PCBs are very toxic chemical compounds. They are considered probable human carcinogen or cancer causing substance by institutions such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Due to the danger they pose to people and the environment PCBs were placed in the initial list of "dirty dozen" toxic chemicals that the international community had agreed to restrict and ultimately eliminate under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The treaty, which the Philippine Senate ratified in 2004, imposed a ban on the production of PCBs and gave countries until 2025 to eliminate the use of PCBs in certain equipment.
The Ban Toxics!, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, and Health Care Without Harm expressed their shared support for the project that will demonstrate the viability of destroying PCBs-containing materials and wastes using a non-combustion technology, to be carried out with the critical participation of public interest NGOs.
"This project, we hope, will spur public concern and participation in completing the country's inventory of PCBs and in ensuring their safe containment and destruction or irreversible transformation in an environmentally-sound manner, so that these exceedingly toxic compounds no longer pose threats to the health of Filipinos and our environment," the groups said in a statement.
“The project brings together the confluence of interests of government, industry and civil society. More importantly, the project will help the Philippines achieve its 2014 deadline for the phase out of PCBs use or storage as directed by the 2004 DENR Chemical Control Order for PCBs, and drive the country to becoming self-reliant in managing its hazardous wastes using ecological non-incineration solutions,” added the groups.
The project is funded through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as the implementing agency, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) as the national executing agency, and the Philippine National Oil Company - Philippine Alternative Fuel Corporation (PNOC-PAFC) as the operating entity.
The other key project partners are the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO), National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) and the public interest NGOs.
PCBs are thin, light-colored liquids to yellow or black waxy solids used as heat exchange fluids in electric transformers or capacitors, and as plasticizers in paints, plastics, and rubber products and as additives in dyes, pigments, sealants and carbonless copy paper.
These extremely toxic chemicals have been demonstrated to cause cancer in animals, as well as a range of other destructive health effects on the endocrine, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems.
Data gathered from the National Implementation Plan (NIP) for the Stockholm Convention that was launched in 2006 show that the Philippines was never a manufacturer of PCBs and that majority of the inventoried PCBs-containing equipment are transformers (97.16%), capacitors (2.57%) and oil circuit breakers (.27%).
According to the NIP, the main source of entry of PCBs into the country was through importation, mostly as part of electrical transformers. However, the number of imported PCB transformers could not be reliably determined due to inadequate records.
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