The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group working for public health and chemical safety, made this grim observation as the deadly chemical claimed last Saturday its sixth victim within two months, a 16-year old youth from Tondo, Manila. .
Citing figures from the Manila Police District (MPD) Homicide Section, the Coalition lamented that three suicide cases were reported in October and another three in November due to the deliberate intake of cyanide-bearing silver cleaners.
“We are deeply disturbed and saddened by the rising cases of cyanide poisoning due to the lax enforcement of a government directive to seize toxic cleaning agents that can be easily bought over the counter for as low as forty pesos,” said Elsie Brandes-De Veyra of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.
“We call upon the Task Force on Environmental Law Enforcement and other concerned agencies to implement the directive and put a stop to senseless injuries and deaths due to cyanide poisoning,” added De Veyra, a retired nurse.
Aside from cyanide, silver jewelry cleaners contain other chemicals of concern such as ammonia, isopropanol, nitric acid, sulfuric acid and thiourea, a possible human carcinogen and mutagen according to the European Union.
Upon the insistence of the EcoWaste Coalition, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) in July 2009 directed the confiscation of silver jewelry cleaners pursuant to DENR Administrative Order 1997-39 or the “Chemical Control Order for Cyanide and Cyanide Compounds.”
In a letter sent to the EcoWaste Coalition, DENR-EMD Director Julian Amador confirmed that tested samples of silver jewelry cleaners contained “high content of cyanide, which is fatal to humans when ingested” and that the cleaners are sold with “no proper labeling.”
“The risk that these jewelry cleaners containing cyanide pose to public health is extremely high, as evident in the reported casualties, thus, its ban for commercial use will be strictly enforced,” Amador said.
Between January to April 2009, the University of the Philippines – National Poison Management and Control Center (UP-NPMCC) handled 99 cases of silver jewelry cleaner poisoning, including 11 accidental and 88 non-accidental cases with six fatalities, all under 19 years of age.
The UP-NPMCC statistics indicate that silver jewelry cleaners rank fourth in the top 10 commonly ingested poisons in the country.