29 September 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Concerted Action to Ensure Consumer Protection against Unsafe Goods ahead of the Christmas Shopping Spree

As shoppers start to make a beeline for popular Christmas goodies such as children’s toys, a public interest advocacy group called on both the government and the industry to ensure that consumers are protected against hazardous goods this festive season.

In observance of the Consumer Welfare Month (CWM) this October, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized the bigger responsibility of the government and the industry in guaranteeing that consumers are protected against abuses and imbalances in the marketplace. 

The theme for this year’s CWM, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is “Consumer Protection: A Shared Responsibility.”  

“While protecting the consumer interest is indeed a shared responsibility, we believe that the government and the industry have the greater obligation of upholding the legally guaranteed rights of the Filipino consumer considering the powers and resources these two other pillars of consumer protection have,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the “Handbook on ASEAN Consumer Protection Laws and Regulations,” consumer protection pertains “to the measures that aim to protect and promote the well-being and/or financial interests of consumers.”

“Consumer protection measures, including consumer education, mobilization and representation, work to ensure that consumers can make well-informed decisions about their choices and that producers and sellers will fulfill their promises about the products and services they offer,” it further said.

“As the consumer right to safety is one of the frequently ignored rights during the holiday season, we urge the government and the industry to take extra steps to protect consumers against products that are hazardous to health, life or property,” he said.

“As we press concerned agencies and businesses to act, we likewise urge consumers to be on the lookout for shoddy and unsafe goods and to avoid impulsive and reckless purchase that can put their own well-being and safety, and those of the people they care for, at risk,” Dizon said.

As consumers, we have the responsibility, among other things, to be more vigilant and inquisitive about the products and services we select and pay for, as well as our responsibility to be mindful of the environmental impacts of our consumption choices and what we throw away during this joyful season, the group said.

Dizon specifically cautioned consumers against the careless purchase of popular holiday products like children’s toys, gift items, and yuletide decorations that may pose hazards to health, life or property.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, toys not compliant with safety standards may contain substances of concern like cadmium, lead and mercury, brominated flame retardants and phthalates, which can pose chemical hazards, especially to young children.

Some gift items, which are often sold unlabeled, may not be safe for children, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups due to their chemical and physical properties, while decorations like substandard Christmas lights may result in electric shock and may even trigger fires, the group said.

CWM is observed every October according to Proclamation No. 1098 issued in 1997 by then President Fidel Ramos “to set aside a period during which concerted efforts for the assertion of consumer rights may be thoroughly discussed, planned and carried out.”





25 September 2019

Typhoon Ondoy’s 10th Anniversary: Groups Urge All LGUs to Re-Commit to Building Disaster-Resilient and Healthy Communities

Buklod Tao – EcoWaste Coalition
Joint Press Release

As the 10th anniversary of the devastating tropical storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) is observed tomorrow, September 26, environmental health groups urged all cities and municipalities to re-commit to building disaster-resilient and healthy communities as the impacts of deteriorating global climate continue to unfold.

“As we recall the wrath of Ondoy, we urge all city and municipal governments to assess their compliance to the provisions of two vital post-Ondoy laws - Republic Acts 9729 and 10121 - in order to foster climate adaptation and disaster resilience, especially in our poor and vulnerable communities,” said Noli Abinales, founder of Buklod Tao and former president of the EcoWaste Coalition.

RA 9729, or the Climate Change Act of 2009, directs local government units, among other things, to put together and regularly update their Local Climate Change Action Plans (LCCAPs) to reflect changing social, economic, and environmental conditions and emerging issues.

While RA 10121, or the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, requires Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plans (LDRRMPs) to be drawn up, reviewed and tested, among other provisions.

“The effective implementation of holistic people-driven LCCAPs and LDRRMPs is essential if we are to strengthen the disaster preparedness and emergency response capacities of families and communities, particularly those living in hazard-prone and high-risk localities,” Abinales said.  

“Let the tragic memories of Ondoy and other extreme weather disturbances remind us of the need to faithfully carry out the provisions of RA 9729 and RA 10121,” he added.

Recalling the massive garbage crisis in the aftermath of Ondoy, Abinales also emphasized the need to fully enforce RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, to alleviate the impact of natural disasters.

“The proactive enforcement of RA 9003 will prevent garbage from blocking waterways and aggravating the flooding due to heavy rainfall,” he said.  

According to the groups, the ecological management of discards before, during and after any calamity must form part of effective LDRRMPs. 

Preventing the generation of garbage and ensuring that discards are properly sorted, recycled, reused or composted will help families and communities in minimizing the adverse impacts of any disaster to health, environment and the economy.

The groups noted that mismanaged wastes exacerbate hygiene and sanitation problems in disaster-affected communities and cause the spread of preventable diseases.



22 September 2019

Zero Waste Group Seeks a Stop to Open Defecation as Polio Re-Emerges in PH

A waste and pollution watchdog group urged national and local authorities to intensify the government’s Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program as polio, one of the most feared childhood diseases, makes unwelcomed comeback in the country.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed to the need to achieve ZOD after the Department of Health (DOH) recently confirmed two polio cases involving a three-year old girl from Lanao del Sur and a five-year old boy from Laguna.

Described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease,” polio or poliomyelitis is caused by the poliovirus, which is transmitted through the human feces, especially in places with poor hygiene and sanitation.

“The unwelcomed return of polio in the Philippines, after almost two decades of being declared polio-free by WHO, should lead to an intensified implementation of the ZOD program and other preventive measures, including ecological solid waste management, toward improved environmental sanitation in our communities,” said Jovito Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Attaining the ZOD target will benefit sectors such as young children, pregnant women and those with impaired immune systems who are most vulnerable to polio and other infectious diseases,” he pointed out.

“We can prevent polio from spreading through effective immunization and by ensuring people’s access to such basic necessities like water, sanitation and hygiene,” he added.
To achieve the ZOD target, every household in a barangay should have access to a sanitary toilet and water supply, the DOH said.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO, some seven million Filipinos still practice open defecation, particularly in rural areas.

The DOH’s "Guidebook for a ZOD Program" defines open defecation as “the practice of passing feces outside a latrine or toilet, or in a natural environment (open field, body of water, etc.) and leaving the fecal matter exposed.”

To stop open defecation,  the EcoWaste Coalition also urged Congress to ensure the allocation of sufficient funds for the construction of sanitary toilet facilities and the provision of hygiene and sanitation education, noting that only P2 million is allotted for building toilets in the proposed DOH budget of P160.15 billion for 2020.




21 September 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Mercury Content and Hazard Labeling of Fluorescent Lamps

To uphold the consumer’s right to know, a toxics watchdog group is asking the lighting industry to provide mercury content information on fluorescent lamps and their packaging. 

In anticipation of the global phase-out in 2020 of specific mercury-added products, including certain types of fluorescent lamps, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed for essential labeling information to assist consumers in picking fluorescent bulbs with the lowest mercury content.

“Specifying the mercury content on the lamp and its packaging will help consumers in selecting the bulb with the least amount of mercury, and avoiding those scheduled for phase-out  by 2020 as per the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“Without the mercury content information, it would be difficult for consumers, as well as for government regulators, to identify fluorescent lamps that should no longer be sold in the market starting next year,” he pointed out.

The said mercury treaty, which the Philippines has signed but not yet ratified, provides for the phase-out by 2020 of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) equal to or less than 30 watts with mercury content above 5 mg mercury per lamp, as well as linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) such as triband phosphor less than 60 watts with mercury content exceeding 5 mg per lamp and halophosphate phosphor equal to or less than 40 watts with mercury content greater than 10 mg per lamp.

The phase-out also covers high pressure mercury vapor lamps (HPMV) for general lighting purposes, and a variety of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) and external electrode fluorescent lamps (EEFLs) for electronic displays.

The EcoWaste Coalition also urged the lighting industry to provide for mercury hazard warning as specified in Philippine National Standards (PNS) IEC 60968:2012 for self-ballasted lamps.

Among other things, the said PNS requires the following labeling information:  “WARNING: Contains Mercury, Handle with Care and Dispose Properly.”

“The inclusion of such basic cautionary statement will promote the safe handling of fluorescent lamps to avoid breakage and to reduce the risk of mercury exposure from broken lamps through inhalation of the mercury vapor or dermal contact with the mercury-laden phosphor powder.  Proper disposal will help in limiting the amount of mercury entering disposal sites and polluting communities,” Dizon said.

According to the “Guidebook on the Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Wastes” published by the government, “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic, especially to the developing nervous system, which is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.”

“Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, vision loss, sensation loss, and tremors,” it said.

It warned that “even at low-level exposure to mercury has caused serious health effects, including neurological damage, reproductive system damage, behavioral problems and learning disabilities.”

“Mercury is also a suspected endocrine disruptor, which means it can damage the reproductive and hormonal development and growth of fetuses and infants,” the guidebook said




“Guidebook on the Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Wastes,” DOE/DENR

17 September 2019

Green Groups Urge the Government to Adopt Two Policy Measures to Protect PH from Becoming a Global Dumpsite (Groups vow to keep up the pressure against dumping of foreign wastes in PH)

As the authorities grapple with the repacking of over 5,000 tons of illegal waste cargoes stranded in Misamis Oriental for re-export to South Korea, environmental health and justice groups vow to keep up the pressure to prevent the recurrence of foreign waste dumping via the country’s seaports.

Emboldened by the impending entry into force of the Basel Ban Amendment on December 5, 2019, the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines jointly urged the government to adopt two critical policy measures that will ensure the protection of the country’s people and the environment against the adverse impacts of foreign waste importation often in the guise of recycling.

The Basel Ban Amendment, adopted on September 22, 1995, will soon become an international law after Croatia’s ratification on September 6, 2019.  It prohibits the export of hazardous wastes for all reasons, including recycling, from rich countries belonging to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Union (EU) and Liechtenstein to developing countries.  The Philippines has yet to ratify the said amendment to the Basel Convention

"The advantage of ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment is that it prohibits hazardous waste imports outright if a country has ratified it," said Greenpeace campaigner Abigail Aguilar.  "However, despite its imminent entry into force, the Philippines is still not exempted from receiving toxic waste from developed countries at it has not yet submitted its own instrument of ratification.  We may, in fact, be at greater risk of being the world's dumping ground and destination of choice without this treaty to protect us.  The Philippine government should therefore expedite the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment.  There should be no cause for delay." 

“As the Basel Ban Amendment is limited only to hazardous waste shipments coming from rich countries, we deem it essential for the Philippines to impose a national ban on waste importation that will cover all wastes, including household and plastic wastes, from all countries,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment and further prohibiting the export of all wastes to the Philippines will be our best legal protection against waste trafficking that has outraged the whole nation with the seizure of thousands of tons of illegal waste consignments from Canada, Hong Kong and South Korea,” she added.

As President Rodrigo Duterte has verbally ordered the ban on foreign waste imports last May 6, both the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace see no justification for further delaying the country’s ratification of the 24-year old Basel Ban Amendment.

The groups also noted that a cost-benefit study commissioned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has concluded that the Philippines has the capacity to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment based on net positive assessment.

According to international law experts, parties that are waste exporters can keep exporting if they do not ratify the Basel Ban Amendment --- but only to countries that have not ratified the amendment. 

With the entry into force of the Basel Ban Amendment, Canada now cannot ship hazardous waste to China, Indonesia or Malaysia because they have ratified the amendment. 

However, Canada can export hazardous waste to the Philippines, subject to prior informed consent, because neither country has ratified the amendment.  Under Article 4.1 (c) of the Basel Convention, Canada cannot export to parties that do not consent.

“Together with our allies in the government, the environmental health and justice movement and the broader civil society, we vow to remain vigilant against global waste trade,” the groups asserted.





Joint Press Release from the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace
Media Contacts:
Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines, 0998-5892551
Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition, 0917-8369592

Pig Raisers Urged to Ensure Safe Disposal of Dead Animals

The EcoWaste Coalition has joined national and local government officials in appealing to backyard hog raisers not to dispose of dead pigs in creeks and rivers to prevent contamination of water with pathogenic bacteria.

Reacting to the discovery of dead pigs floating in the Marikina River and a creek in Barangay Silangan, Quezon City, the waste and pollution watchdog group urged pig farmers to report sick pigs to the authorities and to coordinate with them for the safe disposal of dead animals who may be infected with the African Swine Fever (ASF).

“We appeal to affected hog raisers to ensure the safe disposal of carcasses to prevent polluting the environment, especially our water resources,” said Jovito Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“By cooperating with their city or municipal veterinarians, hog raisers can be promptly assisted by trained government personnel in the proper way of disposing dead animals and in cleaning and disinfecting the environs of infected pigs,” he added.

Benosa also reminded the public that dumping dead animals in waterways will be in clear violation of RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and RA 9275, or the Clean Water Act, noting that violators may be held civilly and criminally liable.

According to the “Manual on the Preparation of African Swine Fever Contingency Plans” published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), disposal “must be done in such a way that the carcasses no longer constitute a risk for further spread of the pathogen to other susceptible animals by direct or indirect means, for example by carrion eaters, scavengers or through contamination of food or water.”

“This is usually done by deep burial, depending on the nature of the terrain, level of water tables and availability of earth-moving equipment, or by burning, depending on availability of fuels and the danger of starting grass or bush fires,” stated the FAO animal health manual.

“Safe burial or burning of carcasses and other infected materials, cleansing and disinfection of infected premises, and keeping infected premises/villages without pigs for a safe period” are among the main elements of a stamping-out policy for ASF, the manual said.

“Deep burial is the recommended method of carcass disposal to ensure elimination of the virus from the environment,” the manual further said, noting that “burning requires considerable skill to achieve effective results (as) in most cases the carcasses are not incinerated but merely roasted.”



15 September 2019

Consumers Seeking Lighter Skin Tone Reminded Not to Take a Chance on Mercury-Tainted Products (EcoWaste Coalition urges consumers to discontinue use of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics as Californian woman fell into coma due to mercury poisoning)

A non-profit watchdog group has again cautioned consumers against using unregistered skin lightening cosmetics contaminated with mercury, a highly toxic chemical.

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded members of the public to shun such  skin whitening products to prevent mercury poisoning that can harm the brain, kidneys, skin, and other organs and systems of the human body.

“We urge consumers to steer clear of products promising fairer and flawless skin that lack market authorization from health authorities and whose quality and safety cannot be assured,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The application of such products onto the skin may in fact result to skin discoloration, rashes and scarring and to other health issues linked to mercury poisoning,” he added.

The group warned that mercury-added skin whitening cosmetics proliferate in the domestic market citing the continued illegal sale, offline and online, of Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day and Night Whitening Cream despite being banned in 2017 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their mercury content.

The group on Friday, September 13, managed to buy the proscribed “made in Pakistan” Goree products at Victory Lacson Underpass in Quiapo, Manila.  Subsequent screening using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device detected mercury at 21,100 and 25, 300 parts per million (ppm) in the two products, way in excess of the allowable limit of 1 ppm.

The group on Saturday saw more retailers of beauty and herbal products at Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall in Pasay City selling the banned Goree products and other prohibited mercury-contaminated skin whitening products such Golden Pearl Beauty Cream and Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream..

The latest appeal from the EcoWaste Coalition followed a report of a 47-year old woman from Sacramento, California, USA who fell into a coma for weeks after using a skincare product that has been adulterated with methylmercury, a very poisonous form of mercury.

As announced by the Sacramento County Public Health Services last September 9, “the woman obtained the skin cream through an informal network that imported the cream from Mexico. This type of cream is used by consumers as a skin lightener and to remove spots and wrinkles.”

It said that “methylmercury can enter the nervous system and can also cause severe illness among household contacts, especially in pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.”

Signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning include the following: difficulty concentrating, memory loss, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia,  headaches, weight loss, fatigue,  tremors, and numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or around the lips.

Over the last nine years, over 60 cases of mercury poisoning linked to the use of foreign brand, unlabeled, and/or homemade skin creams have been documented in California.

“The mercury poisoning tragedy that befell the unidentified Californian woman should stir Filipino consumers of unregistered skin whitening cosmetics into exercising extreme caution, including stopping the purchase and use of such products, to avoid mercury exposure risk,"  the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.






11 September 2019

Davao City Retailers Continue to Peddle Toxic Cosmetics with Lead and Mercury (Groups Push for Tougher Sanctions to Stop Sale of Poison Cosmetics)

Davao City/Quezon City.  A non-profit toxics watchdog group has again alerted Davao City consumers, especially women and girls, against buying and using  contraband and counterfeit cosmetics that are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury and lead.

The EcoWaste Coalition put consumers on full alert after a visiting team from the group’s office in Quezon City procured dozens of skin whitening creams and lipsticks containing mercury and lead above the regulatory limits of 1 and 20 parts per million (ppm), respectively.

The group bought the dangerous products on September 7 and 8 from downtown Davao retailers for P20 to P120 each, and subsequently screened them for heavy metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device. 

Out of 20 skin whitening products, 13 were found to contain mercury in excess of the 1 ppm limit.  Mercury amounting to 1,187 to 2,330 ppm was detected in Erna, Jiaoli and S’Zitang creams, which have long been banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their high mercury content.

Out of 100 lipstick products, 24 had lead levels ranging from 118 to 30,500 ppm.  Counterfeit lipsticks bearing the names MAC Vivaglam, Dermacol and April Skin were found to be laced with lead way above the 20 ppm limit. 

“Both lead and mercury are highly toxic and are not permitted as ingredients in cosmetic product formulations.  The continued sale of cosmetics laden with these poisons, most of which are contraband and counterfeit items, is putting the health of consumers at risk and should be stopped,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The group’s latest exposé provides a compelling reason for the city government to act.  As this appalling trade in toxic cosmetics has been going on for years, we urge the City Council to consider enacting an ordinance as a deterrent to such an unlawful act,” said Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS).

In addition to regular monitoring of business compliance to product safety regulations, the EcoWaste Coalition and IDIS urged city authorities to impose tougher sanctions, including hefty fines, jail time and business permit cancellation, against erring establishments and individuals, especially those who repeatedly engage in the unlawful manufacture, importation, distribution or sale of unsafe goods that can harm human health and the ecosystems.    

Both groups believed that combined national and local government action has to be strengthened to protect public health and the environment from dangerous chemicals lurking in consumer products such as cosmetics.

“Aside from the health benefits that such action will bring about, halting the sale of poison cosmetics will prevent the leakage of lead and mercury into the environment, particularly when these chemicals are discharged into the wastewater and into water bodies,” the groups pointed out.    

Both mercury and lead are highly toxic even at low levels, are well-studied neurotoxicant, and recognized endocrine disrupting chemicals.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed lead and mercury among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern.”

Exposure to mercury and lead of developing fetuses in pregnant women, babies and young children can cause developmental delays, learning difficulties, reduced attention span, language skills and verbal memory, and reproductive disorders. 

Adult exposure to mercury can cause physical tremors, vision abnormality, irritability and memory problems, while adult exposure to lead can cause joint and muscle paint, high blood pressure, difficulties with concentration or memory, mood disorders, and miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women.

According to the WHO, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”  It added that “mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”

The Minamata Convention on Mercury has set a global phase-out target by 2020 for cosmetics such as skin lightening creams and soaps with mercury content above 1 ppm.  

This Philippines, which has signed but not yet ratified the said chemical treaty, launched last July 2019 a "National Action Plan (NAP) for the Phase-Out of Mercury-Added Products and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes."

The NAP, developed with support from UNIDO and the Swiss Government and with inputs from public and private stakeholders, including the EcoWaste Coalition, contains a detailed account on what "the government is planning to take to address the environmentally sound management of mercury-containing products with a life-cycle approach in accordance with the Minamata and Basel Conventions."






Photos: Toxic Cosmetics Containing Lead and Mercury Contaminants On Sale in Davao City

09 September 2019

Green Groups Push for a Ban on Single-Use Plastics (SUPs) in Davao City and the Rest of the Philippines

Two environmental health organizations have added their voices to the chorus of citizens seeking a phase-out of the most wasteful evidence of our throw-away society: single-use plastics or SUPs.

For the Davao City-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and for the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition, SUPs, also referred to as disposable plastics, have to go to stem the tide of chemicals and plastics polluting the natural environment, including the world’s oceans.  

IDIS, a group championing the protection and management of life-sustaining watersheds from ridge to reef in South-Central Mindanao, is pushing for a citywide ban on SUPs, while the EcoWaste Coalition, a group advocating for a zero waste and toxics-free future, is pushing for a law that will ban SUPs nationwide.   
SUPs typically include plastic items intended to be used once before they are disposed of or recycled such as bottles, cutlery, cups, sachets, stirrers, straws, and the ubiquitous plastic bags and polystyrene containers or Styrofoam.

“Banning SUPs will have a huge impact on Davao City’s daily waste generation estimated at 570-600 metric  tons per day,” said Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director, IDIS, noting that SUPs and other residual wastes make up 29% of the city’s trash.    

“This will translate to less plastic being produced, consumed and disposed of, less plastic being dumped or burned, and less plastic leaking to the Davao Gulf and into the Pacific Ocean.  Aside from the benefits of cutting plastic pollution, banning SUPs will also help in re-shaping people’s behavior with increased awareness on the need to cut down on plastic use and the overall disposable culture,” she added.  

With Councilor Diosdado Mahipus Jr. chairing the Committee on Environment, IDIS and the Davao CSOs - Sustainable Davao Movement are optimistic that an ordinance banning SUPs will be enacted before 2019 ends.  The councilor, who is co-organizing the "Ban SUPs" symposium today, had earlier expressed his commitment to prioritize the enactment of the said measure for which the environmental groups are most thankful. 

For her part, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, pointed to the need for the 18th Congress to fast track the passage of a law that will ban SUPs.

“We urge Congress to legislate a national ban on SUPs to curb chemical and waste pollution that is causing untold harm to the natural environment,” she said.

“Such a law is needed to stimulate and strengthen actions by local government units to address the scourge of throw-away plastic.  It should set a phase-out target and timeline,  promote alternatives, and provide for incentives to encourage consumer and industry shift to eco-friendly products and packaging,” she further said.

Citing a 2018 UN report on SUPs, IDIS and the EcoWaste Coalition enumerated some of the environmental problems associated with SUPs, including plastic bags clogging waterways and exacerbating natural disasters, plastics being ingested by marine animals who mistake them for food, and toxic emissions from the burning of plastic wastes.

“There is evidence that the toxic chemicals added during the manufacture of plastic transfer to animal tissue, eventually entering the human food chain,” the report said.

According to the same report, “Styrofoam products, which contain carcinogenic chemicals like styrene and benzene, are highly toxic if ingested, damaging the nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs. The toxins in Styrofoam containers can leach into food and drinks.”  



https://reloopplatform.eu/wp- content/uploads/2018/06/UNEP- report-on-single-use-plastic. pdf

08 September 2019

Baguio City Council’s Move to Ban Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Creams Gets Thumbs Up from Toxics Watchdog Group

The ongoing effort by the Baguio City Council to enact an ordinance banning mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics got a thumbs up from a toxics watchdog group.

The Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition lauded the successful first public hearing last September 4 for the proposed measure that was filed by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan after being certified as "urgent" by Mayor Benjamin Magalong last July 18. 

Councilor Philian Weygan–Allan, Chairperson of the Committee on Market, Trade, Commerce and Agriculture, presided over the public hearing that brought together stakeholders from the regional offices of the Departments of  Health, Environment and Natural Resources, and Trade and Industry, as well as representatives from the private sector, including business establishments and shopping malls.

In an e-mail sent to the EcoWaste Coalition on September 5, Councilor Allan said “we all agreed that we need to pass the ordinance and we need more advocates” as she thanked the group for its “work and commitment” that brought the matter to the attention of the city authorities.

“We are pleased with the progress made so far by the City Council to legislate an ordinance that will soon make the illegal trade of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in Baguio City a thing of the past,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The anticipated approval and enforcement of the ordinance will serve as Baguio City’s contribution to the looming global phase-out by 2020 of skin whitening cosmetics with mercury content above one part per million (ppm),” he pointed out.

Dizon explained that the Minamata Convention of Mercury, which the Philippine government signed on October 10, 2013, listed cosmetics such as skin lightening soaps and creams containing mercury above 1 ppm among the mercury-added products (MAPs) to be phased out by 2020.

In this connection, the DENR, with inputs from public and private sector stakeholders and with support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Swiss Government, has developed a “National Action Plan (NAP) for the Phase-Out of MAPs and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes.”

If approved, the proposed Baguio City ordinance will prohibit and penalize the “manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale of cosmetics with mercury content in excess of 1 ppm.

It will also prohibit the “sale, wholesale or retail, (of cosmetics) that have not been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or have not complied with labeling requirements as required by the FDA. “

Lastly, the ordinance will further prohibit the “open dumping or open burning or disposal of banned/recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics along with regular city solid waste.”

Mercury, a highly toxic chemical, “is a potent bio-accumulating and bio-magnifying neurotoxin that can cause neurological damage affecting behavior and cognitive facilities, mental disorder, infertility, kidney damage, and respiratory failure,” according to the NAP.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”




06 September 2019

Groups Seek Justice for Filipina Worker in Taiwan Who Died from Chemical Burns at Electronics Factory

Source: Deserie Castro Tagubasi Facebook

Philippines/Taipei, Taiwan.  Environmental health groups from Taiwan and the Philippines have joined the mounting clamor for justice for Filipina worker Deserie Castro Tagubasi who died from an acid spill while working at Tyntek  electronics factory in the Chunan Science Park, Miaoli County. 

In a joint press statement, the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation (EQPF) of Taiwan and the EcoWaste Coalition of the Philippines condoled with the co-workers of Tagubasi and her family in Isabela province as both groups echoed the need for full and impartial investigation of the fatal incident and the strengthening of rules to prevent occupational hazards. 

“The Ministry of Labor should initiate a complete investigation report on this case, including Tyntek Corporations' work distribution, hazard notification, protective measures, emergency procedures, etc., especially whether there is unreasonable differential treatment for foreign female workers,” said Dr. Ying-Shih Hsieh, Chairman, EQPF and President, Taiwan Society of International Law (TSIL).

“We also demand that the government of Taiwan should adopt the ‘International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families’ as soon as possible,” he added, echoing the call by the Taiwan Society of International Law (TSIL). 

Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, said the appalling incident should compel Tyntek  and other electronics companies into developing a new process, with workers’ participation, that will ensure occupational health and safety in the multi-billion dollar industry.

“It’s high-time for the electronics industry to stop putting the health of their workers at risk due to exposure to highly toxic substances used in the manufacture of e-devices.   Hazardous chemicals must be replaced with safer alternatives that will not poison workers nor pollute the environment ,” he said.

“With respect to the ongoing investigation on Tagubasi’s death, we demand that company executives should be held accountable for the serious lapse in safety procedures, and that Tagubasi’s family should be justly compensated,  noting that no amount can truly compensate for their loss,” he added.

For his part, Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Adviser of IPEN said: "Ms. Tagubasi's untimely death at work is a tragic wake-up call about an industry built on toxic chemical use.  Regulations governing the industry  should be carefully reviewed, strengthened, and enforced to prevent any injuries or deaths in the future."  IPEN is a global civil society network for a toxics-free future that includes the EQPF and the EcoWaste Coalition among its over 500 members in 120 countries. 

As reported by the Central News Agency (CNA), 29-year old Tagubasi suffered fatal burns on August 28 when she accidentally dropped a small container of hydrofluoric acid that she was carrying.  The acid splattered her legs, causing burns that resulted in her death later in the day at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, where she had been transferred from a hospital Miaoli, the CNA said.

But, as pointed out by Fidel Macauyag, Director of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Taiwan, the company did not provide Tagubasi and her co-workers with full body protection from hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic chemical, and were not given adequate safety training.  The labor official also revealed that, as told to him by other workers, the factory did not even have the chemicals on hand to neutralize the chemical in case of accident.   

Hydrofluoric acid, also known as hydrogen fluoride, is a highly corrosive agent that is used in industrial applications such as in electronics manufacturing.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “even small splashes of high-concentration hydrogen fluoride products on the skin can be fatal.”







03 September 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Bares Toxic K-Pop Accessories

Attention of Pinoy K-Pop fans: Not all cute K-Pop accessories are safe from toxic chemicals that can harm human health and pollute the environment.

Waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition made this statement after screening unofficial K-Pop merchandise that the group bought from retailers in Divisoria. Manila for P35 to P240 each and subsequently analyzed for heavy metals using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

“Some plastic accessories inspired by popular South Korean K-Pop bands and artists contain lead and other toxic metals,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  

As per XRF screening performed by the group on 11 K-Pop merchandise, six items, mostly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic key chains and luggage tags, were found to contain lead in the range of 414 to 5,831 parts per million.  The highest lead content was detected on a “Cooky” luggage tag.

Traces of arsenic and cadmium were also found on some of the items that screened positive for lead, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.

On the other hand, a black “BTS” rubber wrist baller, a necklace with “Chimmy” pendant, a white “RJ” luggage tag, a “Tata” hair clip, and a water container with a “Chimmy” character tested negative for toxic metals, the group said.

None of the 11 K-Pop accessories had product labeling information, including cautionary warning about their chemical ingredients, the group added.

“We make this information public not to spoil the pleasure of Pinoy K-Pop fans, but to encourage them to be inquisitive when buying items featuring their idols,” Dizon emphasized.  

“Consumers have the right to be protected against products that may pose hazards to health or life,” he added.

“In fact, this right is recognized by the Consumer Act of the Philippines, which directs the government to implement measures that will protect consumers against hazards to health and safety,” he said.

PVC plastic products such as school supplies,  toys and K-Pop accessories may contain harmful chemical additives such as lead and other heavy metals, which can be toxic to human health.

According to the report “PVC: The Poison Plastic” by US non-profit Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), “no other plastic contains or releases as many dangerous chemicals. These include dioxins, phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, lead, cadmium, and organotins. There’s no safe way to manufacture, use or dispose of PVC products.”

“The toxic additives on PVC plastic products can leach out or disperse into the air over time, posing health risks, especially to children.  Their disposal is also problematic as burning or incinerating PVC will cause the formation of highly toxic byproduct pollutant called dioxins,” said Dizon.

Dioxins belong to a growing list of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) targeted for global action under the Stockholm Convention on POPs, which counts on the Philippines among the state parties to this chemical treaty.






02 September 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Vacuum Flasks Coated with Lead Paint

While cute and reusable, some yellow and red coated vacuum flasks may present a lead exposure risk, especially to children.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, made this revelation after screening for lead content six vacuum flasks that it recently bought from retailers in Manila and Quezon Cities for P100 to P388 each.

“Out of six samples, we found four to be decorated with yellow and red paint containing high levels of lead way beyond the 90 parts per million (ppm) regulatory limit,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Lead is toxic if ingested and can cause adverse health problems, especially for vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women,” he said.

“Children could touch and ingest the lead in paint on the exterior surface of the flask when they drink from it, especially if the paint has started to chip due to scratching and frequent use,” he explained.   

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group found a “Minions” flask coated with lead paint at 84,100 ppm, a “Living Quality” flask with bunnies and carrot design at 38,600 ppm, a “Stainless Steel Vacuum Cup” with SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star characters at 33,800 ppm, and a "Happy Day for You" flask at 6,108 ppm

None of the samples carry any information about their manufacturers or distributors.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that lead is banned in the manufacture of, among other things, toys, school supplies and packaging that comes in contact with beverage or food as per the "Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds" issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  The CCO also sets a maximum limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint.

To protect consumers, especially children, from potential lead exposure, the group urged health and trade authorities to act on the issue and stop the sale of lead painted vacuum flasks and other similar water containers.

The group noted that, outside the country, regulatory agencies have been taking action on vacuum flasks, insulated water bottles and tumblers that were found to contain high concentrations of lead on their surface coatings.

For example, the Korea Consumer Agency on August 29, 2019 announced that four metallic paint-coated tumblers were found to be covered with lead paint ranging from 4,078 to 79,606 ppm, prompting concerned companies to recall the products in question.  

On April 19, 2018, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a recall order for “Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends” water bottles because the pink paint on the outside of the bottle contains levels of lead exceeding the federal lead paint standard of 90 ppm.

According to a fact sheet published by the World Health Organization (WHO), “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.”

“Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” the WHO said. 

“Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight,” the WHO further warned.