Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stronger measures to protect consumers from toxic substances sought

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has called on the government to step up its implementation of measures aimed at protecting consumers from toxic substances.

Santiago has joined the calls of various interest groups such as the EcoWaste Coalition, Ban Toxics, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Health Care Without Harm for the need to implement the policy framework of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which was adopted by several nations in February 2006.

According to its website, the SAICM was developed by a multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral Preparatory Committee and supports the achievement of the goal agreed upon at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development that, by year 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

“It is our shared responsibility to respect and ensure the right of every Filipino of this generation and those yet to be born, to live, learn, and work in a healthy, safe, and toxic-free environment,” Santiago said.

“We therefore need a strong framework legislation to ensure coherence and synergy in our government’s approach on matters involving the health and safety of our people, especially the vulnerable groups, from toxic chemicals,” she said.

Santiago has filed Senate Resolution 376 calling for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on ways to promote chemical safety and to strengthen the implementation of the SAICM in the Philippines.

According to Santiago, those most vulnerable to risks from toxic substances include the children, women of child-bearing age, the elderly, farmers, workers, waste pickers and the poor.

“It is imperative that the legislature implement strong policies that will prioritize pollution prevention and environmental justice, in order to respond to some of the most pressing chemical safety issues today,” she said.

Among the issues that require immediate attention are the need for measures to eliminate lead in paints, prohibit phthalates and other chemicals of concern in toys, school supplies and children’s articles, prevent and control mercury pollution from human activities, ensure the environmentally-sound management of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) and curb dependency on pesticides in agriculture.

In addition to framework legislation, Santiago also pushed for expanding public information and education on chemicals and chemical safety issues and observance of Feb. 6 as Toxic Awareness and Action Day.


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