12 June 2017

Watch Group Lauds DSWD’s Directive on Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for children’s protection against lead exposure, lauded the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for making the use of lead-safe paints a mandatory requirement in facilities catering to disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors.

“We give Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and the DSWD the thumbs up for issuing the memorandum requiring the use of lead-safe paints in residential and non-residential facilities managed or operated by the department and other accredited agencies,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group had earlier requested the DSWD to issue such a directive after the Department of Education in January this year ordered the compulsory use of lead-safe paints in all preparatory, elementary and secondary schools.

Taguiwalo’s memorandum to all DSWD officials and employees, the EcoWaste Coalition said, is in line with the phase-out requirements for lead-containing paints under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds. 

“This policy will make lead safety a key concern for Reception and Study Centers for Children, Regional Rehabilitation Centers for Youth, Homes of Boys and Girls and Lingap Centers, as well as for orphanages and day care centers across the country,” Lucero said.

“This will promote a lead-free environment for the children and youth being cared for by the DSWD and licensed social welfare and development agencies (SWDAs) by removing a preventable source of lead exposure among kids such as peeling lead paint and dust.  This is essential for their lifelong good health,” she added. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned 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.”  WHO classifies lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

According to the DSWD Secretary’s memorandum, “the Standards Bureau/Unit shall ensure compliance by all SWDAs that their residential and non-residential facilities, including furniture, fixture and equipment, are using lead-safe paints or coatings prior to licensing or re-accreditation.”

“The Administrative Service/Unit and the Procurement Service/Unit shall both ensure that future painting works for all (DSWD) buildings, office premises and structures, including centers and institutions, either by administration (with the materials to be procured) or by contract (with labor and materials to be outsourced) should comply with (DENR A.O. 2013-24),” it stated.

The memorandum also tasked the DSWD Inspectorate Committee to facilitate the inspection of DSWD buildings, office premises and centers in order to identify those decorated with paints exceeding the threshold limit of 90 parts per million under the said DENR A.O.

“The DSWD Disposal Committee is also instructed to facilitate proper removal and disposal of lead paints as may be deemed necessary during (the) repainting or renovation of structures in consonance with the guidelines set by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers,” the memorandum said.



02 June 2017

Group Backs Moves by DepEd and QC to Restrict Unhealthy Foods and Drinks in Schools

An environmental and health group praised the Department of Education  (DepEd) and the Quezon City Government for issuing policies that will protect school children from foods and drinks containing high amounts of saturated fat, sugar or salt.

The EcoWaste Coalition lauded Education Secretary Leonor Briones for promulgating DepEd Department Order 13, Series of 2017, which sets the “Policy and Guidelines on Healthy Food and Beverage Choices in Schools and in DepEd Offices.” 

The group also commended the Quezon City Government for its Anti-Junk Food and Sugary Drinks Ordinance of 2017 that bans the sale and distribution of unhealthy food and drink within a 100-meter radius of private and public preparatory, elementary and high schools in the city.

“We laud Secretary Briones for issuing detailed guidelines aimed at promoting healthy eating habits, especially among our young learners, particularly by restricting the marketing, sale and consumption of food and beverage products that are too fat, too sweet or too salty in our schools,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“If effectively enforced, this latest policy issuance from DepEd will go a long way in curbing both malnutrition and obesity among our children, which can severely affect their growth and development, while promoting the regular intake of foods and drinks that can make them go, grow and glow,” he added.

“The Quezon City ordinance, which complements DepEd’s policy, provides a model that can be studied and replicated by other local government units,” noted Dizon.

School administrators, canteen owners and vendors found in violation of the ordinance shall be fined  P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 for the third offense plus business permit revocation.

DepEd’s latest policy issuance “establishes the guidelines to promote healthy diets and positive eating behaviors,” as well as “provide healthy eating environments to learners, teaching, and non-teaching personnel.”

The policy specifically enumerates healthier food and beverage choices, introduces a system of categorizing locally available foods and drinks and provides guidance in evaluating and categorizing foods and drinks, as well as guidance in the marketing and sale of foods and drinks in schools and DepEd offices, including food items for school feeding programs.

The guidelines, for instance, provides a list of foods and beverages in the green, yellow and red categories.  Those listed in the green category should always be available in school canteens.  Those classified as yellow should be served carefully.  And those categorized as red are not recommended in canteen menu.

Examples of foods and drinks in the green category: unsweetened milk, safe and clean water, fresh buko water, rice, corn, whole wheat bread, cassava, boiled sweet potato, boiled saba, boiled peanuts, suman, puto, fishes, shellfish, small shrimps, lean meats, chicken without skin, nuts, eggs and fresh fruits in season.

Examples of foods and drinks in the yellow category: 100% fresh fruit juices, fried rice, bread, biscuits, banana cue, camote cue, turon, maruya, pancakes, waffles, champorado, pancit, arroz caldo, sandwiches, processed foods (subject to evaluation of saturated or transfat and sodium content), stir-friend vegetables       

Examples of foods and drinks in the red category:  soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, sports waters, sports drinks, flavored mineral water, energy drinks, sweetened waters, powdered juice drinks, any products containing caffeine, any processed fruit/vegetable juice with added sugar of more than 20 grams or 4 teaspoons per serving, any jelly, ice crushes and slushies, any ice cream, ice drops and ice candies, cakes and slices, donuts, sweet biscuits and pastries, chocolates, hard/chewy candies, chewing gums, marshmallows, lollipops, yema, French fries, bicho-bicho, instant noodles, all types of heavily salted snacks such as chips or chichiria, chicharon, chicken skin, bacon, deep-friend foods including fish balls and kikiams, canned fruits in heavy syrup, sweetened fruits, deep-fried vegetables.

DepEd D.O. 13 applies to all public elementary and secondary schools, learning centers and DepEd offices in the Central, Regional and Division Levels. 

Private schools are likewise enjoined to adopt the guidelines.




31 May 2017

Visiting Expert Puts Microplastics in Cosmetics on the Spot at Beauty Trade Show

A visiting expert from US today drew attention to the emerging concerns around the environmental impacts of microplastics in cosmetics at the ongoing beauty trade show in Pasay City.

Speaking at the 3rd Philippines International Beauty Show, Dr. Ann Blake raised the issue of microplastic ingredients in personal care and cosmetic product (PCCP) formulations as contributing to the micro-sized plastic litter in the oceans.  Blake made a similar presentation last Monday before cosmetic regulators at a forum organized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Blake’s participation at this major industry event was made possible by the collaboration between the Chamber of Cosmetics Industry of the Philippines and the EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit environmental watchdog. 
Microplastics are plastic particles less than 5 mm in size or as small as several microns (millionths of a meter) serving many functions in cosmetics, including exfoliation, emulsion stabilizing, film-forming, skin conditioning, viscosity regulation and many others.

Products that may contain microplastics from less than 1% to as much as 90% of product weight include soap, shampoo, children’s bubble bath, shower gel, deodorant, toothpaste, facial masks, facials scrubs, wrinkle cream, shaving cream, moisturizers, lipstick, eye shadow, sunscreen, etc.

“Microbeads and other microplastics are designed to go down the drain.  Because they are too small to be captured in wastewater treatment facilities, the extremely tiny plastic particles travel straight to the ocean,” said Blake, a public health and environmental consultant with over 23 years of experience finding safer alternatives to industrial chemicals in global manufacturing.

“These plastic materials are ingested by birds, fish and other marine life who mistake them for food. Microplastics can absorb toxic chemicals such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and work their way back up the food chain,” she said

“Microplastics and toxic chemicals in fish are a concern as fish provide a major source of protein for 3.1 billion people.  As a continent, Asia has the highest global fish consumption,” she emphasized.

To cut the use of microplastics in cosmetics and their eventual disposal to the ocean, Blake posed a few questions for cosmetic formulators and manufactures to ponder:  1) Are microplastics necessary for product performance?, 2) What are the safer alternatives?   3) What about a natural solution that could support a local industry by using an agricultural product or waste, or sequester carbon and restore agricultural soil?

Among the safer alternatives to microplastics  as identified by the US Personal Care Products Council include beeswax, rice bran wax, jojoba waxes, starches derived from corn, tapioca and carnauba,
seaweed, silica, clay and other natural compounds.

Multinational cosmetic companies and international cosmetic trade associations have voluntarily decreased their use of microbeads in response to the “Beat the Microbead” NGO campaign starting in 2012.

Among these companies are L’Oreal, which plans to phase out polyethylene microbeads from exfoliates, cleansers and shower gels by 2017; Crest, which plans complete their phase out of microbeads in toothpaste by 2017, and Johnson & Johnson, which plans to complete by 2017 their phase out of microbeads that began in 2015.

Blake also noted that in January 2017, the ASEAN Cosmetic Association recommended the discontinuation of use of microbeads for the protection of the environment, especially the waterways.

The US, the UK, several European countries and nine US states have initiated bans on microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products; the earliest of these bans become effective July 1, 2017.

“Given the associated potential risks of microplastics, a precautionary approach is recommended toward microplastic management, with the eventual phase-out and ban in PCCPs,” the “Plastic in Cosmetics” report published by the UN Environment Program said.

“Redesigning products that are more environmentally friendly, less plastic intensive and use safer chemicals can contribute towards reducing potential health threats posed by microplastics in PCCPs,” it added.




Green Chemistry and Sustainable Development Goals

The Department of Environment – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) in cooperation with the EcoWaste Coalition  on May 30 organized a seminar on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Development Goals  with visiting public health and environmental expert Dr. Ann Blake as resource person.  The seminar, which attracted participants from the government, industry, civil society and the academe, shed light on Green Chemistry, a growing design philosophy and business strategy that aims to make processes and products safe for the people and the environment by reducing or eliminating the use of hazardous substances and the generation of hazardous wastes. 

30 May 2017

Consumers Urged to Skip Antibacterial Products Containing Triclosan and Triclocarban (Expert says antibacterials are no more effective than plan soap and water in reducing disease)

A non-profit toxics watch group urged consumers to refrain from using antibacterial soaps and washes containing triclosan and triclocarban as a historic ban in US on such products looms.

At a press briefing held today, the EcoWaste Coalition noted that a ban on the marketing of consumer antiseptic wash products containing antibacterials triclosan and triclocarban will take effect on September 6, 2017 as ordered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

In light of such policy, the group called on Filipino consumers to use their buying power and influence to make companies switch to safer formulations by patronizing products that are free of triclosan, triclocarban and other chemicals of concern.

Triclosan and triclocarban are among the 19 antibacterials being banned by the federal agency “because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections.”

Dr. Ann Blake, a visiting public health and environmental expert from US who spoke at the event, pointed out “studies have indicated increased evidence of both health and environmental harm linked to the use and disposal of triclosan and its chemical cousin triclocarban, with no benefit to humans and the ecosystems."

Antibacterials (including triclosan, triclocarban) and quaternary ammonium products (“quats”) are medical disinfectants that have been increasingly added to a variety of personal care and household cleaning products.

“The claim of supposed ‘antibacterial protection’ from the use of such products is not backed up by scientific evidence.  Plain soap and water work better in reducing infection and disease,” Blake said.

“These antibacterials are often marketed as a way to protect consumers from ‘superbugs’when in fact they contribute to antibiotic resistance,” she said, adding that “superbugs originate from the use of ‘preventive’ dosing of antibiotics in industrial meat production for cows, pigs and chickens.”

Environmentalist Rene Pineda of the EcoWaste Coalition noted that the biggest use for triclosan and triclocarban are in antibacterial soaps, hand and body washes and related products that are discharged in wastewater drains.

“Disposed of in residential drains, these chemicals, which are highly toxic to aquatic organisms, can accumulate in water bodies, affect the balance of the fragile marine ecosystems and result in hazardous residues in fish that we eat,” he said.

Another concern that Pineda highlighted is that these chemicals could be transformed into chloroform and dioxin compounds with exposure to sunlight or when interacting with chemicals such as chlorine in tap water.

For better health and hygiene, Blake and Pineda stressed the importance of washing hands frequently with ordinary soap and water to wash away harmful bacteria, especially when preparing food, before eating, after going to the toilet, and when a member of the family is sick.

At the press briefing, the EcoWaste Coalition also appealed to companies, both foreign and local, to phase out the use and sale of consumer products containing triclosan and triclocarban starting with over-the-counter antibacterial soaps and washes.

The group last week conducted test buys of antibacterial soaps and washes and found many products listing triclosan or triclocarban among their ingredients.

The group noted that leading manufacturers including Avon, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and others have phased out triclosan and triclocarban and reformulated products containing these antibacterials.