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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

FDA asked to assure public on safety of skin whitening products

Are the skin whitening products on store shelves safe for public consumption?

This is the question posed by the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol after finding some nicely-packaged skin lightening cream cosmetics in various retail outlets in Binondo, Ermita, Quiapo and Santa Cruz in Manila and in Guadalupe, Makati, last Saturday and Sunday (26-27 March).

To answer the question, the EcoWaste Coalition, a group campaigning for safe cosmetics, bought eight samples of these products and sent them today to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with a specific request to test the items for mercury, a toxic metal, and hydroquinone, a toxic compound.

Information from the mercury handbook published by the International POPs Elimination Network, of which the EcoWaste Coalition is a member, indicates that mercury-added skin whitening products often contain mercury chloride and/or ammoniated mercury, which are both carcinogenic. Non-mercury skin lightening products often contain hydroquinone, which is also highly toxic.

The samples sent to FDA include Berglotus Spot Removing Cream, Hieng Hok Miraculous Whitening Dispel Spots Cream, Lamb Placenta Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, Lan Mei Rou 12 Days Whitening and Speckle Removing Suit, LiliKi Whitening Night Cream, Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream, Miss Beauty Magic Cream, and Pretty Model Whitening and Freckle Removing Cream.

Three of the samples were manufactured in Taiwan and two from Hong Kong. The other three samples have no information in English about their place of manufacture.

“Health Secretary (Enrique) Ona’s recent pronouncement of a ‘tougher, robust and more responsive’ food and drug regulatory agency prompted us into requesting the FDA to conduct laboratory analysis of these products for probable mercury and hydroquinone contents,” said Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Testing skin whitening products is one way of protecting consumers against real health threats from toxic substances,” she pointed out.

“This is a most concrete service that the FDA can do to protect vulnerable consumers against product hazards to health and safety," she added.

An examination of the outer packaging of the eight samples reveal varying degrees of compliance with the labeling requirements under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive of 2007, particularly on the full listing of ingredients and their corresponding weight or volume, the EcoWaste Coalition observed.

None of the samples indicate they contain or do not contain mercury or hydroquinone, the group also pointed out.

According to the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive, the following information should appear in the outer packaging of cosmetic products: product name and function, instructions on the use, full ingredient listing, country of manufacture, name and address of manufacturer or distributor, contents by weight or volume, batch number, product manufacturing or expiry date, and special precautions.

It will be recalled that the FDA in 2010 banned a total of 28 brands of skin lightening creams for containing excessive levels of mercury that can cause “imminent danger or injury” to consumers, according to the agency.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

DENR pressed to close all open dumps

ENVIRONMENTAL groups on Tuesday reiterated their call for the closure of dumps, disguised as “sanitary landfills,” that allegedly pose health risks to people, especially children, living in nearby communities, and are appealing to Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje and concerned local officials to step in.

In a statement, the Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Green Convergence and EcoWaste Coalition identified these dumps as the Waste Custodial Management (Wacuman) Sanitary Landfill and the VGP Engineered Sanitary Landfill in barangay San Isidro and Newtown Development Area, barangay Minuyan Proper—both in the city of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; and the Payatas Sanitary Landfill in Quezon City.

Joey Papa of Bangon Kalikasan Movement, a member of Green Convergence, said respiratory diseases in children such as cough, colds and asthma, as well as diarrhea and skin diseases, had reportedly risen among residents of communities near the sites.

Papa and members of Green Convergence and residents of Barangays Paradise III, Minuyan and Citrus—an affected area near barangay Minuyan, and Payatas, Quezon City—met recently with Secretary Paje to seek the immediate closure of the three dumps.

Mothers and their children and a barangay health worker affected by the VGP and Payatas dumps complained that dumps have affected their health.

One child from Payatas told Paje he and his playmates are getting sick of asthma because of the foul odor. “Nahihirapan po kaming huminga [We have difficulty breathing],” he added.

Those living near Minuyan, Citrus and Paradise III just below barangay San Isidro, where the Wacuman dump is located, had similar complaints.

“Warm weather followed by a sudden rainfall intensifies the foul odor emitted from the dumps, making it more toxic and causing greater affliction among the residents and compromising their health. Also, the Santo Cristo River near the dump could be contaminated due to potential release of leachate, ” the residents added.

“We urge San Jose del Monte City Mayor Reynaldo San Pedro and Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista to immediately order the closure of the dumps and to set up the ecology center system starting with waste prevention, reduction, segregation in the households together with recycling and composting with the help of the barangay. A model of this system is within Bulacan itself, in the municipality of Calumpit,” said Papa.

San Pedro and Bautista, as local government officials, should lead by example by implementing the essence of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management, especially now that our country is in the midst of intensifying crises in the environment, Papa added.

Right cure to mercury poisoning in mining sites

THIS IS in response to the story “Aquino calls for compromise on mining issue” (Inquirer, 3/16/11) where President Aquino was quoted as saying that mercury poisoning is brought about by small-scale mining operations, and that the closure of large-scale mines will open the door for small-scale miners who do not comply with our law to step in.

Aside from betraying the President’s obvious bias for large-scale mining, these statements apparently suggest that we’re better off with large-scale miners because small-scale mining is inherently bad. Having gone to many artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sites in the country, we voice our concern over mercury use in the mining industry. However, we firmly believe that we cannot solve the mercury scourge by simply favoring large-scale mining on the assumption that small-scale mining will go away. Instead of vilifying small-scale miners because of mercury, we have to deeply understand the reasons why this substance is being used, and appropriate interventions should be made to address the issue. Add to this the right of communities to self-determination or to figure out what they think is best for them based on the people’s consensus.

The National Strategic Plan for the Phaseout of Mercury in ASGM, which is currently prepared by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in consultation with important stakeholders and with support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is actually geared toward this direction. Taking into account mercury use and other issues surrounding the ASGM sector, the plan has identified sets of activities and interventions that must be carried out to eliminate mercury and improve the sector’s work practices. Instead of running down ASGM, President Aquino can support this process by initiating or influencing needed reforms that would hasten the adoption by miners of mercury-free gold production techniques.

When the President vilifies ASGM for mercury use, he must not lose sight of the environmental catastrophe that large-scale mining wreaks on the environment as well. Lest the President forgets, under the law, small-scale miners have rights which must be protected.

Lastly, what the government needs to do but has not done yet is to internalize the social and environmental costs of mining, both large and small, that are continuously passed on to communities vis-à-vis the perceived benefits from these sectors. Until the real costs are factored in, any discussion of benefits or advantages will be inaccurate at best and, at worst, a misguided tool for national policy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Children's health advocates urge government crackdown on toxic baby bottles

Two major citizens’ coalitions have combined forces to ask the Philippines to join the ranks of countries that have taken precautionary action to protect babies from potential toxic contamination.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition, in a creative event held today outside the Department of Health (DOH) in Sta. Cruz, Manila, called on the government to order the immediate recall of baby feeding bottles containing a toxic ingredient called Bisphenol A or BPA.

To draw attention to this toxic threat against children’s health, the groups mounted a tableau showing a baby doll lying in a typical bamboo cradle being fed through an oversized mock feeding bottle marked with the words “Ban BPA” and the “skull and cross-bones” toxic warning.

The event, held in observance of the World Consumer Rights Day on March 15, sought to advance the right of young consumers, particularly infants and toddlers, to be protected against toxic chemicals such as BPA that can put children’s health at risk.

The event drew the participation of advocates for child, maternal and environmental health from Ang Nars, Arugaan, Atsitra, Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the Malayang Tinig ng mga Kababaihan sa Komunidad.

BPA, a known endocrine disruptor that can leach from polycarbonate (PC) bottles when heated, can mimic or disrupt natural hormone functions and potentially harm the development of young children.

“The government has the duty to guarantee the right to health and safety of all consumers, especially babies who totally rely on decisions made by adults such as parents and politicians. Canada and the EU have taken action against BPA, why haven’t we? We therefore urge Health Secretary Ona to take his cue from these countries and banned BPA-laced baby bottles for the wellbeing of Filipino children,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“While BPA-tainted baby bottles are removed without delay from store shelves, we similarly urge mothers to exclusively breastfeed babies for the first six months and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or more, complemented with nutritious Pinoy foods, to enhance optimum growth, development and health,” said Velvet Roxas of Save Babies Coalition.

Canada, the European Union (a powerful 27-nation bloc) and, most recently, China have taken steps to address the health risks posed by BPA in children’s products such as baby bottles.

Canada’s ban on BPA-containing baby bottles that was adopted as early as 2008 took effect in March 2010, while EU’s ban on the manufacture of such bottles became effective on March 1 this year. The sale and marketing of such bottles in EU will also be prohibited from June 1, 2011.

China’s Ministry of Health, on the other hand, is mulling a ban on BPA in baby bottles and other baby food containers,” saying that “BPA could disturb human metabolism, affect babies’ immune system and even induce cancer.”

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition have come up with seven consumer tips to prevent and reduce exposure to BPA such as:

1. Nourish your child with breastmilk, the most complete and first Zero Waste food. Go for exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continue breastfeeding for two years and beyond.

2. Go for cup feeding or the giving of expressed breastmilk through cups as the situation requires (expressing is the taking of milk from the breast, without the baby suckling, by hand or with a breast pump).

3. Refrain from feeding your baby canned foods with plastic linings, which might contain BPA.

4. Avoid polycarbonate plastic containers, usually marked “PC” or the number “7”; use safer alternatives such as glass, ceramics or stainless steel.

5. Refrain from microwaving food and beverage in plastic or plastic cling wraps. If you prefer to microwave, put the food or drink on a suitable plate or cup instead.

6. Reduce consumption of canned foods as can liners may contain BPA; opt for fresh natural and indigenous food instead.

7. Check product labels and select the ones that say “BPA-Free.” Ask your retailer to offer BPA-free products

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Environmental watchdogs press DENR to impose ban on lead in paints

Green advocates Thursday appealed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to implement a policy that jibes with the international consensus to phase out lead-added paints.

In a letter sent to DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director Juan Miguel Cuna, the EcoWaste Coalition and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) pushed for a policy that is in sync with the international community’s call to stop the use of lead in paints.

The EMB had asked for public comments on the final draft of the “Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds.”

Lead and lead compounds belong to the “Priority Chemicals List” of the Philippines that must be regulated, phased out or banned because of the serious risks these chemicals posed to public health, workplace and the environment.

“The draft CCO must disallow the use of lead pigments in preparations and articles such as paint mixtures and children’s products and hasten industry shift to clean production via kid-safe alternatives to lead,” said Manny Calonzo of GAIA and EcoWaste.

He stressed that children are most vulnerable to lead exposure and poisoning due to their hand-to-mouth and object-to-mouth activities and their smaller and still developing bodies.

The draft CCO lists the use of lead in “paints, coatings and red lead primer” among the “allowable uses.”

While there is a reference for “allowable limit,” the draft contains no specification on what limit is to be allowed.

“The draft CCO is not in step with the global consensus to prevent children’s exposure to lead via lead-added paints as well as minimize occupational exposure to leaded paints,” the group said.

“If not improved, the CCO will run counter to chemical policy trends that are increasingly protective of children’s health. It would be very embarrassing for the Philippines to go against the global drive to protect children from being poisoned and harmed by lead-added paints and products,” it added.

The groups cited paragraph 57 of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation, which calls for the “phase out lead in lead-based paints and in other sources of human exposure, work to prevent, in particular, children's exposure to lead and strengthen monitoring and surveillance efforts and the treatment of lead poisoning.”

They also cited a decision in 2009 by the Second International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2) that established the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paints (GAELP) under the joint coordination of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Laboratory tests abroad commissioned by EcoWaste for 35 local paint samples in 2008 and for 25 samples in 2010 showed average lead concentration of over 300 times the US 90 ppm standard. The highest lead level found in the 2008 test conducted in India was 189,163.5 ppm, and 161,700 ppm for the 2010 test conducted in the United States.

Stop to sale of poisonous silver cleansers cited

Green advocates lauded the Philippine National Police (PNP) for its speedy action to stop the illegal sale of poisonous silver jewelry cleansers in Manila.

EcoWaste Coalition cited Police Supt. James Afalla, station commander of Central Market Sta. Cruz Police Station, for acting upon the group’s request for law enforcement action against shops and vendors selling banned silver jewelry cleanser.

Pursuant to the joint advisory by the Department of Health (DoH) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the PNP confiscated 18 pieces of unregistered silver jewelry cleaner last week.

The joint advisory signed by DoH Secretary Enrique Ona and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje last December prohibits the sale of unregistered and unlabelled silver jewelry cleanser containing toxic substances, including cyanide, a deadly poison.

“We commend the PNP, particularly Police Station 3 of Manila, for their swift action against illegal silver cleaning products that pose a direct assault to public health and safety. Sustained police action is key to saving lives from this toxic threat,” EcoWaste president Roy Alvarez said.

The group had earlier appealed to PNP Director-General Raul Bacalzo for police action to halt the injuries and deaths arising from the accidental or suicidal intake of banned silver jewelry cleaning agent.

Manufacturers and distributors of silver jewelry cleaning agents, which fall under the category of "household hazardous substance," are required by law to register their products with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before these can be lawfully sold in the market.

According to a list obtained by the EcoWaste from the FDA last February 22, only the following brands of "stainless/metal polish" are duly registered with the agency: 3M, Kiwi, Pledge, Primo, Suma Silver D8 Liquid Cleaner, Suma Stainless Steel Polish (for professional use only) and Activ M1 Instant Acid Silver Destainer (for industrial use only).

China to ban plastic bottles to feed babies

BABY feeding bottles containing Bisphenol A (BPA) are to be banned, China's Ministry of Health said yesterday.

The ministry has drafted a regulation which is published on the ministry's official website,, for public comment but it didn't say when the draft will come into force. The regulation bans BPA from anything used to contain food or drink for children.

A European Union ban on the use of BPA in plastic baby bottles came into effect earlier this week.

China National Radio reported yesterday that the ministry had admitted at a press conference that BPA could disturb human metabolism, affect babies' immune systems and even induce cancer.

And it said that BPA could be released if a polycarbonate (PC) bottle was heated and could leach into its contents.

Some stores in Beijing have removed PC bottles from shelves, but the bottles are still available in Shanghai.

The Leyou Supermarket, a Beijing-based chain store specializing in maternity and child products, said they were to stop selling PC baby bottles in all their 150 stores around the country as well as via their website, CNR reported.

Carrefour Shanghai, however, told Shanghai Daily yesterday that they had not removed PC bottles from shelves as they hadn't received any official notice from the authorities.

"Once the national authorities ban the bottles, we'll strictly comply with that," said Li Jing, a company official.

Meanwhile, sales of glass bottles are rising.

Zhang Qian, the mother of a one-year-old boy, said she got rid of her plastic bottles at once on hearing the news, and bought her baby a glass one.

"I thought glass bottles were heavy, hot and easily broken, but now I have changed my mind as safety is the most important thing," she said.

On e-commerce websites, many vendors claim that the baby bottles they sell are "BPA free." On, China's leading e-commerce platform, vendors said their bottles, which come from Europe and North America, are made of silica gel or glass.

The price of these bottles ranges from 10 yuan (US$1.52) to almost 100 yuan, and they are selling well.

One Shanghai vendor, who identified herself as Duoduoyun, said the BPA-free bottles were especially popular this week.

"I have sold nearly 30 bottles this week, which is such a big deal," she said.

Government urged to boost breastfeeding campaign

ANTI-toxic group, EcoWaste Coalition, called on the National Government and the Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday to reinforce the campaign for breastfeeding among babies.

The organization said there is a need to strengthen, if not reiterate, the government's push for breastfeeding promotion among mothers.

"We beg for a more vigorous promotion of breastfeeding to ensure infant access to breast milk, which is the most complete and ecological baby food," said EcoWaste.

Two weeks ago, the DOH lamented the continued low prevalence of breastfeeding in the country despite the continued promotion for it by the government.

Based on the 2008 National Demographic Health Survey, only 34 percent of Filipino mothers have observed exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of their newborns' life

The figure is not a far cry from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) figures that showed a 37 percent breastfeeding rate in the country back in 2003.

Aside from increasing the number of breastfeeding rate, the EcoWaste said it will also lessen chances of exposing babies to feeding bottles containing bisphenol A (BPA), which is considered a toxic chemical.

The group said this is the main reason why they are also calling for a recall of baby feeding bottles.

"We call upon President Benigno Aquino III to follow the European Union's example and waste no time in banning BPA-laced baby bottles from being produced and traded in the country," said the EcoWaste.

Under the European Commission Directive 2011/8/EU, member states shall prohibit from March 1, 2011 the manufacture of BPA-containing baby bottles, as well as prohibit from June 1, 2011 the placing on the EU market of BPA-added plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs.

The EcoWaste noted that the BPA is an industrial chemical widely used in the production of polycarbonate plastics

If heated and exposed to infants, the group said it may interfere with natural hormone functions and potentially harm the development of young children.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Feeding bottles na may BPA delikado, pinababawi

IPINABABAWI ng isang toxic watchdog sa pamahalaan ang baby feeding bottles na may taglay na toxic substance na bisphenol A (BPA) na umano’y delikado sa mga sanggol.

Umapela ang grupong EcoWaste Coalition kay Pangulong Benigno Simeon Aquino III na sundan ang ginawa ng European Union, na ipinagbawal ang paggawa ng baby bottles na may BPA, simula nitong Marso 1, 2011.

Inatasan na rin ng EU ang member states nito, sa ilalim ng European Commission Directive 2011/8/EU, na ipagbawal ang pagbebenta ng BPA-added plastic materials at articles na maaaring magkaroon ng kontak sa mga pagkain, simula sa Hunyo 1, 2011.

“We call upon P-Noy to follow the EU example and waste no time in banning BPA-laced baby bottles from being produced and traded in the country,” ayon kay Velvet Roxas ng Arugaan, isang breastfeeding advocate at steering committee member ng EcoWaste Coalition.

“P-Noy, just like the Europeans, can invoke the precautionary principle in justifying its tough action against BPA if only to protect helpless babies and toddlers from being exposed to this substance,” dagdag pa ni Roxas.

Nabatid na ang industrial chemical na BPA ay ginagamit sa paggawa ng polycarbonate plastics, na siya namang ginagamit sa paggawa ng plastic products, na may label na “PC” o numerong “7,” pangunahin na ang infant feeding bottles, water bottles at food containers.

Ayon sa EcoWaste Coalition, lumitaw sa isinagawang pag-aaral ng health experts ang pagkakaroon ng mapanganib na epekto ng BPA sa oras na mainitan ito, lubha umano itong delikado sa mga sanggol na sa unang anim na buwan ng kanilang buhay ay nakadepende sa plastic bottles.

Nabatid na ang mataas na exposure sa BPA ay posibleng maging sanhi ng mabagal na development ng isang sanggol.

Nanawagan rin si Roxas para sa isang mas agresibong promosyon ng breastfeeding para sa kalusugan ng mga sanggol.

Mandaluyong ordinance seeks to reduce plastics consumption in city

Mandaluyong City will soon be cutting back on its use of plastic products, following the lead of Muntinlupa.

Councilor Jessie Garcia has introduced a draft ordinance in the city council compelling restaurants and dry-goods sections of groceries and supermarkets to stop giving away free plastic bags to its customers and using disposable plastic foam packages and utensils.

“Mandaluyong is home to major shopping malls using a huge number of plastic bags and styrofoam. It is but right that we act now to reduce plastic wastes in our city,” Garcia’s proposal read.

The proposal also cited Metro Manila cities like Muntinlupa and Valenzuela, which had earlier imposed regulations on the use of plastic in their areas.

Lei Garcia-Beschi, Garcia’s chief of staff, said that under the ordinance, plastic bags in dry markets would be prohibited. Fast-food chains and restaurants will also be compelled to use “washable” plates and utensils instead of styrofoam and plastic products.

Plastic bags, however, are allowed in wet markets.

Market vendors, canteens and sari-sari (variety) stores will be fined P150 for the first offense; groceries and supermarkets will face a P500 fine.

Fines of P300 and P1,000 have been recommended for small-time vendors and supermarkets, respectively, for the second offense; and P1,500 and P3,000 and the suspension of business permits, for third-time offenders. The proposal recommended half a day of community service for those found violating the ordinance.

A task force composed of the city environment officer, Sanggunian Kabataan Federation president, three representatives from Mandaluyong-based environment organizations and two representatives from the Liga ng mga Barangay shall be created to monitor its implementation.

“As long as this is good for the environment, I have no worries,” said Mayor Benhur Abalos, adding that the ordinance should also include provisions about emerging technologies on biodegradable plastic bags.

Jimmy Isidro, Mandaluyong public information chief, said establishments in the city like Rustans and SM Megamall have already started cutting down on their consumption of plastic.

MMDA chair bats for anti-littering ordinances in LGUs

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino on Wednesday urged Metro Manila mayors and other local chief executives to push for the passage of anti-littering ordinances within their respective jurisdiction.

Tolentino aired the appeal to heads and officers of local government units (LGUs) during a consultative meeting on solid waste management. He also announced that at least 21,000 litterbugs were apprehended by MMDA environmental enforcers since the agency re-implemented a Metro Manila Council anti-littering regulation during his term.

The MMDA head encouraged LGUs that have already passed anti-litter ordinances to implement them without let-up.

“When our local government units implement anti-littering campaigns simultaneously and as one, we will send a strong signal to the public that we mean business,” he said.

He said that trash thrown indiscriminately clogs waterways, resulting in massive flooding during the rainy season.

The MMDA anti-littering regulation, which is implemented in major thoroughfares within Metro Manila, penalizes violators with fines ranging from P500 to P1,000 or community service.

Tolentino tapped “environmental enforcers” for the strict implementation of Republic Act (R.A.) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and MMDA Regulation No. 96-009 or the Anti-Littering Ordinance last September. Since then, the agency has apprehended over 21,000 litterbugs in Metro Manila.

The MMDA chairman said the environmental enforcers have been deputized to monitor the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila. Individuals caught spitting or indiscriminately throwing wastes like cigarette butts and candy wrappers are issued environmental violation receipts (EVRs).

Recall baby bottles with BPA - watchdog

Toxic watchdog EcoWaste Coalition issued a call to President Benigno Aquino III to initiate the recall of baby feeding bottles containing bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic substance.

The group said Aquino should take his cue from the European Union (EU) which prohibited the manufacture of baby bottles with BPA starting March 1, 2011.

EU member states are also directed under the European Commission Directive 2011/8/EU to prohibit starting June 1, 2011 the selling of BPA-added plastic materials and articles which can come into contact with foodstuffs.

“We call upon P-Noy to follow the EU example and waste no time in banning BPA-laced baby bottles from being produced and traded in the country,” said Velvet Roxas of Arugaan, a breastfeeding advocate and a Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“P-Noy, just like the Europeans, can invoke the precautionary principle in justifying its tough action against BPA if only to protect helpless babies and toddlers from being exposed to this substance,” Roxas added.

Roxas also called for a more aggressive promotion of breastfeeding "to ensure infant access to breast milk, the most complete and ecological baby food."

The industrial chemical BPA is used in producing polycarbonate plastics, which, in turn, are used to make plastic products (with the label "PC" or number "7" at the bottom) such as infant feeding bottles, water bottles, and food containers.

According to EcoWaste Coalition, health experts and activists have pointed to the adverse effects of BPA, which can leach out of plastic products when heated.

"A known endocrine disruptor, BPA can imitate or interfere with natural hormone functions and potentially harm the development of young children," the group said in a statement.

The European Commission has said in a press release that “small amounts of BPA can be released from plastic containers into the food they carry–in the case of baby bottles that would be infant formula–if these containers are heated at high temperatures.”

“The infants' system is still building up to eliminate BPA during the first six months of their lives. Their exposure to the substance is the highest during this period especially if infant formula is their only source of nutrition as this is administered through baby bottles,” the EC said.

Environmental groups urge LGUs to extinguish fires from open burning

Environmental groups have pressed local government units (LGUs) to seriously enforce the prohibition against open burning to conserve resources and curb toxic pollution.

EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) jointly push for the stringent implementation of the open burning ban under Republic Act No. 9003 and R.A. 8749 as the whole nation observes “Fire Prevention Month” this March.

"With public support, the LGUs can extinguish these often-ignored 'small' but similarly detrimental fires from the open burning of waste materials," the groups said.

Both R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act, prohibit open burning of waste materials to address the decline of environmental quality, which directly impacts public health.

“Despite clear and explicit proscriptions under our foremost environmental laws, we still find open burning practised with impunity in both rural and urban areas,” said Roy Alvarez, president, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We see valuable resources, such as materials that can be re-used, recycled or composted, transformed into noxious fumes and ashes in disposal sites, farms, street corners, backyards and even in parks," he said.

On top of being wasteful, open burning produces a cocktail of health-damaging chemicals depending on what is burned.

The groups reiterated that R.A. 9003 and R.A. 8749 provide clear, adequate and strong basis for heightened LGU action against open burning.

R.A. 9003 bans the open burning of solid waste as in the case of traditional “siga” and penalizes violators with a fine ranging from P300 to P1,000, or a one- to 15-day imprisonment, or both.

R.A. 8749 states that “no person, establishment, firm, company, government or private entity or organizations shall be allowed to burn or cause open burning of waste materials in their premises, area of jurisdiction, including recognized or unrecognized dumpsites in any quality or quantity.”

The “waste materials” referred to under R.A. 8749 cover “plastic, polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, paints, ink, wastes containing heavy metals, organic chemicals, petroleum related compound, industrial wastes, ozone depleting substances and other similar toxic and hazardous substances.”

Eco group warns LGUs about ‘e-waste’ disposal

Destroyed illegal gambling paraphernalia can still be harmful, especially to the environment.

Environmental groups are now calling for Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and other local government officials to be careful in disposing electronic equipment. The Manila mayor recently led a team in destroying “video karera” TV sets as part of efforts to crack down on illegal gambling among the youth.

“We laud and support the unfaltering drive to stop addictive gambling activities that deflect youth attention away from their school and family responsibilities. But we call the attention of Mayor Lim to the hazards of crushing or burning the confiscated gambling paraphernalia,” said actor Roy Alvarez, president of the EcoWaste Coalition, in a statement.

Information sheets from the group revealed that television sets contain hazardous chemicals such as brominated flame retardants, cadmium, lead, mercury and several other chemicals, which can damage the nervous, gastro-intestinal and immune systems.

The group warned that smashing television screens would release toxins and glass shards detrimental to public health.

The city Department of Public Services told the group that the broken TVs were brought to a sanitary landfill in Barangay Tanza in Navotas City.

But the coalition advised that “e-waste,” or electronics waste, due to their toxic components, should not just be thrown away like any other garbage. “These are better sent to government-accredited electronic recyclers and dismantled in controlled conditions that will minimize the toxic discharge into the environment,” the group said.

Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives also warned against the burning of painted game boards “which releases toxic fumes, including cancer-causing pollutants.”

Destroying video karera TVs could harm health, environment

Environment watchdogs appealed to the government of Manila not to destroy confiscated gambling equipment, such as television sets, because it could trigger health and environmental issues.

The Project E-Waste Action Now! (Project EWAN) had sought the advice of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on how to safely dispose of the confiscated “video karera” (VK) machines, after the City of Manila smashed the television sets of 70 of the machines last week.

As confirmed by Manila's Department of Public Services to the EcoWaste Coalition, the broken TVs were then brought to the Pier 18 garbage transfer station in Tondo, and transported by barge to the sanitary landfill in Barangay Tanza, Navotas City.

In a statement, Project EWAN expressed its serious concern over the way the machines seized from illegal gambling operators were destroyed and disposed of.

“We laud and support the unfaltering drive to stop addictive gambling activities that deflect youth attention away from their school and family responsibilities. But, we call Mayor Alfredo Lim’s attention to the hazards of crushing or burning the confiscated gambling paraphernalia,” EcoWaste President Roy Alvarez said.

“The smashing of TV screens causes dangerous chemicals in the equipment to be dispersed into the surroundings and thus jeopardizing public health. People smashing the screens are exposing themselves to airborne toxins and glass shards when the screen implodes,” Richard Gutierrez of Ban Toxics and coordinator of Project EWAN said.