The unchecked use of plastic banderitas in community fiestas is not only adding to the volume, but also to the toxicity of garbage.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, issued this statement after detecting heavy metals, particularly lead, in samples taken from banderitas strung across the crowded streets and alleys of Tondo, which is celebrating today the popular feast of Santo Niño.
“Plastic banderitas add to the volume and toxicity of rubbish generated by our popular but wasteful fiestas,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“These unnecessary accessories may look safe to the naked eye. However, when these banderitas are finally disposed of in dumpsites, landfills or incinerators, or thrown in water bodies, their toxic chemical additives can enter the environment posing a risk to public health,” he said.
“Burning these banderitas will cause the formation and release of even more toxic byproducts such as dioxins,” he added.
Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical instrument, the group detected lead in 12 of 25 samples of plastic banderitas in the range of 512 to 9,931 parts per million (ppm).
Bright orange-colored banderitas, as well as those promoting certain products were among those found with high lead content.
The presence of lead in some of the sampled buntings may be due to the use of lead compounds as plastic stabilizer or as plastic colorant, the group explained.
According to the World Health Organization, “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” while “dioxins can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.”
The renewed efforts by the national government to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay should prompt the local authorities, church leaders, and community residents into stopping wasteful practices that contribute to the pollution of the bay, including the rampant use of banderitas and other single-use plastics, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Corporations should also ensure that their product packaging, as well as product promotional materials such as banderitas, are reusable, recyclable or compostable, and are safe from chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment, including aquatic life, the group pointed out.
Banderitas with low or non-detectable lead content.