Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Silver cleaner' sale rampant in Metro Manila, says group

Despite a government ban in the purchase and use of silver jewelry cleaners, known as “suicide cleaners,” a toxics and pollution watchdog learned that it is still rampantly sold in some malls in Metro Manila.

In a joint memorandum signed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Health (DoH) last September, it warned all commercial establishments such as jewelry shops and other retail outlets and ambulant vendors from selling and/or dispensing unregistered and unlabeled silver cleaners solution/agents due to its “threat to (public) health and safety.”

However, in the test buys conducted by EcoWaste Coalition in seven malls in Metro Manila last December 12 and 14, it allegedly discovered that silver cleaners are still being sold profusely.

The group claimed it was able to purchase 30 unlabelled and/or unregistered silver cleaning solutions in some jewelry and watch stores in Grand Central Mall (five stores) and Victory Central Mall (four stores) in Caloocan City; Guadalupe Shopping Center (two stores) in Makati City; Manila City Plaza (two stores) in Quiapo, Manila; Starmall Alabang (11 stores) in Muntinlupa City; and Farmer’s Plaza (four stores) and SM North (two stores) in Quezon City.

Some cases of suicide have been reported in Metro Manila through ingestion of cyanide-containing silver cleaning solutions.

From January to September 2010 alone, 11 have already died (6 adults and 5 children) from accidental and deliberate intake of poisonous silver cleaners.

“We find it alarming that, despite a joint ban from DoH and DENR, unlabelled and unregistered silver jewelry cleaners are so easily available to anyone with the cash to buy them,” Thony Dizon, coordinator for EcoWaste’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats), said.

The University of the Philippines-National Poison Management and Poison Control Center at the Philippine General Hospital and the East Avenue Medical Center Poison Control Unit consider silver jewelry cleaning agents as one of the top three toxicants among patients admitted for the past two years. They were also the third most commonly swallowed poison among children.

According to the DENR-DoH joint advisory on silver cleaners, “laboratory analysis of samples of silver cleaners show elevated levels of cyanide clearly posing imminent danger or even death to humans particularly when accidentally or deliberately ingested.”

It also emphasized that penalties would be imposed on importers, retailers and commercial establishments selling and dispensing unregistered and unlabeled silver cleaners. “Government regulators should exercise utmost vigilance in enforcing strict compliance of the ban on death-causing jewelry cleaners. Offenders must be punished to the full extent of the law,” Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, EcoWaste secretary, said.

The group called for the aggressive enforcement of the joint ban and for government regulators to cut off the country’s supply chain to the poisonous product.


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