This was the message told loud and clear by the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, at the lively and boisterous launch of their “Iwas PapuToxic” campaign before 1,650 students of the Marcelo H. Del Pilar Elementary School in Quezon City.
“Iwas PapuToxic” is a yearly campaign of the EcoWaste Coalition, which complements the Department of Health’s “Iwas Paputok,” by promoting safe and eco-sensitive substitutes to deadly and costly firecrackers that do not yield poison fumes and discards.
Firecrackers are deemed dangerous because they contain the same materials used in making bombs and explosives, and are known to emit the same set of harmful chemicals as smoke-belching vehicles that can cause ill health and contribute to global warming.
“The customary blasting of firecrackers to welcome the New Year has long been recognized as a highly preventable source of accidental injury and mortality as well as noise, garbage and chemical pollution,” said film actor Roy Alvarez of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee
“Given the urgent need to stem the tide of toxic pollutants that is endangering human, ecological and climate health, we ask all Filipino children and their parents alike to simply ‘say no to firecrackers’ and hail 2010 in a safe and non-toxic way,” appealed Alvarez.
“By turning away from firecrackers, we save lives and limbs and, at one fell swoop, help in improving overall community environment by reducing deafening noise, avoiding trash and preventing the release of harmful chemicals into the surroundings,” he added.
The call of the EcoWaste Coalition did not fall on deaf ears as the students recited in unison a pledge not to buy and blast firecrackers before their teachers, school principal Dr. Luisito Cleto, school superintendent Dr. Victoria Fuentes and police station 10 commander Supt. Jesus Balingasa, Jr.
“Kami ay nanunumpa na sasalubungin ang Bagong Taon na hindi bibili, hahawak o gagamit ng anumang paputok na maglalagay sa panganib sa aming kalusugan at kaligtasan, pati na sa iba pang mga tao at gayundin sa mga hayup,” the students said. (“We pledge to welcome the New Year without buying, touching or using firecrackers that can put our health and safety in danger, and also those of other people as well as animals.”)
“We can create emission-free and waste-free alternative noisemakers without spending a cent. Just simply look around your house and pick things that you can reuse or recycle to make sounds to herald the New Year,” said Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.
To demonstrate alternative ways of welcoming the New Year that do not discharge toxic fumes and discards, top percussionist Paul Zialcita led the students in creating lively music using improvised drums, torotot made of used materials, cymbals using pot lids, maracas from tin cans, tambourine from bottle caps and shakers from used plastic containers and paper boxes.
Also joining the Iwas PapuToxic launch were Miss Philippines-EcoTourism Adie Adelantar, Miss Philippines-Fire Patricia Marie Tumulak, Miss Philippines-Water Catherine Loyola, Miss Philippines-Earth runner-up Kirstie Joan Babor, Miss Earth-South Sudan Aheu Deng, and Miss Earth Foundation Executive Director Cathy Untalan.
For a “non-toxic” New Year celebration, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with 13 emission-free and waste-free alternatives to firecrackers. These are:
1. Blow traditional horns or “torotot;” pick the one made of recycled materials.
2. Be a whistleblower: create whistling sound or get a whistle and blow it.
3. Create and shake homemade maracas from used tin cans (e.g., cans used in preparing media noche staples).
4. Fill box or plastic containers with some pebbles, caps or coins and create your instant “shakers.”
5. Rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle caps.
6. Clank improvised cymbals using pot lids or pans.
7. Jangle the batya or palanggana (washbasin) with a ladle or stick.
8. Bang empty coconut shells.
9. Play the guitar or any available musical instruments.
10. Play your favorite music.
11. Beep the bicycle or car horns.
12. Clap your hands and stump your feet.
13. Sing, dance and shout “Happy New Year!”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has earlier reminded parents not to allow children to use firecrackers or fireworks whether of the legal or illegal kind, stressing that these devices are not toys and are very dangerous.
According to the DOH Fireworks Injury Surveillance Report, 733 injuries were reported from December 21, 2008 to January 5, 2009 involving victims age 8 months to 76 years old, with the National Capital Region registering most cases (451), followed by Western Visayas (86) and Ilocos Region (58).
714 of the cases were fireworks-related, 17 were due to stray-bullet injuries and 2 were due to the use and ingestion of watusi, a small, thin red firecracker that is known to be dangerous when swallowed due to the toxic poisons it contains, particularly potassium chlorate, potassium nitrate, yellow phosphorous and trinitrotoloune.
The DOH also reported that piccolo, kwitis, 5-star, luces and home-made or altered firecrackers as the top five firecrackers that caused most injuries in 2008.
*** Additional Information
1. Firecrackers can cause serious if not fatal injuries. Incorrect handling can lead to the loss of limbs, lives and properties.
2. Firecrackers produce smoke and dust loaded with harmful chemicals that can aggravate the poor air quality and cause throat and chest congestion and other health problems, particularly for people with asthma and chemical sensitivities.
3. Firecrackers leave behind unwanted discards such as paper scraps, cellophane and plastic wrappers, and PVC pipes from “boga” that add to the mountains of holiday trash.
4. Firecrackers produce deafening noise that can lead to anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and hearing disabilities, and trigger high blood pressure and heart attack.
5. Firecrackers can result to severe ear injuries for animals who are more sensitive to sound, so the noise hurts their ears, terrifies them, and causes them to run wildly or lose their navigational skills.
6. Firecrackers waste money that should be spent instead to buy food for the table, clothes and books for the children and other essential needs.