24 May 2018

Watch Group Calls for Removal of Toxic School Supplies from the Market (Group says: Cadmium and lead do not belong in school supplies; keep them off your back-to-school buying list)

Highly toxic cadmium and lead  do not belong in school supplies that are meant to help kids with their education and development.

At a press briefing in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on toxic chemicals, products, and wastes, pressed for the market removal of school supplies laden with health-damaging hazardous substances such as cadmium and lead amid the back-to-school shopping frenzy.

The group sought the removal of unsafe school supplies after tests confirmed high concentrations of cadmium and lead in crayons, watercolor sets, backpacks and raincoat procured by the group from various retail outlets in Manila and sent to a government-accredited private laboratory for analysis.

“Children’s products such as school supplies should not pose toxic health risks to their young users.  To reduce the possibility of exposures, parents should be cautious and keep hazardous substances like cadmium and lead off their back-to-school buying list.  Unsafe school supplies should be withdrawn from the market and disposed of properly,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Health expert Dr. Visitacion Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center said: “Children have little control over products marketed for their use like school supplies.  It is therefore important for us, adults, to ensure children’s access to safe products to avoid chemical exposures even at low levels that may result in negative health effects, including damage to the brain and the central nervous system.”

As per laboratory test reports,  Artex Fine Water Colors (yellow cake), MPC Classique Water Colors (yellow cake) and Fairyland Crayons (orange stick) had 22,300, 5,500 and 200 parts per million (ppm) of lead, way above the 90 ppm regulatory limit.  While a McQueen backpack and a “Ben 10” polyvinyl chloride (PVC) raincoat contained 500 and 190 ppm of lead.

Backpacks with “Frozen” and “Hello Kitty” characters tested positive for cadmium at 970 and 780 ppm, respectively, exceeding the 95 ppm limit.  The lead-containing “Ben 10” PVC raincoat was also found to contain 370 ppm of cadmium.

The EcoWaste Coalition revealed that despite the prohibition on their sale by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), lead-tainted Artex, MPC Classique and Fairyland art materials are still being sold in the market, pointing to the need to strictly enforce product recall order. 

The group explained that children are most easily exposed to lead, cadmium and other hazardous substances because they tend to breathe more air, drink more water and eat more food compared to adults; they tend to put their fingers or objects to their mouths and thus increase the potential to ingest toxicants in dust or soil; and because their brains, bodies and immune systems are still developing.

Listed among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), cadmium and lead are highly hazardous and can generate a wide range of negative health effects, especially in fetuses and children.
According to WHO, cadmium “exerts toxic effects on the kidneys, the skeletal and respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen.”

“Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems,” said WHO, stressing that “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”

To protect children from being exposed to unsafe school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to consider these buying tips:

1.  Do not buy school supplies like art materials banned by the FDA due to their toxic content.

2.  Avoid buying PVC-made school supplies that may contain prohibited or restricted toxic additives.

3.  Refrain from buying painted school supplies unless certified as lead-safe.

4.  Check the product label, including hazard warnings and safety precautions.

5.  Choose school supplies that are notified/registered with the FDA, and supplied, distributed and sold by FDA-licensed establishments.




20 May 2018

Schools Urged to Emphasize Lead Safety in Brigada Eskwela (Group Seeks Full Compliance to DepEd Orders on Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints)

A waste and pollution watch group exhorted the country’s public elementary and secondary schools to make lead safety part of the annual Brigada Eskwela on May 28 to June 2.  

In line with Department Order No. 4 issued by Education Secretary Leonor Briones in January 2017, the EcoWaste Coalition urged school heads to ensure full compliance to the “mandatory use of lead-safe paints in schools.” 

DepEd issued the said order at the request of the EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for lead-free school, to prevent and control children’s exposure to lead through the ingestion of lead-contaminated paint chip, dust and soil in the school environment.

In December 2017, Briones  issued Department Order No. 64 detailing the minimum performance standards and specifications for DepEd school buildings. “Paints materials must be independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings,” according to the said order. 

“We laud Education Secretary Briones for her steadfast commitment to promote a lead-safe school environment for Filipino children as contained in Department Orders 4 and 64, series of 2017.  Strict compliance to these orders is crucial to stop the entry and use of lead-containing architectural, decorative and household (ADH) paints in all schools following the completion of the three-year phase-out for such paints last December 2016,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The effective enforcement of these orders will also help in reducing the creation and dispersion of lead-tainted paint chip, dust and soil from the Brigada Eskwela school cleanup and renovation activities that children may ingest or inhale,” he added.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “the most common lead hazards in schools are lead-based paint, lead dust and contaminated soil.”

Exposure to lead can permanently damage the brain and the central nervous system, impair growth and development, and cause learning and behavioral problems, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

“As there is no safe threshold for lead exposure, we need to pay serious attention on eliminating preventable lead pollution sources such as lead-containing paints in our homes, schools and communities,” Dizon said.  

“D.O. 4-2017 is by far the most important lead poisoning prevention directive made by the DepEd complementing the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” he said.

According to D.O. 4-2017, the use of independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings is mandatory to all painting and/or repainting works of school facilities, furniture, fixtures, learning materials and tools and equipment. 

The said D.O. also applies to paint-coated goods or products directly procured by the school as well as those sourced by other means such as through individual, group, corporate or local government donations.

To drum up awareness and compliance to the ban on lead-containing ADH paints, the EcoWaste Coalition will distribute posters to Metro Manila schools announcing the phase-out of such paints.

During the week of the Brigada Eskwela, the EcoWaste Coalition will deploy a roving team targeting Quezon City schools to promote compliance to D.O. 4-2017



19 May 2018

Group Pushes for Product Safety Monitoring of School Supplies

As retailers enjoy brisk business with the opening of classes for School Year 2018-2019 on the way, a consumer and environmental protection group called on the authorities to intensify ongoing product safety monitoring of school supplies.

The EcoWaste Coalition pressed government regulators to keep an eye on the safety of school supplies from hazardous substances as some items on store shelves may not conform with product standards and regulations.    

The group made the suggestion following the on-the-spot inspection on May 18 of retail outlets selling school supplies in Caloocan City by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) representatives.

“We surely support the government’s effort to check business compliance with the suggested retail prices (SRPs) for notebooks, writing pads, pencils, ballpens, crayons, erasers, sharpeners and rulers as contained in the DTI’s shopping guide for school supplies,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“However, the current list of school supplies being monitored should be expanded to include other must-have back-to-school items such as bags, shoes, water color sets and others.  Also, the monitoring should cover compliance with the SRPs as well as product safety requirements,” he said.

“Consumers should be assured of access to affordable as well as quality and non-toxic school supplies that will not pose health risk to children,” he emphasized.

To drive their point home, the EcoWaste Coalition on May 18 procured school bags from four retail establishments in Caloocan City and had them screened for lead, a substance that is highly toxic to a child’s brain, using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence device.

The bags, sold for P130 to P309 each, do not provide basic labeling information about their manufacturers, much less about their chemical composition, the group observed.

Of the eight school bags bought and analyzed, six were found to contain lead in the range of 679 to 3,588 parts per million (ppm).   

Lead is prohibited in the manufacture of school supplies as per DENR Administrative Order 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, which also bans the use of paints with lead content above 90 ppm in the production of toys and a wide array of children’s products after December 31, 2016.

In the US, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act requires that “all children’s products must not contain a concentration of lead greater than 90 ppm in paint or any similar surface coatings.”  This rule also applies to all accessible component parts of a children’s product.

Studies have shown that lead exposure early in life can result in serious and irreversible damage to children's developing brains, and cause decreased intelligence, poor reading and language skills, hearing loss, aggression, attention deficit disorder and other behavioral problems.

"For our children's health, we need to get rid of all preventable sources of childhood exposure to lead, including lead-tainted consumer products such as school supplies and toys," the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out. 



https://www.dti.gov.ph/media/ advisories/11985-gabay-school- supplies-srp
https://chemical.emb.gov.ph/ wp-content/uploads/2017/03/MC- 2016-010.pdf
https://www.cpsc.gov/Business- -Manufacturing/Business- Education/Lead/Total-Lead- Content

15 May 2018

EcoWaste Coalition Promotes Creative and Safe Recycling of Poll Campaign Materials

Photo courtesy of Manny Palmero, ABS-CBN News

Now that the people have spoken through ballots cast in yesterday's Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls, the EcoWaste Coalition today drew attention to a practical opportunity for citizens to trim down campaign trash disposal through creative and safe recycling.

Instead of dumping or burning campaign discards, the zero waste advocacy group urged the public to think out of the box and find ways to extend the life of used campaign materials such as leaflets, sample ballots, and posters.

“Sorting the campaign materials into paper, cardboard, plastic and other classifications will help in finding new uses for them," said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

"Reusing, repurposing or recycling the campaign materials will conserve valuable resources from being wasted, while reducing the volume of discards requiring disposal and its associated costs," he said.  

To foster creative and safe recycling, the EcoWaste Coalition today organized a simple DIY (do it yourself) event featuring innovative and functional ways of reusing campaign materials.

With the re-opening of classes just around the corner, cardboard posters can be transformed into useful school supplies like book cover, bookmarks. envelopes, folders and name plates, as well as teaching aids like flash cards and "tell the time" clock.  

With some imagination, cardboard posters can be made into decorative items like picture and mirror frames and ref magnets.

Candidates' publicity flyers and sample ballots can be turned into drawing, memo or scratch pads.  

As for the ubiquitous plastic tarpaulins, these sturdy campaign materials can be sewn into various types of bags, aprons, and organizers for carpentry and garden tools, letters and bills, etc.

In addition, tarpaulins can also be reused as a sunshade for jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs, or as a canopy for homes and shops.

However, plastic tarpaulins should only be repurposed for non-food and non-child applications as these often contain toxic additives such as cadmium, which may leach and contaminate the food or expose children to chemical hazards," reminded Alejandre who also noted that repurposing such  tarpaulins as a stop gap measure.  

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier advised poll candidates to use eco-friendly campaign materials, and to avoid those that contain hazardous substances such as cadmium-laden tarpaulins.


14 May 2018

EcoWaste Coalition Scores Littering, Smoking at Barangay and SK Polling Places

Photos above were taken today at Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, Pedro Gil St., Manila and its vicinity.

As the synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections get underway, a waste and pollution watchdog reiterated its appeal to the electorate to keep the polling places litter-free, as well as smoke-free.

“The schools where most of the polling precincts are located should be free from garbage and tobacco pollution.  We therefore urge the public not to pollute the school environment with litter and smoke,” stated Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We have to issue this last-minute reminder after finding sample ballots and other campaign materials scattered in some polling places in Makati and Manila, especially at the school entrance,” he said.

“In one school in Manila, we even find supporters of some candidates smoking inside the school compound,” he added.

“With voting to continue until 3:00 pm, school heads can still do something to ensure full observance of their ‘no littering,’ ‘no smoking’ policy.  The least they can do is to grab the microphone and make the necessary public announcement against dropping litter and smoking within the school facilities,” he said. 

The group also appealed to the members of the electoral board, poll watchers, poll volunteers, and other election stakeholders to be mindful of their discards.

“Kindly put your discards into their dedicated receptacles.  Most schools will have segregated waste bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards.  Please use them properly and do not simply leave your beverage and food containers and leftovers inside the polling areas,” Alejandre said.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted that the Department of Education has promulgated policies towards the promotion of litter-free and tobacco-free schools.

Under DepEd Order No. 5, series of 2014, schools are enjoined to conduct activities that will enforce the prohibition on littering and burning of wastes as per Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. 

DepEd Order No. 48, series of 2016, on the other hand, reiterates the smoking ban in school premises, as well as compliance monitoring of tobacco control measures for stores outside the schools.  


Note: The EcoWaste Coalition today had the chance of visiting the Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School (Pedro Gil St.Manila), Margarita Roxas de Ayala Elementary School (A. Francisco St., Manila), Villamor High School (Pasig Line, Manila), Francisco Benitez Elementary School (Visita St., Makati) and the Jose Magsaysay Elementary School (Constancia St., Makati).