30 November 2012

Visiting Swedish Lead Paint Elimination Advocate Welcomed by Manila City Council

Manila Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno and members of the City Council  gave a warm welcome and recognition to Sweden-based Sara Brosche, Project Manager of the EU-funded IPEN's Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project and the EcoWaste Coalition's Lead Paint Elimination Project Team, citing the environmentalists' role in promoting the public health and the environment against harmful substances and wastes. (Photos by Thony Dizon)

Manila City Council Takes a Stand vs Unsafe Destruction of Video Karera TVs (Councilors' action triggered by EcoWaste Coalition's discovery of lead-containing TV fragments in Bonifacio Shrine)

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, lauded Manila lawmakers as the City Council “calls for an end to the destruction of video karera (VK) television sets with mallets or sledgehammers.”

Through a resolution, the Councilors pressed the city government to “adhere to the environmentally-sound management of electronic waste, including unwanted TVs, as prescribed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the EcoWaste Coalition.”

“The confiscated VK TV sets should be sent to government-registered recyclers of electronic waste, where the same can be disassembled in controlled conditions to reduce toxic harm to workers, community health and environment,”the resolution said.

Principal authors of the said resolution include Councilors Numero Lim, Jocelyn Dawis-Asuncion, Rafael Borromeo, Ernesto Dionisio, Jr., Ma. Asuncion Fugoso, Richard Ibay, Cristina Isip, Ernesto Isip, Jr., Moises Lim, Edward Maceda, Ramon Morales, John Marvin Nieto, Erick Ian Nieva, Robert Ortega Jr., Jocelyn Quintos, Elizabeth Rivera, Ramon Robles, Edward Tan, Luciano Veloso, Luis Uy, Raymundo Yupangco, Salvador Lacuna, Eunice Ann Denice Castro, Majority Floor Leader Ma. Sheilah Lacuna-Pangan and President Pro-Tempore and Acting Presiding Officer Marlon Lacson.

“Unwanted TVs should be properly and safely handled to protect the public health and the environment. Not smashed, not dumped, not burned,” said
Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, adding that "other local government units should their cue from Manila's action and make TV smashing a thing of the past."
Discarded TVs and other waste electronics are classified as “special waste” under Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and must be managed as hazardous waste, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

According to the group, TV sets, particularly the old analog type used for video karera, are made up of various chemicals of concern, including huge quantities of lead in the cathode ray tubes (CRTs), also known as the picture tube or the video display component of a TV.

Aside from lead, TV sets contain a host of other chemicals of concern, including brominated flame retardants, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper and mercury.

“Smashing TV units causes lead and other harmful chemicals to be diffused into surroundings and thus posing risk to public health, including city officials and employees, waste workers and even members of the media who cover the destruction of the TVs, as well as commuters and students who pass by the area,” Dizon explained.

To minimize toxic harm, Engr. Geri Geronimo R. SaƱez, Chief of the Hazardous Waste Management Section of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), has recommended sending the seized TVs to government-registered treatment/storage/disposal (TSD) facilities for hazardous wastes.

Manila City Council’s action was triggered by the discovery of TV CRT fragments and shards with high concentrations of lead at a park beside the Manila City Hall.

On October 18, 2012, or two days after Mayor Alfredo Lim
destroyed 28 video carera machines at the Kartilya side of the Bonifacio Shrine, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol went to the park and found CRT fragments and shards in the area.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer, the group detected lead up to 100, 000 parts per million (ppm) in some of CRT fragments and shards tested.


26 November 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Warns against Toxic Metals in Firecrackers and Pyrotechnic Devices


Tests conducted by a non-governmental environmental group revealed the presence of heavy metals in some firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

As part of its annual drive for a toxics-free celebration of Christmas and New Year, the EcoWaste Coalition on November 22 and 25 bought 20 samples of popular“paputok” and “pailaw” that have started to thrive in M. de Santos St., Divisoria as the festive holidays draw nearer.

The group then analyzed the 20 samples for heavy metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) equipment.

The analysis was done in time for the Department of Health-initiated stakeholders' meeting on "Firecrackers/Fireworks Injury Prevention Program" on November 27.

Results indicated significant levels of heavy metals such as antimony, barium, chromium, copper and lead in the samples. Traces of mercury were also found in five samples.

These metals are often added to the black powder mixture of charcoal, sulfur, potassium or sodium nitrate to create the desired sparkles and colors.

None of the samples provided details about their chemical ingredients, particularly their heavy metal contents.

“While Republic Act 7183 provides for some safety and labeling requirements to be followed, the law neither bans or restricts the use of toxic chemicals in the production of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices, nor does it compel manufacturers and distributors to disclose the chemical contents on the product labels,” observed Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“On top of the deafening noise and unsightly trash, the explosion of firecrackers and fireworks creates a toxic cocktail of chemicals that is indisputably bad for public health and the environment,” she said.

Lung expert Dr. Maricar Limpin confirmed that the “blasting of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices yields greenhouse gases, metal oxides, particulates and other pollutants that we inhale, affecting the lungs and other vital organs such as the kidneys, heart and brain.” Limpin is associated with the Philippine College of Chest Physicians and the Philippine Medical Association.

Out of 20 samples, lead, a potent neurotoxin and probable human carcinogen, was detected in nine samples with a Diamond Fireworks "Great Small Magic Scourge" showing the highest level at 6,481 ppm.

The other lead-positive samples include a Diamond Fireworks "Pilipao Crackers" with 5,542 ppm lead, a Leopard King “Pili Cracker,” 2,869 ppm; a Leopard King “Happy Ball” with 2,488 ppm lead;a Tiger Fireworks "Dragon Eggs," 2,361 ppm; a Tiger Fireworks “Pilipao Crackers,” 1,779 ppm; a Tiger Fireworks “Dragon Egg Thunder,” 1,473 ppm; a Leopard King “Christmas Tree,” 1,235 ppm; and a Tiger Fireworks “Narcissus,” 172 ppm.

Barium was found in 17 samples with Tiger Fireworks 7" “Sparklers” registering over 100,000 ppm of both barium and copper, followed by a Diamond Fireworks "Roman Candles" with 23,700 ppm barium and a Leopard King “Christmas Tree” with 11,800 ppm barium.

Antimony, a possible human carcinogen, was detected in “Pulling Fireworks at 11,600 ppm.

Chromium up to 666 ppm was found in four samples with Tiger Fireworks “Festival”flaming balls showing the highest level.

Trace amounts of mercury, in the range of 2.2 ppm to 5.5 ppm, were detected in Tiger Fireworks “Festival,” “Green Penoy,” “Happy Flower” and “Saturn Missiles,” and in “Pulling Fireworks.”

Antimony, chromium, lead and mercury compounds are included in the Priority Chemicals List of the Philippines, or chemicals that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “has determined to potentially pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace, and the environment.”


25 November 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Zero Waste to Clean the Air, Combat Climate Change

As climate change transforms the course of our lives, we must all strive to find and carry out real solutions that will help stabilize the climate and re-establish ecological health and balance across the globe.

In line with this, the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network of over 150 groups, called upon the government, the industry and the general public to actively support waste prevention and reduction and other Zero Waste practices.

The group specifically appealed to everyone to uphold the ban on open dumping, open burning and waste incineration as embodied in two major environmental laws of the land: the Clean Air Act of 1999 and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Coinciding with the observance on Sunday of the ‘Clean Air? Pwede!” multisectoral advocacy to curb air pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition presented an eight-point proposal that will help cut human consumption of fossil fuels, which is fueling global warming and climate change, to wit:

1.Save energy. 2.Conserve water. 3. Travel wisely. 4. Buy less, shop responsibly, shun plastic bags. 5. Do not dump and burn discards. 6. Reduce waste volume: reuse, repair, recycle, compost. 7. Keep biodegradable discards away from dumpsites and landfills. 8. Reduce toxicity of garbage: choose eco-friendly, non-toxic products.

“As advocates for a Zero Waste society, we encourage everyone to think of more eco-friendly lifestyle choices and put these into practice every day to help Mother Earth in its much needed recuperation from degradation and destruction,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically appealed to the government to prohibit the disposal of organic wastes in dumps and landfills to minimize the production of gaseous methane which contributes to worsening climate conditions.

“Instead of throwing these biodegradable wastes in dumpsites or landfills, we can make good use of them as compost or organic soil supplements to do away with chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides that leak out into the soil and contaminate groundwater,” Alejo explained.

“Recycling is a viable step for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from unbridled consumption and disposal. Promoting it will conserve vital resources and also ensure livelihood for the poor,” he added.

As waste disposal technologies like incinerators and landfills guised as “green processes” proliferate, Zero Waste strategies provide the simplest means to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while conserving precious resources and generating sustainable recycling jobs, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

23 November 2012

Cebu Stakeholders Take on GHS Chemical Hazards and Proper Labeling System

23 November 2012, Cebu City.  A significant step towards global efforts on appropriate chemical management has gained momentum as over 80 individuals from several local groups throughout the province of Cebu took part in an awareness-raising training about chemical hazard classification and proper labeling systems.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in partnership with the Board of Investments (BOI), a government agency attached to the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), has organized a training seminar on the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals at the University of Cebu, Banilad Campus in Cebu City.

GHS is a novel internationally-established framework for communicating chemical hazard information, integrating harmonized chemical hazard classification measures and provisions for standardized labels and safety data sheets.

Representatives from the academe, civic and religious groups, labor and peasant associations, small and medium enterprises, government institutions, civil society organizations and the youth came from various cities and municipalities in Cebu.

“The workshop aims to inform the public about the physical, health and environmental hazards of chemicals, thereby acquainting them about the GHS and its relevance to our daily lives,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee member based in Cebu.

“Several countries have already set chemical regulatory systems like GHS and it is our humble desire to assist the concerned agencies in crafting a national implementation scheme for GHS, which is also aligned with the objectives of EcoWaste Coalition’s advocacies on chemical safety and environmental health,” she added.

According to the Official Website of the Cebu Provincial Government, Cebu “is the second largest city and is the fastest growing economy in the Philippines as it leads the country in exporting items such as furniture, fashion accessories, carrageenan and gifts, toys and housewares.”

Furthermore, Cebu is “the most accessible place in the Philippines, with more domestic air and sea linkages than Manila as it is base to over 80 percent of inter-island shipping capacity in the Philippines,” as stated in the provincial website.

As such, the implementation of GHS will be beneficial to the economic stability and growth in the province as it will reduce health care costs, enhance workers’ protection and lower the possibilities of chemical accidents and emergencies.

Local industries will also benefit in terms of efficiency as costs of enforcement and compliance with hazard communication regulations will be greatly reduced as the need for duplicative testing of chemicals on export products will be avoided. Products made in Cebu will also get a boost not only in the national but also in the international market as GHS labeling will improve corporate image and credibility.

Engr. Nelia Granadillos, chief of the Environmental Control Division of the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Quezon City, mentioned in her presentation that “the GHS offers information about the hazards of chemicals in order to aid the consumers in determining suitable safety precautions needed in handling these chemicals.”

“A compatible GHS includes distinguishable chemical hazard classification, user-friendly labeling system, and instructive hazard information on labels and safety data sheets,” she said.

Under the standardized scheme for chemical labeling, a GHS label includes a symbol or pictogram, signal word (for example: “danger,” “warning”) and hazard statement (e.g. “fatal if swallowed,” “toxic if swallowed,” “harmful if swallowed,” “may be harmful if swallowed”). 

Other important GHS label information includes the product identifier, supplier identification and the relevant precautionary statement/s.  

All hazardous chemicals, such as pure substances as well as dilute solutions and mixtures, are covered by the GHS.

The Cebu City workshop organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, just like the one held in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija last November 8, and the succeeding one to be held in Quezon City on November 28 are financed by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) under the BOI-UNITAR GHS Project.


For more information about GHS, please log on to:

Other reference:

Environmentalists Raise Need to Regulate Sky Lanterns

Environmentalists today appealed to the national and local authorities to regulate the use of sky lanterns or mini-hot air balloons before it becomes a craze and “gets out of control.”

As the use of sky lanterns gains popularity in the country, environmental leaders called on the authorities to waste no time in setting a policy that will restrict, if not ban, sky lanterns, in order to ensure human and wildlife safety.

Roy Alvarez of Alaga Lahat, Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz of Ang Nars, Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao, Manny Calonzo of IPEN, Ochie Tolentino of Cavite Green Coalition, Tessa Oliva of Miriam PEACE, Romy Hidalgo of November 17 Movement, Rene Pineda of Partnership for Clean Air and Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of Philippine Earth Justice Center asked the authorities “to take action before the trade in sky lanterns soars during the yuletide season and gets out of control.”

Claims by some traders that sky lanterns are eco-friendly substitutes to the blasting of firecrackers and fireworks and posing no danger to humans and animals prompted them to ask the government to step in and regulate their use.

They specifically asked the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Health, Interior and Local Government, Trade and Industry, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Civil Aviation Authority as well as local government units (LGUs) to instigate the necessary precautionary measures.

“LGUs can initiate appropriate policies regulating sky lanterns as it is within the exercise of their police power to protect the health and ensure the safety of their inhabitants,” stated Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, a Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We support this move for regulation as the released sky lanterns will go somewhere and can cause adverse effects,” said Tessa Oliva of Miriam PEACE, reminding that “everything must go somewhere,” one of the seven environmental principles or commandments of nature.

Sky lanterns, according to the market monitoring on November 22 by the EcoWaste Coalition, are sold in Divisoria for P20 - P50 per piece depending on the number of lanterns bought.

At present, there is no regulation governing the production, sale and use of sky lanterns in the Philippines despite efforts in other countries to limit or prohibit their use because of potential fire hazards as well as safety risks for aircrafts, animals and people.

In Australia, for instance, the government through the Consumer Protection Notice No. 17 of 2011 imposed a permanent ban on sky lanterns, which
"rely on an open flame to heat the air inside the lantern."

“The purpose of the permanent ban on these goods (in Australia) is to ensure ongoing consumer safety by prohibiting the supply of sky lanterns. The associated hazard is the risk of starting an uncontrolled fire if the open flame contacts combustible material, particularly in bushfire‑prone areas,” the notice stated.

In July 2012,
Governor Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii signed House Bill 2113, which bans the ignition, possession, selling, offering for sale, or use of aerial luminaries such as sky lanterns.

In the United Kingdom, David Heath, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, in October 2012 commissioned an inquiry into the effects of sky lanterns on local crops, livestock and the environment.

UK NGOs such as the Marine Conservation Society, National Farmers Union, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Soil Association, Women’s Food and Farming Union and other groups have called for a ban on sky lanterns.

21 November 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Detects Toxic Phthalates Above DOH Limit in PVC Plastic Toys

A toxics watchdog has discovered health-damaging synthetic chemicals called phthalates in some polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic toys way above the 0.1 percent by weight limit set by the Department of Health (DOH).

The EcoWaste Coalition’s disclosure came on the heels of a toy scandal in Italy that saw the police seizing last Monday some 300,000 China-imported plastic dolls, accessories and other items containing high concentrations of phthalates.

Phthalates refer to a group of industrial chemicals used to make PVC plastic softer, pliable and durable, and, which have been shown to disrupt normal endocrine or hormone functions.

Classified as endocrine disrupting chemicals or EDCs, phthalates have been blamed for genital deformities such as deformed penises and undescended testicles, for developmental abnormalities such as cleft palate, for the early onset of puberty and other health problems, including cancer.

“It’s important for the toy industry to assure consumers that only safe toys are offered for sale in the market, especially in bargain hubs like Baclaran and Divisoria, as the buying public have no capacity to tell or to test products for harmful chemicals such as phthalates,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As mouthing of toys laced with phthalates can lead to phthalate exposure, we advise parents to refrain from buying PVC toys and to insist on knowing the chemical ingredients of a product before making any purchase,” she added.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier sent five toy samples to Intertek, a leading company providing laboratory testing services, for phthalate analysis.

Using solvent extraction method, phthalate content of the samples was determined by Gas Chromotographic - Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS).

Laboratory analysis showed three of the five samples laced with phthalates in violation of the 0.1 % by weight limit set by the DOH:

1. A "Power Puff Girl" toy had 20.49 diisononyl phthalate (DINP) and 0.185% dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

2. A "Shrilling Chicken" toy had 13.22% dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

3. A toy doll had 9.10% of diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and 0.21% dibutyl phthalate (DBP).
All three tainted samples were made of PVC plastic materials, and none of them provided information about their chemical contents, Lucero stated.

"Phthalate plasticizers are not chemically attached to PVC plastic materials and can leach and transfer to the air, water, dust and soil. As a precautionary measure, the DOH has disallowed the use of certain phthalates beyond 0.1% by weight in any children's articles and in toys that kids can put in their mouths," said Dr. Agnette Peralta, Director, DOH Bureau of Health Devices and Technology.

Under an administrative order signed by Health Secretary Enrique Ona on December 14, 2011, “it shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the country any children’s toys that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 percent by weight of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP).”

The same directive, amending DOH A.O. 2009-0005, further prohibits the sale of“any children’s toy that can be placed in a child’s mouth that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 % by weight of diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), or di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP).

As early as 1999, the DOH through an advisory issued by the Bureau of Food and Drugs (the predecessor of the Food and Drugs Administration) warned that“phthalates may cause adverse health effects such as liver and kidney wounds, reproductive abnormalities and immune system defects.”

"For the health and wellness of Filipino children, we ask toy manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers not to make and sell PVC children's articles and toys, and to duly label their products to assist consumers in making informed buying decisions," the EcoWaste Coalition said.


Article with Video re Phthalates in Toys Seized by Italian Police:

20 November 2012

Sen. Villar Leads Toy Inspection as NGO Watchdog Bats for Heightened Drive vs "Bad" Toys

The EcoWaste Coalition today called on both the public and private sectors to conduct a non-stop toy safety campaign with Christmas barely over a month away.

The EcoWaste Coalition renewed its plea for toy safety as a multi-sectoral team led by Senator Manny Villar, Chair of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce, held this morning a toy inspection at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Villar, assisted by Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc., screened
some toy samples using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer.

Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Director of the Food and Drug Administration as well as representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, EcoWaste Coalition and the Save the Babies Coalition joined Villar in the said event.

“A relentless drive for toy safety that empowers consumers to exercise their rights, as well as pushes businesses to fulfill their responsibilities, will make the Christmas gift-giving season a safer one for Filipino kids,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

“Consumers should carefully examine toy products and their labels, look for the license to operate (LTO) number and demand other essential information so they can exclude bad toys from their shopping list, particularly toys that can cause physical and chemical harm to young users,” he said.

“Businesses, on the other hand, should only sell toys that have completed rigorous tests for physical and chemical safety, and are properly licensed and labeled as required by law,” he further said.

Villar has so far filed three Senate resolutions on “toxic toys” at the 15
Congress, including Senate Resolutions 204 and 560 that were based on the investigative work done by the EcoWaste Coalition on toys laced with cadmium, lead and other harmful chemicals.

In 2011, the EcoWaste Coalition released the first publicly available data on toxic metals in children’s toys showing 29% of the 435 toy samples procured from Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City with at least one heavy metal above levels of concern.

A similar investigation by the group in July 2012 detected toxic metals above levels of concern in 32% of the 171 toy samples bought from stores outside 18 public elementary schools in Metro Manila’s 17 local government units.

Another follow-up investigation in September 2012 found 49% of the 150 toy samples from various Divisoria retailers to be tainted with heavy metals above “allowable”limits with 148 of the samples carrying no LTO number on their labels.

In a more recent investigation in October 12, the EcoWaste Coalition discovered that 60% of the 100 toy samples it bought from retailers in Baclaran and nearby areas had lead and other toxic metals above levels of concern.

Last November 13, the government through DOH-FDA Advisory 2012-014 warned the public against buying certain plastic toys “in view of the concerns raised regarding children’s toys with heavy metals as these have been found to leach out from the toys when they are sucked or chewed as commonly practiced by children especially the infants.”

19 November 2012

Tell Disney: No More Toxic Plastic

TAKE ACTION – Tell Disney: Make Our Dreams Come True! 
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16 November 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Holds "Toy Clinic" in Tutuban to Promote Toy Safety as a Right and a Responsibility

(Photo by Danny Pata, MST)


A toxics watchdog today conducted a free “toy clinic” as consumers from near and afar trek to Divisoria, the bargain hunters’ paradise, for toys to give or sell this Christmastime.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for children’s right to safe toys, organized the “toy clinic” to stir up consumer awareness about their right to be informed and protected against hazardous chemicals in products such as toys.

In collaboration with the management of Tutuban Mall, the “toy clinic” was also held to call attention to the responsibility of toy makers, both foreign and local, to produce and market non-toxic goods that have passed chemical safety analysis and are properly labelled.

The event saw shoppers, mostly women, lining up to have their toy purchases screened for heavy metals through a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device that is able to detect and measure cadmium, lead, mercury and other chemicals of concern in just a few seconds.

As the toys’ screening was underway, over a dozen green-clad children donning red Santa’s hats, from Buklod Tao-San Mateo, serenaded the crowd with Christmas carols, including the song “Toxic Toys” that they sang to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

Among the EcoWaste partners who graced the occasion was Sara Nilsson, visiting advocate on green consumerism from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Sweden's oldest and largest environmental organization.

“We have come to Divisoria to remind toy consumers to be alert and cautious about the possibility of buying items with hidden toxins that could pose health risks to young users,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“An alert and cautious consumer exercises her rights to get real value for hard-earned money, which includes being safe from undisclosed toxins prowling in products,” he said.

Among these rights are the right to truthful product information, the right to product safety, the right to choose, the right to redress and the right to a healthy environment.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s ongoing drive to purge toxic toys out of the thriving toy market is not without a solid basis.

A pre-Christmas screening of toys bought by the group from Divisoria in September 2012 revealed that 74 of the 150 samples (49%) were laced with heavy metals above levels of concern, including lead that exceeded the US lead in paint limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) in 54 samples (36%).

Also, 148 samples (98.6%) lacked the required license to operate (LTO) number on the product labels, and none of the samples (100%) provided full product information, including a listing of their chemical ingredients.

Last Tuesday, the Department of Health through the Food and Drug Administration issued DOH-FDA Advisory 2012-014 warning consumers about the "harms and hazards of plastic toys with heavy metals as these have been found to leach out from the toys when they are sucked or chewed" by young children.

For children's safety, the DOH-FDA enjoined consumers and parents, among other things, to check the labels for the chemical ingredients used in the manufacture of toys and the precautions appearing on the labels.


13 November 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Calls for Strict Enforcement of Food Labeling Requirements

A toxics watchdog monitoring harmful chemicals in products called for the stringent enforcement of food labeling requirements, especially for imported prepackaged food products.

The group called for compliant food labeling as it welcomed the findings by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the safety of Korean noodles from benzopyrene, a cancer-causing substance, in product batches under scrutiny.

The FDA yesterday lifted the "temporary ban" on six types of Korean instant noodles after laboratory analysis showed the benzopyrene content to be below the 10 parts per billion (ppb) limit used for the recall advisory.

“One of our discoveries at the height of the hullabaloo surrounding the recall of some Korean instant noodles due to the benzopyrene scare was the problem with imported food items with no English or Filipino product information,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The recalled items we obtained from Korean specialty shops were without any English or Filipino translation, depriving the consumers of their right to information and making it difficult for food safety advocates to conduct market monitoring,”she said.

“Labels that are complete, truthful and understandable can guide consumers in making the right choices to safeguard them from abuse, fraud and health risk,” she pointed.

To gauge the “extent” of the labeling problem with imported prepackaged food products, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol went shopping for imported instant noodles on November 10-11, 2012.

The group bought 13 different types of imported instant noodles priced between P20 to P47 from stores selling Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other imported food products in Binondo, Manila City; Cartimar, Pasay City; and Cubao, Quezon City.

Out of the 13 samples, only 4 have basic labeling information written in English, such as a Nissin Chicken Flavor Ramen from Hong Kong, an Indomie Mi Goreng Satay Flavor Instant Noodle from Indonesia, an Ottogi Kimchi Ramen from South Korea and a Wei-Wei Vegetarian Flavor Instant Noodle from Taiwan.

The Myojo, Sanyo and Toyo Suisan Japanese instant noodles – all obtained from Cartimar - have no product information in English.

The Nongshim, Ottogi (2 types) and Paldo Korean noodles bought from Cartimar and Cubao, as well as the two Chinese noodles from Binondo, have no English translation on their labels.

“If there is one thing we can learn from the Korean noodle controversy it is the need to enforce the labeling rules and regulations as instructed by law,”Lucero added.

Lucero was referring to Administrative Order No. 88-B, Series of 1984 on the “Rules and Regulations Governing the Labeling of Prepackaged Food Products Distributed in the Philippines” issued by the Department of Health (then known as the Ministry of Health) as recommended by the Bureau of Food and Drugs (the precursor of the current FDA).

The said AO requires that “the language used for all information on the label shall be either English or Filipino or any major dialect or a combination thereof.”

“In the case of imported food products, labels where in the information are declared in a foreign language must also carry the corresponding English translation, otherwise such products shall not be permitted for local distribution,” the AO said.

According to the AO, all prepackaged food products shall bear the following mandatory information on the label: 1) name of the food, 2) complete list of ingredients, 3) declaration of food additives, 4) net contents and drained weight, 5) name and address of manufacturer, packer and distributor.

“Any violation of the provision of this rules and regulation shall render the article misbranded and the responsible person shall be subject to the penal provision of section 12 (a) of R.A. 3720 (Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act),” the A.O. stated.

“We further suggest the provision of mandatory information that will tell consumers if genetically modified materials, as well as nano materials, were used in the manufacture of food products. We’ve got to know what it is in the foods on our plates,” Lucero added.



09 November 2012

EcoWaste Statement regarding Toxic Waste Dumping in Subic

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog with over 150 member groups nationwide, is deeply concerned with the reported dumping by MT Glenn Guardian of toxic liquid waste collected from visiting US naval ship Emory Land.

As reported by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Ecology Center, MT Glenn Guardian by the Malaysia-owned Glenn Defense Marine Asia dumped the untreated waste within the Philippine territory. Subsequent laboratory analysis of water samples by Subic Water and Sewerage Company showed high level of toxicity. The SBMA has yet to make public the exact results of the said water sampling. 

In this regard, we specifically urge the SBMA, to disclose the full results of the water sampling it commissioned, ascertain with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) the environmental laws and standards violated, and file appropriate charges against the company. The SBMA, we hope, will remain vigilant and ensure the scandal is fully probed, formal charges lodged and just penalties meted out to the entity at fault.

Additionally, we suggest that concerned local government units (LGUs) to coordinate with the DENR and the SBMA and engage the citizens in the investigation, and if necessary, in filing the necessary action.

We reject the use of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to say that the SBMA has no jurisdiction to probe and act against the said toxic waste dumping incident. The defense that the VFA offers an exemption in cases like these should prompt a Senate review of the treaty. Does the agreement imply that US vessels or vessels contracted by the US government to service their ships can freely and without any encumbrances dump their toxic and possibly radioactive wastes in Philippine waters? We urge the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Senate, to articulate their views on this matter - with the public health and the national sovereign interest in mind.

The deliberate disposal of waste at sea from ships and other vessels is most deplorable, and runs against the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (or the London Convention) and its 1996 Protocol (or the London Protocol), which mandates that “all dumping is prohibited, except for possibly acceptable wastes” and "unless explicitly permitted."

In May 2012, the Philippine formally acceded to the London Protocol through the Instrument of Accession signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III and deposited to the International Maritime Organization. The London Protocol is binding on the Philippines effective on June 8, 2012.

We therefore urge the government to decisively act on MT Glenn Guardian’s toxic waste dumping, so that it does not happen again.