of the International Women’s Day, environmental and health advocates belonging
to the EcoWaste Coalition today called for the protection of women, bearers of
the nation’s future, against nasty pollutants from the incineration of trash.
At a conference organized by the EcoWaste Coalition at the Bulwagang Amoranto
of the Quezon City Hall, women donning “pregnant
bellies” and gas masks stood in front of a huge banner that says “Huwag
Magsunog” to dramatize the adverse health impacts of burning trash, which can lead
to the formation and release of highly toxic chemical byproducts called dioxins
that can cause reproductive and
developmental impairments, harm the immune system, interfere with hormones and
also cause cancer.
Dioxins, which are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), have
been linked to reproductive problems affecting men and women of child-bearing
age, with the developing fetus and the newborn being most sensitive to dioxin
“Protecting our women from being exposed to dioxins and other environmental
toxins is our shared responsibility as exposure to these substances can
increase the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, birth defects and
disorders and other pregnancy complications, impacting both maternal and child
health,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
at the conference, Lee Bell, a visiting toxics policy expert from Australia, cautioned
the audience against the green washing of waste incinerators, now called
“waste-to-energy” or WtE ‘green energy’ power plants,” as he asked them to
“retain the far-sighted and ecologically-sustainable” ban on waste incineration
under R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act and R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste
Bell warned that “even when incinerators can
‘control’ most of their emissions with sophisticated scrubbing devices the
toxic materials are eventually transferred to the incinerator ash.”
He also drew attention to nanoparticles, which are not
efficiently captured by air pollution control devices. Nanoparticles travel long distances, remain suspended for long
periods of time and penetrate deep into the lungs.
“To boost sales, incinerator companies have employed a public relations
campaign, taking advantage of concerns over climate change, to re-brand waste
incinerators as ‘green energy’ power plants and not as waste disposal plants,” Bell
“However much of the high calorific value waste material they seek to burn,
such as plastics, is based on fossil fuels and cannot be termed renewable. They
also destroy the embedded energy of the discarded products they burn,” he
“There are much better ways to maximise recovery of resources from waste while
saving energy, protecting the climate, improving agriculture, and creating jobs
than to lock your country into decades of waste incineration,” he said.
“Many developed countries have fallen into the incineration trap and are now
struggling to break free of it. You are
in a unique position to avoid this dead-end waste policy and move rapidly to a
more sustainable society through zero waste practices,” he said.
“We cannot burn our way out of climate change. Ultimately solar, wind and wave
energy combined with a zero waste strategy are the solutions to climate
change,” he emphasized.
“And for the sake of your children’s future please retain your far-sighted and
ecologically sustainable laws preventing the incineration of wastes,” he
“You won’t regret it in the long term!,” he concluded.
Bell has a master’s degree on ecologically sustainable development from Murdoch
University and is associated with the Alliance for a Clean Environment and the
National Toxics Network in Australia, and IPEN, a global civil society network
for a toxics-free future.
“Short-term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxins may result in skin
lesions, such as chloracne and patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver
function. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the
developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions.”