Protect Kids from Household Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition Tells

In celebration of National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW), toxics watchdog EcoWaste Coalition issued a call this morning asking the public to shield their kids from hazardous household substances.

"To mark the start of the NPPW and in view of recent news reports of poisoning involving easily accessible toxic materials, like the stain remover oxalic acid in milk tea and donut incidents, we deem it well-timed to warn the general public to adopt measures to prevent poisoning especially of their unsuspecting children," said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

"The use of safe and environment-friendly alternatives to common toxic agents used in households mostly for cleaning purposes will eliminate a host of toxics from our homes," he expressed.

The coalition reverberated their message, "Lason ay Iwasan! Kalusugan at Kaligtasan para sa Kabataan!", spelled boldly on a big orange banner, during a seminar and workshop on common household hazardous substances and their health- and eco-friendly alternatives.

Dr. Erle Castillo, President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, one of the main speakers in the event, stressed that last year, admitted pediatric patients at the Philippine General Hospital due to poisoning incidents were mostly caused by such common household agents as kerosene, the bleaching agent sodium hypochlorite, silver jewelry cleaner, button battery, chlorine granules, and muriatic acid among others.

"By category, PGH listed household/cleaning agents as number 2, next to pharmaceuticals, among the most frequent causes of poisoning cases admitted in the hospital," said Dr. Castillo.

"A house is not a home when there are poisons lurking there," he added.

For her part, Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator of the Cavite Green Coalition and an officer of the EcoWaste Coalition, stressed that most common hazardous household agents can be done away with in the presence of alternatives that are not injurious to health and are eco-friendly.

"Many of us are not aware that alternatives are actually just as common as their toxic counterparts," she stated.

"One such alternative is the ubiquitous baking soda, which while normally used to puff up breads, can be utilized in as many as 51 other uses according to one source: from toothpaste to deodorant, from antacid to insect bite treatment, from boosting detergents to cleaning surfaces and appliances, and from deodorizing refs to cleaning dirt and residues from fruits and veggies," she cited as an example.

Tolentino during the seminar enumerated a host of common yet mostly overlooked non-toxic eco-friendly choices in lieu of toxic household agents. The following are some examples of her non-toxic substitute to hazardous ones: 

For general cleaning:

·    Four (4) tablespoonful of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water can serve as multi-purpose cleaner. Spray or apply it with sponge or rag on surfaces and wipe clean.
·     To polish glass windows, rub them clean with damp newspaper.
·     For stubborn dirt, mix one part vinegar and one part water, apply or spray on the glass and wipe until dry and shiny.

To freshen air:

·    Leave 2 tablespoonful of baking soda on a dish to absorb bad smell.
·    Place "sabila" (aloe vera) in the rooms to absorb toxins and freshen the air.
·    Simmer slices of calamansi, lemon or any citrus in season in a pot over low heat to rid the air of stale smell.
·        Create potpourri from available herbs, spices and indigenous flowers.

To clean floor:

·    For floor tiles and linoleum, mix ½ to 1 cup vinegar with 1 gallon hot water, apply and mop clean.
·    In place of the usual floor wax, polish wooden floors with banana leaves and scrub with "bunot".
·  To remove stubborn stains from the floor, mix 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water, apply, let stand, scrub and wipe clean.

For kitchen cleaning:

·     To remove burnt hardened food ("tutong") from cookware, sprinkle the bottom of the pot or pan with baking soda, add hot water, soak for a few hours as necessary, wash and rinse well.
·      Scrub burned pots and pans with "is-is" leaves or plain moist soil to remove the "uling" (char).
·      To remove grease and grime from pots and pans, make a paste of 3 tablespoonful of baking soda, water and a dash of salt. Dip a sponge into the paste, rub onto greasy parts, leave paste to dry, then rinse with hot water.
·    To clear a clogged drain, pour baking soda and then add boiling water. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water. For normal cleaning of basin and drain, use full-strength vinegar.
·      Place baking soda or pieces of charcoal in an open container inside the refrigerator to eliminate odors.
·      To neutralize unpleasant kitchen odors, boil a cup or two of vinegar in a small pot to absorb the smell.

To eliminate pests:

·     To drive cockroaches away, put some raw bay or pandan leaves in cupboards.
·    To make a cockroach trap, half fill a bottle with a sweet drink and add a tablespoon of oil. Bury the dead cockroaches afterwards.
·    To repel ants, crumble dry bay leaves in doorways and window sills; or mash chili in water, or mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water and apply to counter tops; or squeeze calamansi juice into holes or cracks where ants come from.
·     For houseflies, scratch the skin of an orange or other citrus fruit and leave out.
·    To drive mosquitoes away, plant malvarosa, marigold, basil, "tanglad" (lemon grass), or citronella around the house.

The seminar/workshop, which was conducted to raise public awareness on poison prevention as directed in the Presidential Proclamation No. 1777, Series of 2009, declaring every fourth week of June each year as National Poison Prevention Week, was participated in by barangay health workers, community leaders, informal waste sector members, representatives from local government units and civil society organizations.




In April 2015, two individuals in Sampaloc, Manila died after ingesting milk tea laced with oxalic acid.  In June this year, 41 students of a public elementary school in Cauayan, Negros Occidental were brought to hospitals for food poisoning after consuming “bitchokoy” (a local donut) sprinkled with white sugar mixed with oxalic acid.