13 December 2017

Group Urges Consumers to Shun Toxic Christmas Presents

As the holiday shopping season gets underway, a chemical safety watch group reminded consumers to be on the lookout for potentially dangerous gift products in the marketplace.

After releasing its list of hazardous toys (haztoys) last Monday, the EcoWaste Coalition today has come up with a new list of non-toy gift items that are laden with hidden toxins such as cadmium and lead.

“With Christmas just a few days away, we see consumers packing out malls to buy heaps of holiday presents for relatives, colleagues and friends.  Retail stores in Divisoria, the hub of cheap finds, are enjoying brisk sales for various gifts imaginable,” observed Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“But, as we all know, not all gift items are created equal.  As not all products are regulated or are compliant with quality and safety standards, it is not uncommon to find harmful chemicals in some gift items above levels of concern,” he said.

"Furthermore, these items are inadequately labeled, providing not even a clue on their toxic composition," he added. 

To alert and to educate consumers about the undisclosed toxic substances lurking in some gift items, the EcoWaste Coalition on Sunday and Monday bought assorted gift items from 11/88, 168. 999 and Lucky Chinatown shopping malls in Divisoria and from retail stores in Quiapo.

The products costing P40 to P140 each were then screened for toxic metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.  

Comprising the group’s list of 12 hazardous gifts (hazgifts) are:

1. Spongebob coffee mug, P50, with 15,800 ppm lead and 974 ppm cadmium

2. Fashion Milk Cup, P140, with 15,600 ppm lead and 2,020 ppm cadmium

3. Champion coffee mug, P70, with 12,300 ppm lead and 687 ppm cadmium

4.  Xiao Dang Ja coffee mug, P60, with 11,000 ppm lead and 3,086 ppm cadmium

5.  Santa Claus-themed plate, P100, with 10,500 ppm lead and 2,947 ppm cadmium

6.  Christmas bells-themed plate, P40, with 6798 ppm lead and 3,855 ppm cadmium

7.  Fashion Cup with Minion characters, P50, with 3,982 ppm lead and 1,661 ppm cadmium

8.  Christmas ball-themed plate, P40, with 3,441 ppm lead and 1,207 ppm cadmium

9.  Enfill de Jouer coin purse, P50, with 2,678 ppm lead

10.  Santa Claus coffee mug, P40, with 3,298 ppm lead and 2,288 ppm cadmium

11.  Saglife black and yellow body bag, P100, with 1,511 ppm lead

12.  Pikachu sling bag, P80, with 1,079 ppm lead and 222 ppm cadmium

"Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen," according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Lead, according to the WHO, is "a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems."  

Cadmium and lead belong to WHO’s list of “ten chemicals of major public health concern." 

Cadmium and lead and their compounds are also listed in the Philippine Priority Chemicals List, which includes chemical substances that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has “determined to potentially pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace, and the environment.”





12 December 2017

Groups Give Waste Incineration Bill Thumbs Down

Green groups belonging to No Burn Pilipinas alliance denounced  the approval yesterday by the House of Representatives (HoR) Committee on Ecology of a bill repealing the waste incineration ban under R.A. 8749, or the Clean Air Act of 1999.

The Bangon Kalikasan Movement, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm and the Mother Earth Foundation criticized the committee for hastily giving the nod to the Regulation of Thermal Treatment Technology Act proposed by Aklan Rep. Carlito Marquez and others that consequently revokes Section 20 of R.A. 8749.

Considered a milestone in pollution prevention, the incineration ban disallows “the burning of municipal, biomedical and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes.”  R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, reinforced the ban by requiring the “adoption of the best practice in ecological waste management excluding incineration.”

Decrying the absence of serious efforts by the HoR  to conduct balanced and comprehensive studies on the issue, green groups slammed the Committee for the haste and lack of transparency that attended the process, especially given the serious health, socio-economic, and public health implications of the proposed measure.

Currently marketed by the industry as so-called “waste-to-energy” plants, these facilities, aside from increasing cancer risks, are more expensive than coal and nuclear plants, more harmful to the climate than coal, and generate very little electricity while burning up resources that may still be recovered, reused or recycled, the groups asserted.

“The pro-incineration bill is unconstitutional and threatens to create  massive disaster to the environment and irreversible damage to the health of all people, especially children for generations to come," stated Joey Papa, President, Bangon Kalikasan Movement. 

Papa pointed out that incineration violates  Section 16 of the Philippine Constitution of 1987 ("The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature."); Section 20 of R.A. 8749 ("Incineration... the burning of municipal, biomedical, and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes, is hereby prohibited."); and  Section 3 of R.A. 9003 ("Resource recovery shall refer to the collection, extraction or recovery of recyclable materials from the waste stream for the purpose of recycling, generating energy or producing a product suitable for beneficial use: Provided that such resource recovery facilities exclude incineration."). 

“Far from solving our garbage woes, the lifting of the incineration ban as proposed by some lawmakers will only compound our problems as incinerators can inflict harm to human health and the ecosystems, contribute significantly to environmental pollution and global warming, and fuel an unsustainable system of unbridled production, crass consumerism, and throw-away culture," said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“Burning trash is a regressive approach to waste management that is being phased out in other parts of the world which are now pursuing a more sustainable circular economy,” said Lea Guerrero, climate and clean energy campaigner of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). “Our lawmakers must reject this bill. We are also calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to seriously reconsider his plans to pursue incineration which puts the Filipino people’s welfare and the environment at risk.”

"Incineration will be tantamount to national regression.  It will be an illogical step backward.  We already have the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which adheres to the ways and rhythms of nature, the best in the world.  Instead of making it work with the needed political will, why would we go to a dangerous, expensive technology that many advanced nations are turning their back on?," said Dr. Angelina Galang, President, Green Convergence.

“No Burn Pilipinas believes that the haste surrounding the bill is highly irregular and deplorable given that what is under deliberation will undermine cornerstone environmental laws,” said Ramon San Pascual, executive director of Health Care Without Harm. “This issue deserves more deliberation and public discussion than the hurried token consultations our honorable representatives have deemed sufficient.”

According to Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation, “The push to repeal the incineration ban will undermine source segregation, recycling, and other Zero Waste strategies that conserve precious resources, avoid toxic pollution, and generate livelihoods and jobs. Instead of overturning the prohibition on waste burning, Congress should in fact strengthen it by supporting the strict implementation of RA 9003 through innovative Zero Waste projects in the country.”

No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of civil society groups who are advocating Zero Waste technologies and are calling on the government to uphold the ban on waste incineration.


11 December 2017

Watch Group Names 10 Haztoys (Hazardous Toys) to Tip Off Consumers on Toys to Avoid this Christmas

A non-profit watch group promoting children’s health and safety today released a list of toys that may put a child at risk of physical injuries and chemical exposures.

“Children are uniquely susceptible to the negative effects of shoddily made and chemically laden toys as their immature bodies and minds are still growing and developing,  It is the responsibility of  toy manufacturers, distributors and vendors, and even individual toy givers, to offer toys that meet quality and safety standards in recognition of the right of children to safe games and toys to play with,” reminded Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“While all children are vulnerable to injuries and chemical exposures, children from families living in poverty may be at increased risk due to their lack of purchasing power and their lack of access to product safety information, justice and redress,” he added.

In a bid to keep unsafe toys out of children’s hands, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with a list of hazardous toys (haztoys) that are often sold without the required market authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the country’s toy regulator.

“Through this list, we hope to hammer home the need for consumer awareness and vigilance against unsafe toys this Christmas season,” Dizon said.  “It is not an exhaustive list of toys in the market that may present various health and safety hazards to innocent children,” he clarified.

Among those that landed on the EcoWaste Coalition’s list of 10 “haztoys” are baby rattles, fidget spinners, a xylophone, doll figures, a “Shrilling Chicken,” duck bath toys, toy artificial nails, a Rubik’s Cube-like toy, a toy car, and battle swords. 

I. Baby Rattles.  Sold very cheaply for as low as P15, rattles come in various types and sizes and are often sold without choking hazard warnings in violation of R.A. 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act.  Rattles can break and release the small beads, bearings or balls inside, posing a choking hazard to helpless babies.  

II. Fidget Spinners.  Also called hand spinners, these popular toys contain bearings and bushings that many come off and get ingested by children.  Aside from its small parts that may detach and its pointed edges that may cause cuts or lacerations, the EcoWaste Coalition found a “Ninja Animation” hand spinner adorned with a yellow paint containing dangerous lead concentrations amounting to 125,100 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm limit.  Lead, a toxic metal, can wreak havoc on the developing brain, leading to reduced intelligence.  

III. “Wonderful Music Xylophone.”  While lead was not detected on the other coated metal bars of this musical instrument, the orange bar was found to contain 10,800 ppm total lead, in violation of the 90 ppm limit under the DENR’s Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

IV: Doll Figures.  Cadmium, a carcinogenic chemical, was detected on the paint coatings of these unlabeled dolls at 1,200 ppm.  Like lead, cadmium can disrupt the development of a child’s brain, causing learning disabilities.

V. Shrilling Chicken.  This “screaming” chicken toy may contain banned substances such as di(2- ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and short chain chlorinated paraffins (SCPPs).  A laboratory analysis contracted by the EcoWaste Coalition found a sample of Shrilling Chicken laden with 19.1% DEHP, exceeding the 0.1% limit.  Luxembourg banned Shrilling Chicken in 2017, Spain in 2016, and the Czech Republic in 2014 due to its DEHP content.  Sweden banned it in 2013 for containing highly toxic SCPPs.

VI. Floating Duck Bath Toy.  Supposedly a fun companion for babies during bath time, this toy may contain DEHP.  A laboratory test commissioned by the EcoWaste Coalition found a vinyl rubber duck laced with 18.87% DEHP, way above the 0.1% limit.

VII. Toy Fashion Nail Set.  The adhesive used to attach these artificial nails contains Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), which is listed among the substances that must not form part of cosmetic products under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.  According to a health warning by the FDA, “DBP has the ability to cause allergic reactions, (which) can induce a state of hypersensitivity in the immune system.”

VIII. Dian Sheng Eatena Puzzle Cube.  This Rubik’s Cube-like toy tested positive for toxic flame retardant chemicals OctaBDE and DecaBDE, which are commonly found in the plastic casings of cathode ray tube TVs and computer monitors.   Based on tests conducted at the Czech Republic in 2015, this China-made toy purchased in the Philippines contains 108 ppm of OctaBDE and 293 ppm of DecaBDE, which are chemicals know to disrupt human hormone systems, affecting the brain and the central nervous system. 

IX. Police Cool SUV.  Sold on the sidewalk for P20, this plastic toy car contains 1,380 ppm of bromine, an indicator that the material may contain polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) from recycled e-waste plastics. PBDEs are targeted for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

X. Battle Swords.  These toy weapons measuring 25 to 30 inches long have the potential to cause blunt force injuries to the eyes, face and body due to the plastic blade, especially when played without adult supervision.

“We hope consumers will heed our call for toy safety.  All children deserve nothing less than safe toys that are well-designed, durable, age-appropriate, and non toxic,” Dizon emphasized.


07 December 2017

EcoWaste Coalition Urges the Public to Cut Down on Holiday Trash (Holitrash) with 3Rs and More

With Christmas rapidly approaching, a waste and pollution watch group today drew attention to what each and every person or household can do to lessen what it calls the enormous holiday trash or “holitrash.”

At an event held at the Quirino Elementary School (QES) in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that the tons of “holitrash,” if not kept in check, would end up being disposed of in streets, waterways, dumpsites, incinerators, or in the oceans, which are already choking with plastics and trash.   The group chose “Christmasaya kapag walang aksaya” as the perfect theme for the occasion.

“The volume of waste produced is expected to soar as people shop, party, dine and have fun during the joyful season.  Sad to say, the throwaway culture is at its worst as the birth of the Redeemer is recalled and celebrated.  In Metro Manila, for instance, per capita waste generation during Christmastime is estimated to rise from 0.7 kilo to 1.2 kilo,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

The most discarded items during the extended celebration of Christmas and New Year include paper and plastic shopping bags; all sorts of packaging materials; party wares, including single-use paper and plastic beverage and food containers; bags, boxes and wrappers for gifts; and tons of food waste, according to the group.

“The humongous ‘holitrash’ situation is aggravated by the poor segregation of discards at source, and the toxic byproduct waste from the lighting of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices,” he added.

“But the situation is not entirely hopeless.  We can curb what we throw away by applying the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) and by keeping Christ in the manger, an utmost reminder of the simplicity of Christmas, at the heart of the festive celebration,” he pointed out.

QES students, applying the 3Rs, flaunted a creatively made lantern adorned with used spoons and bottle lids, a Belen made of juice packs, and a Christmas tree from PET bottles.

The EcoWaste Coalition also showed assorted Christmas decorations fashioned out of typical household discards such as snack packs, soda cans, textile scraps, fabric conditioner containers, plastic bottles, etc.   
To further reduce the generation of garbage, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded holiday shoppers to bring a stash of reusable bags and containers and to shun both paper and plastic bags to cut on bag waste. 

Gift givers can opt not to wrap Christmas presents to minimize the use of wrappers.  If wrapping is desired, reuse old bandannas, handkerchiefs, fabric remnants, jars, shoe boxes, newspapers and magazines, the group suggested. 

The group reminded those hosting or organizing Christmas parties to opt for washable and reusable tableware and party supplies in lieu of disposable ones, which may be “convenient,” but certainly wasteful.

As garbage is produced by putting discards together in one bin, the group stressed the need to keep discards properly segregated to facilitate their reusing, recycling or composting.

Non-biodegradable discards such as aluminum and tin cans, glass and plastic bottles, and other materials can be repurposed, reused or recycled, while biodegradable discards such as food waste can be fed to animals or turned into compost to enrich the soil, the group said.

The group emphasized that the open burning discards is not only unlawful but also detrimental to human health and the environment.  Open burning can lead to the formation and release of persistent organic pollutants and greenhouse gases that cause environmental pollution, global warming and climate change.

Finally, the group urged the public to opt for a quieter celebration without firecrackers and fireworks to prevent the generation of toxic smoke and waste, noting that firecracker and pyrotechnic residues are laden with hazardous chemicals and cannot be recycled.


06 December 2017

Groups Welcome Senate Inquiry on Canada Garbage Dumping as Proposed by Sen. Koko Pimentel

Civil society groups from the environmental and labor sectors welcomed the latest move by the Senate to address the unsettled Canadian garbage dumping issue weeks after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced “it is now theoretically possible to get (the illegal garbage shipments) back.” 

The Ang Nars Partylist, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Public Services Independent Labor Confederation (PSLINK) and the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) said the inquiry as proposed by Senate President Koko Pimentel should help in preventing dumping incidents from ever occurring again.

The said groups are intervenors in Criminal Case No. 143-11191 being heard at the sala of Judge Tita Bughao-Alisuag of the Regional Trial Court of Manila against Canadian trash importer Adelfa Eduardo and customs broker Sherjun Saldon for violation of R.A. 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act.

Pimentel on Monday filed Senate Resolution 553, stating that “considering the monumental consequences of allowing Canadian garbage to remain in the country, it behooves the Senate, in consonance with its mandate under the Constitution, to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, to determine whether there are sufficient laws restricting the indiscriminate entry and dumping of solid waste and other forms of harmful trash into the Philippines and to formulate laws imposing high penalties for the introduction into the country of all forms of trash.”

“Sen. Pimentel’s proposal to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation is exceedingly timely and should merit the support from all Senators regardless of their political affiliations.  We expect the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Cynthia Villar, to convene the first hearing in January next year as the current session is about to adjourn soon.  We look forward to an expedited process as the same committee, then chaired by Sen. Chiz Escudero, had already tackled the issue at a hearing conducted in 2015,”  said Dr. Leah Paquiz, Ang Nars Partylist representative to the last Congress.

“We welcome the probe being sought by the Senate President as this would assist in analyzing the gaps in current laws and regulations that made it possible for the illegal trash shipments to enter our ports and even overstay despite a court order to send them back.  More importantly, it will help in identifying corrective measures that must be introduced and promulgated to shield our nation from the adverse impacts of the unlawful waste trade to public health and the environment,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The outcome of the planned inquiry should put a lid on the entry on problematic waste imports into the Philippines in the guise of recycling, which has become a convenient excuse for dumping.  Hope the Senators will join us in pushing for the country’s ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment to bar the entry of hazardous wastes in our territory for disposal and so-called recycling,” said Froilan Grate, Executive Director, GAIA-Philippines.

“The inquiry, we hope, will generate concrete results that will help strengthen frontline agencies such as the Bureau of Customs and the Environmental Management Bureau in performing their strategic responsibilities toward safeguarding our country and our workers  from the transboundary movement of proscribed wastes,” said Annie Geron, President, PSLINK.

The groups pledged to participate in the proposed Senate inquiry and support its important work in line with the state policy “to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology.”

“The Senate inquiry should create enough noise that will put additional pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau and his government to take back their trash now.  As there is no guarantee that the ‘theoretical possibility’ he was talking about last month was for real or not, we call upon all sectors to remain vigilant and assert our sovereign right not be treated as Canada’s dumpsite,” the groups said.


Link to Sen. Koko Pimentel's proposed resolution: