Toxic Watchdog Alarmed by Rugby Sniffing in Metro Streets

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxic watchdog, exhorted the authorities not to turn a blind eye to the unchecked sale of toluene-based rugby glue to out-of-school youth.

“Despite the ban on over-the-counter sale of rugby glue, we still find youngsters sniffing the health-damaging stuff in full view of the public,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We are dismayed at the apparent ease of buying the addictive substance from hardware stores as if it was an ordinary product,” he observed.

“It’s time for the authorities to get tough against vendors engaged in the illegal sale of rugby, reach out to the victims and give them a new lease on life,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the government, along with other collaborators, to offer compassionate assistance to “solvent addicts” to help them get rid of the toxic habit through counseling, rehabilitation and the provision of educational, value-formation and skills-building opportunities.

The group’s appeal for governmental action was in response to the common sighting of street children and youth sniffing rugby under the MRT tracks in EDSA Cubao, at the intersection of Aurora Boulevard and Araneta Avenue and other favorite hangout spots.

The EcoWaste Coalition had previously commended the country’s drug enforcers for announcing in July 2009 that rugby and other toluene-based contact cement (TBCC) products would no longer be available over the counter.

Toluene, a clear and flammable toxic liquid obtained from coal tar or petroleum, is listed in Table II of the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, and is one of the chemicals controlled under Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Inhaling toluene can have devastating effects, including damage to the brain, the central nervous system and other vital organs, and reduction of the blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.

In a bid to make toluene-based inhalants unappealing to users, the government through a resolution by the Dangerous Drugs Board outlawed the over-the-counter sale of TBCC that does not contain at least five percent mustard oil.

The pungent smell created with the addition of mustard oil makes rugby unattractive to sniffing addicts.

To further curb solvent abuse, TBCC consumers are supposedly required to present a valid ID and a barangay clearance indicating the quantity to be purchased and its intended use.

The inclusion of barangay clearance as a requirement was meant to ensure that minors would not be able to purchase rugby and other TBCC products.