21 January 2018

Some Santo Niño Images Still Decorated with Lead Paint – EcoWaste Coalition

 “Welcome Santo Niño” with high lead content.
  Santo Niño statuettes with varying lead levels above 90 ppm.  
Santo Niño statuettes with no detectable lead content.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit waste and pollution watch group,  today  bared that lead paint is still used in some Santo Niño statuettes despite a ban on lead-containing decorative paints in effect.

The group made this revelation after procuring and analyzing painted statuettes of the Holy Child for P50-P200 each from religious craft retailers outside the Quiapo and Tondo Churches in Manila.

The statuettes were screened for lead, a toxic chemical, using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

Lead in paint was detected in five of the 10 samples of Santo Niño statuettes in the range of 252 to 3,944 parts per million (ppm) in violation of the maximum allowable limit of 90 ppm.

The green paint on a five-inch green “Welcome Santo Niño” had 3,944 ppm lead.

Lead was not detected in the other five statuettes indicating the availability of paints without lead for decorative applications.

“We appeal to religious craft makers to ensure that only lead safe paints are used for religious statues and figurines in keeping with the law that seeks to protect human health and the environment against the toxic effects of lead,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  “Religious devotion need not be associated with a chemical poison.”

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24, also known as the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, bans lead in paint above 90 ppm and provides for a three-year phase-out from 2013 to 2016 of lead-containing architectural, household and decorative (AHD) paints.   

Religious craft makers should have no problem finding compliant paints as many paint manufacturers have already removed lead ingredients in their formulations, especially for the AHD paint category, the group insisted.

“As the Feast of the Santo Niño is celebrated today, we urge religious craft businesses to commit to producing and selling only lead-free items that are guaranteed safe for the faithful, especially the children, to kiss and touch,” he added.

The group warned “the customary practice of Filipino Catholics to touch or kiss revered icons or to wipe them with handkerchiefs or towels may cause their paint coatings to deteriorate and come off over time, creating lead chip or dust that children may ingest or inhale.”

The EcoWaste Coalition in 2014 notified  Catholic church leaders Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Archbishop Socrates Villegas about the problem with lead painted religious items.  The group particularly cited a six-inch statuette of St. John Paul II with dangerous lead content amounting to 113,200 ppm as per laboratory analysis as a case in point.

While lead exposure is harmful to all, lead exposure harms children, especially those aged six years and under, at much lower amounts, causing damage to the brain that is generally untreatable by  modern medicine and can have a lifelong impact, the group said.  

Health and toxicological experts have determined no acceptable level of lead exposure for children, making it crucial to get rid of all preventable sources of lead pollution.  

The World Health Organization has identified lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”



14 January 2018

Pandacan and Tondo Folks Urged to Go Easy on Wasteful Plastic Banderitas

Pandacan, Manila
Pandacan, Manila
Tondo, Manila
Tondo, Manila
Tondo, Manila
Pandacan, Manila

As the popular feast of the Santo Niño is celebrated in Pandacan today and in Tondo next Sunday, a waste and pollution watch group appealed to barangay leaders and residents to minimize, if not eliminate, the unbridled use of wasteful fiesta garlands.

Commonly known as “banderitas” or “lastay,” the fiesta buntings have become an environmental nuisance with the thoughtless use of new single use plastic bags and other disposable plastics that only add to the fiesta garbage, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

The group’s Basura Patrollers yesterday visited the Pandacan and Tondo districts and were again appalled to witness the out-of-control use of plastic bags and other disposable buntings to decorate streets and alleys.

“We are disappointed with the wild use of plastic buntings in Pandacan and Tondo as if the city of Manila is not facing any garbage problem.  The fiesta buntings are like litter in the sky that will surely end up being hauled to the Vitas Marine Loading Station in Tondo for final disposal at the Navotas landfill,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It’s only few days after Manila’s Department of Public Services collected 75 truckloads of trash (approximately 385 tons) during the recently held feast of the Black Nazarene, and the city’s waste and sanitation personnel are already bracing for another fiesta-related garbage challenge,” he added.

The group has insisted that fiesta banderitas have no aesthetic, functional or spiritual value and contribute nothing but residual garbage that could even contaminate the oceans and harm aquatic life.     

The super light plastic bags are very problematic as these are easily blown away to canals and esteros and into the Pasig River and Manila Bay, contributing to the worsening marine litter, the group said.

“Do we really believe plastic bag banderitas add color, joy and meaning to the celebration of the feast of the Holy Child?,” Alejandre asked.

“It’s high time that we put a cap on non-essential uses of plastics such as the wild use of plastic bags as fiesta buntings,” he emphasized. 

With the global plastics crisis worsening, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the churches, local authorities and communities to switch to zero waste celebrations and rally behind the enforcement of stringent policies to prevent and reduce plastic garbage such as Manila City Ordinance 8282.

It cited the resolution adopted by the United Nations Environment Assembly last December 2017 calling for accelerated action and strengthened partnerships to combat the spread of marine plastic litter and microplastics.


10 January 2018

Trash Taints "Generally Peaceful" Traslacion (Trash-less Feast of the Black Nazarene Remains an Elusive Dream - Environmental Watch Group)

“Magpasalamat, hindi magkalat.”

The waste and pollution watch group EcoWaste Coalition made this remark as it bewailed the widespread littering that again tainted the 22-hour mammoth procession in reverence for the Black Nazarene.

“We are deeply saddened by the sight of garbage in Rizal Park where the procession of the venerated image began following an all-night vigil, and along the processional route,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“The lack of environmental concern has again stained the awe-inspiring expression of faith and trust in the Black Nazarene that devotees ask for help to solve personal or family issues, including health and financial troubles that could have been caused or worsened by a degraded and polluted environment,” he added. 

“Our plea for a trash-less Traslacion remains an elusive dream,” he lamented. “We hope devotees will heed our appeal for waste prevention and reduction next year.”

At the Rizal Park, the devotees left a huge mess for government workers and for church and school volunteers to clean up, observed Alejandre.

Some of the photos taken by the group’s Basura Patrollers at Rizal Park and Quiapo can be seen here:
Rizal Park:


At the open area fronting the Quirino Grandstand, the group’s Basura Patrollers saw heaps of garbage consisting of corrugated boxes, foils, newspapers and plastics used as sleeping mats; food and beverage packaging such as 3-in-1 coffee sachets, cup noodles, paper and plastic cups and polystyrene containers; food leftovers; plastic bags; and cigarette butts.  

“The overnight vigil was a good opportunity for families to bond together and for the children to get to know the Black Nazarene.  Unfortunately, many simply dumped their discards at the very spot where they spent the night,” Alejandre said.

While portable toilets were available for free use by the public, some devotees chose to urinate in the open, or pee in pet bottles.

The group also assailed the sale and use of cigarettes inside the Rizal Park, which is a “no smoking zone.”  
As reported by the group’s Basura Patrollers, the streets of Quiapo were teeming not only with people, but also with garbage, including discarded plastic bags  and polystyrene food containers that are supposedly restricted under Manila City Ordinance 8282.

Plastic bottles and polystyrene food containers, including those given by big-hearted individuals, were left lying in sidewalks and street gutters.

Meanwhile, the group thanked the waste pickers who patiently retrieved recyclable items left by the devotees such as PET bottles (except those with urine), corrugated boards and others that can be sold to junk shops.   The retrieval of recyclables reduces the volume of waste and prevent valuable resources from being hauled to the dump.  

It likewise lauded the hundreds of waste and sanitation workers from national and local government agencies, as well as the Green Brigade volunteers of Quiapo Church from various parishes and schools, for picking up the garbage left by devotees and vendors alike.


09 January 2018

Not a Trash-less Traslacion: The Trashing of Quiapo

The following photos were taken in Quiapo, Manila on 9 January 2018 between 4:00 - 6:00 pm.

Not a Trash-less Traslacion: The Trashing of Luneta

The above photos were taken on 9 January 2018, between 6:00-7:30 am, at the start of the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene in Rizal Park, Manila.