Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Church and environmental leaders push for ban on cyanide-laced silver cleaners to save lives

To mark the World Suicide Prevention Day
(WSPD) on September 10, church and the civil society leaders have
joined forces in urging the government to move fast in purging the
market of unregistered and unlabeled silver jewelry cleaners laced
with cyanide, a fast-acting poison.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. and EcoWaste Coalition’s
Secretary Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, in a joint press release,
exhorted the Aquino administration to act against the rising incidents
of suicide cases through the deliberate intake of cyanide-mixed silver

“We now know that the intentional ingestion of cyanide-containing
silver jewelry cleaners is a major cause of premature death among
Filipino adolescents and adults facing life crisis,” said Bishop
Iñiguez, who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic
Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“The government has to act decisively to cut the immoral sale of this
deadly concoction. Ban cyanide-laced silver cleaners now to reduce
suicide rates and save lives,” the leader of the Diocese of Caloocan
pointed out.

According to police sources, the Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela
(CAMANAVA) area has the most number of suicide cases, 68 in 2008, with
victims reportedly drinking silver cleaners, hanging or shooting

For her part, Dr. Paquiz affirmed the adage “an ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure” as she requested the authorities to ban market
access for illegal silver cleaning products.

“Prohibiting the manufacture, distribution and sale of silver cleaners
that are not duly registered, properly labelled and certified free of
cyanide is essential to preventing both accidental and non-accidental
poisoning cases beforehand,” she said.

According to the UP National Poison Management and Control Center
(UPNPMCC), the non-accidental ingestion of silver cleaners has
dramatically risen from seven percent in 2005 to 86 percent in 2009.

Data from the UPNPMCC also show that in 2009 alone, 11 Filipinos
(three in the adult age group and eight in the pediatric age group)
died out of 235 cases of silver cleaner poisoning handled by or
referred to the Center. From January to June 2010, nine have already
died (four adults and five children).

The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says that
exposure to high levels of cyanide harms the brain and heart, and may
cause coma and death. Exposure to lower levels may result in breathing
difficulties, heart pains, vomiting, blood changes, headaches, and
enlargement of the thyroid gland.

A project of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International
Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the WSPD promotes global
commitment and action to prevent suicides.

Governments, according to the WHO, need to develop policy frameworks
for national suicide prevention strategies.

At the local level, policy statements and research outcomes need to be
translated into prevention programs and activities in communities.

“The Philippine government can show its solidarity with the IASP and
the WHO by launching a strong policy and action plan to combat
poisoning from cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaners and through
other effective prevention activities,” Bishop Iñiguez and Dr. Paquiz

Banning cyanide-laden cleaners, they further said, will promote the
Filipino’s people right to health as well as advance the Strategic
Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global
strategy to protect human and ecological health from the damaging
effects of toxic substances, including chemicals in products and


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