EcoWaste Coalition Seeks Ban on Sale of Cyanide-Containing Jewelry Cleaners

Quezon City. The wave of chemical poisonings and deaths due to accidental or intentional intake of silver jewelry cleaners prompted a chemical safety group to press the government to ban its sale.

“Cyanide-bearing silver jewelry cleaners have become a modern day scourge, inflicting lethal harm to kids and adults who accidentally ingest the instant kill solution or drink it on purpose to commit suicide,” retired nurse Elsie Brandes-De Veyra of the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“The rising incidents of silver polish poisoning should compel the authorities into reviewing existing policy on cyanide and imposing an immediate ban on the sale of toxic cleaners in jewelry shops,” she added.

“We urge the authorities to keep the hazardous products off the shelves and cut the supply chain to zero in the interest of public health and safety,” De Veyra pleaded.

Citing information received from the University of the Philippines – National Poison Management and Poison Control Center (UP-NPMCC), the EcoWaste Coalition noted that silver jewelry cleaning agents ranked fourth in 2008 as the most commonly ingested chemical poison. It is the number three most common poison swallowed by children.

Between January to April 2009, the UP-NMPCC handled 99 cases of silver cleaner poisonings, involving 11 accidental and 88 non-accidental poisonings that resulted to the untimely deaths of six victims – all less than 19 years of age.

On Sunday, May 10, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers went to 10 jewelry shops in Quiapo and Divisoria to see how easy one can purchase silver jewelry cleaners, and were in fact able to buy the stuff over the counter in eight of the shops.

The silver cleaners, with prices ranging from 20 to 60 pesos, were poorly labeled with zero information that will warn consumers about the toxic contents such as cyanide and thiourea.

Cyanide and cyanide compounds are highly toxic to humans and aquatic life even at low concentrations, prompting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to issue a Chemical Control Order (CCO) as early as 1997 to control their use and dispersion into the environment.

Thiourea is a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen. It is also a suspected toxicant that may cause irreversible effects, affect fertility, and set off allergic skin reaction and other health issues.

To prevent chemical poisoning due to accidental or intentional consumption, the EcoWaste Coalition called on the DENR, the Department of Health and other concerned agencies, including the Philippine National Police, to:

1. Ban the sale of cyanide-containing silver jewelry agents;
2. Confiscate cyanide-tainted stocks and prosecute erring vendors;
3. Promote non-toxic alternatives to cleaning jewelry

“We also call on the DENR and the DOH to jointly initiate a participatory review on how the CCO for cyanide is being implemented with the aim of strengthening the necessary prohibitions, limitations or restrictions in line with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM),” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

SAICM, which the Philippines and other governments adopted in 2006, is a global policy and strategy to safeguard human and ecological health from the damaging effects of toxic substances, including chemicals in products and wastes.

The group’s latest plea for chemical safety action coincides with the “Toxic Awareness and Action Week” that is being observed from May 9-15 by several groups, including Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace and Health Care Without Harm.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846