A non-governmental toxic watchdog today urged Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to strictly enforce an existing department policy on cyanide and cyanide compounds to stop the senseless deaths from the lethal consumption of silver jewelry cleaners.
The EcoWaste Coalition renewed its call to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to impose the strong hand ofthe law following the death of a one-year old girl yesterday, July 4, after mistakenly drinking a silver cleaner that she confused for water.
Trizha M. Manlapig, who just turned one last February 6, was declared dead on arrival by attending physicians at the Ospital ng Maynila. Her body lies in state at the PNR Compound, Barangay 825, Zone 89, District V in Paco, Manila.
The EcoWaste Coalition this morning visited the wake of Trizha by the railroad tracks and condoled with her parents Crisanto and Mirriam.
“The scourge of cyanide poisoning from over-the-counter silver cleaners continues to claim its periodic toll on lives. We can no longer ignore the fact that people, young and old, are dying from accidental or suicidal ingestion of silver cleaners,” said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, Secretary, EcoWaste Coalition.
“It’s high time for the DENR to enforce its own policy against these deadly concoctions. In the interest of public health and safety, we urge Sec. Paje and all our law enforcers to act and ensure zero injury and casualty from the sale and use of toxic silver cleaners,” she emphasized.
During the last quarter of 2009, the Manila Police District reported six suicide cases due to the deliberate intake of silver cleaners. Last June 30, 18-year old Lilibeth del Mundo from Barangay Sta.Monica, Quezon City reportedly committed suicide by consuming the “instant kill” cleaning solution.
Last year, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) bought some samples of silver cleaners from jewelry shops and had them tested for cyanide. Test results showed “high content of cyanide, which is fatal to humans when ingested,” according to the EMB letter to the EcoWaste Coalition.
“The risk that these jewelry cleaners containing cyanide pose to public health is extremely high, as evident in the reported casualties, thus, its ban will be strictly enforced,” the EMB told theEcoWaste Coalition.
Following the test, the EMB in July 2009 directed the confiscation of silver jewelry cleaners pursuant to DENR Administrative Order No.1997-39, Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Cyanide and Cyanide Compounds, which are poisonous to humans and aquatic life even at low concentrations.
Subsequent market surveillance by the EcoWaste Coalition indicated that silver jewelry cleaners are still rampantly available for sale in jewelry shops, most of which are inadequately labeled.
Exposure to high levels of cyanide, according to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, can harm the brain and heart, and may cause coma and death. Exposure to lower levels may result in breathing difficulties, heart pains, vomiting, blood changes, headaches, and enlargement of the thyroid gland.
The EcoWaste Coalition likewise called for action against silver cleaners containing thiourea, another toxic chemical, that is a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen. Exposure to thiourea may cause irreversible effects, affect fertility, cause allergic skin reaction, skin ulcers and liver damage, and may be fatal if swallowed.
In lieu of cleaning solutions laced with cyanide, thiourea and other harmful chemicals, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends toothpaste,baking soda, liquid dish soap and mild detergents as safer substitutes for polishing silver jewelry.
Eliminating the sale and use of toxic jewelry cleaners, the EcoWaste Coalition asserts, is in complete harmony with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global policy to protect human and ecological health from the damaging effects of toxic substances, including chemicals in products and wastes.
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