The waste and pollution watchdog reminded the DENR that time is of the essence as the country moves away from incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient, but mercury-laden compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs.
The EcoWaste Coalition made the appeal following the announcement last Wednesday by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that five million CFLs will be given free to low income families beginning August 2009 in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao and Metro Manila.
The President made the announcement at the recently-concluded high-level dialogue on climate change in Asia and the Pacific at the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City.
“We urge the DENR to issue tough rules for the sound management and disposal of CFLs after their useful lives, including banning their disposal in bins, dumpsites and incinerators, to avert a toxic crisis,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.
“Our market survey shows that most CFLs in commerce are inadequately labeled. The government has to enforce strict labeling requirements to caution consumers about the dangers of mercury and the need to exercise precaution and care in handling the lamps,” he added.
The EcoWaste Coalition also pressed for a take back program for spent bulbs given the lack of capacity of local government units to safely handle hazardous waste.
“We further urge the government to require manufacturers, importers and retailers to take full responsibility for their CFL products by instituting a take-back program for spent or broken bulbs,” Calonzo added.
Extended producer responsibility, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, will also encourage manufacturers to reduce or totally remove mercury in their products to avoid costly disposal options and lessen health and environmental threats from CFL use and disposal.
The EcoWaste Coalition cited the report “Mercury Rising” co-released in February 2009 by the Zero Mercury Working Group, Ban Toxics and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives to back its call for the sound management of CFLs.
The report shows that the combustion of mercury-added products in incinerators, landfill fires and open burning of household wastes significantly contributes to mercury pollution of both local and global ecosystems.
As part of its work on chemical safety, the EcoWaste Coalition has published a fact sheet on mercury to inform the public about the health and environmental effects of mercury pollution.
The fact sheet also contains some tips on how to prevent or reduce exposure to mercury, such as never burn, dump with ordinary waste or pour down the drain any mercury and mercury-containing products.
Exposure to mercury can affect the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver, causing symptoms such as trembling hands, memory loss, and difficulty moving. It can also cause birth defects.
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