines.  The activity is funded by the European Union (EU).

While some paint companies have shifted to non-lead ingredients, the EcoWaste Coalition noted that lead in household paints, as well as in many popular goods such as toys and other children’s articles, remains a serious health threat to unsuspecting consumers and to other population groups most at risk to toxic exposure such as kids, women of child-bearing age and workers.

“Being a brain toxin, there is no compelling reason why leaded paints should be used further inside our homes, our schools, playgrounds, buildings, and in any articles that are being used by our children,” said Mr. Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste Coalition-led campaign is part of a seven-country “Lead Paint Elimination Project” by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), a global civil society network that promotes safe chemical policies and practices to protect human health and the environment.

The EU has provided a grant of PHP 75 million to IPEN for its three-year project that is concurrently being implemented in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The EU Delegation to the Philippines was represented at the project launch by Mr. Matthieu Penot, who provided the welcome remarks on behalf of EU Ambassador to the Philippines H.E Guy Ledoux.  Mr. Penot currently manages EU-funded projects in the Philippines in the fields of Environment and Energy.
US expert Mr. William “Bill” Menrath delivered a lecture on how to prevent childhood lead exposure through lead paint elimination, education and abatement. Menrath is the current Director of the Great Lakes Regional Occupational Safety and Health Education Center and also the Training Director of the Healthy Homes Training Center.
Influential personalities led by Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Pia Cayetano applauded the “historic partnership” and threw their support behind the efforts to eradicate leaded paint, which has long been phased out in developed countries.

“A chemical control order that will combat lead pollution is undeniably long overdue and you have my full support for a strong policy that will protect and uphold our people’s constitutional right to health,” said Santiago who has filed a number of resolutions at the Senate based on exposés made by the EcoWaste Coalition on harmful chemicals in products, wastes and in the environment.

“Your stand against lead pollution is consistent and compatible with my own position against this old health and environment threat.  This is why I have re-filed in the 15
th Congress the ‘Paint Hazard Reduction Act,’ which seeks to develop a national strategy to build the infrastructure necessary to eliminate lead-based paint hazards in all housing as expeditiously as possible,” she added.

“I impart my support for your initiative to catalyze government-industry-civil society collaboration to cut down and eradicate the risks from the manufacture and use of leaded paint.  This is a very important public health action that should be backed by everyone who seeks to halt childhood and occupational exposure to lead, particularly from paints with added lead pigment and drier,” stated Cayetano who heads the Senate Committee on Health.

Even the Catholic Church did not fail to  recognize the “inestimable benefits” of reducing childhood lead exposure, “which can cause irreparable harm to their developing brains and unfairly limit their potentials to live fully” as noted by Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., Head of the Public Affairs Committee, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“Your initiative to promote the elimination of lead in paint is, by and large, a choice to protect and sanctify life. By choosing to phase out this chemical poison in the production of paint, you have chosen to put a stop to a familiar source of lead exposure, especially among children. By choosing to act against this toxic threat to children’s brains, their health and their future, you have, in effect, chosen to promote a culture of life and hope,” the bishop said.

In an earlier letter to the EcoWaste Coalition, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that “lead is highly toxic and even low levels of lead are harmful.”

"Levels as low as 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood are associated with decreased intelligence, behavior problems, reduced physical stature and growth, as well as impaired hearing," Ona said.

"Thus, clinical toxicologists have indicated that there are no safe levels for lead exposure among children.  This fact makes banning of substances containing lead an imperative," he emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a national environmental network of over 125 groups pursuing zero waste and chemical safety, will implement the project in the Philippines by undertaking activities intended to minimize and eliminate the manufacture, import, export, sale and use of lead-based decorative paints through a nationwide informative campaign.

The project is being carried out to reduce if not prevent human exposure to lead.  Importance is greatly given to the reduction and prevention of children's exposure to lead.  Greater attention is given to them since studies have shown that they are the most susceptible to its adverse effects.  It is because they are at a stage where their bodies are in a developing phase and cannot tolerate even minute quantities of lead.



09 October 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Brain Damaging, Cancer-Causing Chemicals in 60 Out of 100 Toys

A toxics watchdog has revealed the presence of brain damaging as well as cancer-causing chemicals in a huge number of toys that it has procured and tested for heavy metals.

Coinciding with the observance of the National Children’s Month and the National Consumer Protection Month, the EcoWaste Coalition analyzed 100 assorted toys to verify if any of the samples poses health risks to children.

At a press conference held in Quezon City, the group, together with invited health experts from the Philippines and USA, disclosed their findings, providing fresh basis for their heightened call for concerted government, industry and consumer action to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to dangerous chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s latest exposé occurs in the wake of the recent approval on second reading of House Bill 6552, the “Safe and Non-Toxic Children’s Product Act of 2012,” that seeks “toregulate the importation, manufacture, sale and distribution of children’s toys, school supplies, childcare articles and other related products containing toxic chemicals.”

The toxic chemicals referred to in the legislative bill include, but are not limited to, the priority chemicals covered by the EcoWaste Coalition’s probe (antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury), as well as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.

HB 6552’s authors include Reps. Anthony del Rosario, Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales, Rachel Marguerite del Mar, Jane Castro, Lani Mercado-Revilla, Jun Omar Ebdane, Alfredo Marañon III and Susan Yap.

“Our latest pre-Christmas analysis of toys indicate that 60 of the 100 samples (60%), contain lead and other toxic metals that have been linked with reproductive abnormalities, endocrine disorders, behavioral, developmental and learning problems and even cancers,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Among the samples found tainted with heavy metals above levels of concern were some dolls with PVC materials, play makeup sets, toy animals, toy boxing gadgets, toy cars, toy guns, toy musical instruments and other toy products.

Not even a single toy sample has listed its chemicals ingredients on the label, depriving consumers of their right to know what the products are made of and, consequently, to make informed choices, the group noted.

Visiting expert Bill Menrath from Ohio, who was the chair of Cincinnati Area Lead Advisory Committee and the Lead Coordinator for the City of Cincinnati, said that the test results give credence to the urgency to phase out lead and other substances in paints and children’s products that may undermine brain development and wreak havoc on kids’ health.

“Children are not able to protect themselves against lead and other hazardous substances lurking in toys, and it is really up to us, adults, to shield them from these hidden toxins. In the US, over a million children have high levels of lead in their blood because of exposure to lead in paint, dust and soil, necessitating for strong preventive measures to combat childhood lead poisoning at the source,” said Menrath.

Pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio, Vice-President of the Philippine Society for Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, explained why children are more vulnerable than adults to toxic exposure.

“Children are most susceptible to chemical poisoning because their bodies and organ systems are still developing, making them at risk to the intrusion of toxic substances. They breathe more air, drink more water, eat more food and often put dirt, toys and non-food items into their mouth, making them more exposed to bacterial and chemical toxins,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol bought the samples worth P2 to 165 each last week at various formal and informal retail shops in Baclaran, a bargain shopping paradise, and other commercial hubs in Pasay City.

The items were then analyzed using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device that is extensively used to identify and measure heavy metals present in a material.

Out of 100 samples, 43 (43%) had lead above the US regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) on lead in paint.

“If we are to use the ceiling of 40 ppm for lead in children’s products as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the number of lead-tainted toys among the samples will rise to 49 or almost half of the samples,” Dizon added.

Some 32 samples (32%) contain more than one metal such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury above levels of concern, indicating the possibility of multiple chemical exposures.

Exposure to lead, which has no safe level, can damage normal brain development and cause lower IQ, shorter attention span, poorer school performance, growth delays, hearing loss, anemia, aggression and other behavioral problems.

Mercury, which is toxic to the nervous system, can impair a child’s memory, attention, and language abilities, and also obstruct a child’s fine motor and visual spatial skills, while antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium are classified as known or possible human carcinogens, or substances that can induce cancer in humans.