Sale of Deadly Cleaning Agents by Sidewalk Vendors Alarms Toxics Watchdog
Unregistered and unlabeled silver jewelry cleaner on sale in Rizal Avenue near Recto Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Manila (top photos); repacked oxalic acid sold along with herbal products and other stuff in Evangelista Street, Quiapo, Manila.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on toxic chemicals, products and wastes, has expressed grave concern over the sale of dangerous cleaning products in Manila's sidewalks.
The non-profit environmental and health advocacy group made its concern known after finding silver jewelry cleaning solution and oxalic acid powder on sale in Rizal Avenue, Santa Cruz, and in Evangelista Street and Quezon Boulevard in Quiapo, respectively.
The group’s Toxic Patroller on Saturday, April 15, found bottles of liquid silver jewelry cleaner being sold for P35 per unit by a sidewalk vendor in Rizal Avenue near Recto Avenue.
The water-like solution is packed in a small 80 ml plastic bottle that has no labeling information aside from the handwritten “silver cleaner.”
The group also found repacked and unlabelled oxalic acid powder being sold for as low as P20 per pack by herbalists in Evangelista Street and Quezon Boulevard.
“Police and health authorities have identified these cleaning agents as the culprits behind some of the gruesome poisoning incidents reported in Metro Manila and elsewhere, including several fatal cases,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Liquid silver cleaners, which may contain cyanide, have resurfaced in Manila’s sidewalks seven months after Mayor Joseph Estrada ordered a crack down against the deadly mixture,” he said.
In late August 2016, Estrada, reacting to an EcoWaste Coalition’s exposé, directed the City Health Office to conduct raids on stores violating City Ordinance No. 8178, Series of 2008, which prohibits the retail sale of metal and jewelry cleaners containing cyanide.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cyanide “is classified as poisonous which can be rapidly absorbed by the body through inhalation, ingestion and dermal absorption.”
“It blocks utilization of oxygen in all organs and liable to cause serious injury to human health that may lead to acute poisoning or death,” the FDA said.
“Oxalic acid has not really disappeared from the informal street market despite the high-profile milk tea deaths in Sampaloc, Manila due to this lethal cleaning agent,” Dizon pointed out.
In April 2015, Ergo Cha shop owner William Abrigo and customer Suzaine Dagohol died after drinking milk tea contaminated with oxalic acid.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), oxalic acid is colorless crystals or white powder that can be absorbed into the body by inhalation of its aerosol and by ingestion.
“The substance is corrosive to the eyes, the skin and the respiratory tract and exposure above the occupational exposure limits may result in death,” the CDC said.
To prevent further poisoning cases, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the city’s law enforcers to end the street sale of silver jewelry cleaner and oxalic acid once and for all.