Thursday, August 19, 2010

Green groups rally vs. silver cleaners

RECORDED fatalities from silver cleaning agents have prompted a
network of environmental groups to lobby for “an all-out campaign to
purge the market of highly poisonous silver cleaners containing
cyanide and other toxic chemicals.” Figures from the University of the
Philippines (up)-National Poison Management and Control Center showed
that they handled 353 cases of poisoning from silver cleaners from
last year to June 2010.

In 2009, 11 deaths were recorded, eight of which involved children.

From January to June this year, nine deaths were recorded. Five were
pediatric cases and four involved adults.

On July, a 1-year-old baby girl from Paco, Manila, was reported to
have died after accidentally drinking water laced with silver cleaner.

The recorded fatalities prompted environmental groups Mother Earth
Foundation (MEF), EcoWaste
Coalition and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) to
urge the government to stop the sale of the silver cleaner.

Notorious toxicant

The groups said that information from the UP Poison Center and the
Poison Control Unit of East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City
showed that silver cleaning agents have become “one of the top three
toxicants among patients admitted during the past two years in these
major public hospitals.”

“Silver cleaners containing sodium or potassium cyanide salts and
other toxic substances continue to cause preventable mortalities among
young children who mistook them for water, and adults who purposely
drank them to commit suicide,” said Sonia Mendoza, the chairman of MEF
and a retired chemist.

In a letter sent Monday to Director Juan Miguel Cuna of the
Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the network of environmental
groups proposed to launch “Oplan Silver Cleaner,” which aims to
protect human health and the ecosytems from the harms caused by
exposure to toxic chemicals.

“Through ‘Oplan Silver Cleaner,’ we hope to terminate this string of
gruesome injuries and deaths from cyanide poisoning that have brought
untold suffering and pain to the victims and their families. This
should also lead to popularizing non-toxic alternatives to polish
tarnished silver jewelry,” said Manny Calonzo, co-coordinator of GAIA.

The groups’ initiative came a month after the Department of Health
released an advisory, which stated that cyanide found in most silver
cleaning solutions is categorized as a poisonous substance that may
cause serious injury, if not death, to people.

“Poisoning with silver jewelry cleaner is a life-threatening condition
and should be treated in the hospital as a medical emergency,” the
Health department said.

Cyanide, being rapidly absorbed in the body, binds easily with red
blood cells, depriving the body of oxygen. The chemical has been used
in illegal fishing to stun fish.

In 1997, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the
mother agency of the EMB, issued a “Chemical Control Order [CCO] for
cyanide and cyanide compounds” to control the use and dispersal of the
chemical into the environment and avoid adverse consequences.

Cyanide and cyanide compounds are highly toxic to humans and aquatic
life even at low concentrations, according to the CCO.


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