A waste and pollution watchdog urged cemetery administrators and the general public to observe ecological waste management to help cut mosquito breeding sites and fight the dreaded Zika virus.
The EcoWaste Coalition’s plea for proper management of discards followed the Department of Health’s announcement on Friday of 19 confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in the country: three from the National Capital Region, three from Calabarzon, one from Central Visayas and 12 from Western Visayas.
The group has expressed concern that reckless waste management in cemeteries before, during and after the Undas may create breeding places for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can transmit Zika virus as well as chikungunya and dengue.
“If we are not cautious on how we handle our discards, particularly used food, water and flower containers, our cemeteries may end up becoming giant breeding sites for these mosquitoes,” warned Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Improperly disposed of containers may collect rainwater that will later become stagnant, providing a place where mosquitoes can lay their eggs,” she explained.
Health authorities have identified larval habitats for these disease carrying mosquitoes, including flower pots, plates under potted plants, cemetery vases, tin cans and other artificial or natural water containers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “applying many of the basic principles (of solid waste management) can contribute substantially to reducing Aedes aegypti larval habitats,” adding that “the basic rule of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is highly applicable.”
“Proper storage, collection and disposal of waste are essential for protecting public health,” the WHO emphasized.
“Efforts to reduce solid waste should be directed against discarded or non-essential containers, particularly if they have been identified in the community as important mosquito-producing containers,” it said.
To prevent and reduce the generation of trash in cemeteries, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to consider the following dos and don’t’s:
1. Do put your “baon” in reusable containers and bring them home after use.
2. Do bring your own water to avoid buying bottled water or drinks in disposable cups and plastics.
3. Do use reusable carry bags instead of single-use plastic bags.
4. Do not bring too much food and drinks more than what you can consume.
5. Do not leave leftovers, used containers and other discards in the cemetery.
6. Do not burn discards; bring them with you for recycling or proper disposal.
Aside from observing ecological waste management for mosquito control, the EcoWaste Coalition also advised the public to only use mosquito repellent products that have undergone evaluation by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for safety, efficacy and quality.
Citing information from a recently published FDA booklet, the group urged the public to consider the following safety tips from the agency when buying and using mosquito repellent products:
1. Use only FDA-registered mosquito repellent products.
2. Read the label.
– Before using any mosquito repellent product, read the label carefully and completely.
– Understand and follow the directions or instructions for use found on the packaging label.
– Do not use the product for other purposes apart from their intended ones.
– Take note of the product’s expiration date.
– Take note of the precautionary statements that might be stated on the packaging label as well as the first-aid treatments in case of accidents
3. Take necessary precautions when using mosquito repellent products.
– Consumers are advised to use mosquito repellent products responsibly. FDA-registered mosquito repellent products, though proven to be safe under normal forseeable conditions of use, still contain active ingredients that can be hazardous to health when mishandled.
– Do not use the product anywhere near food to prevent food contamination that might lead to oral ingestion of the product.
– Do not apply near the eyes and mouth, and avoid spraying directly into face.
– Take note if there is a warning on flammability especially for pressurized spray products. In these cases, do not use the product near open flames.
– Store the product according to the storage directions found on the label.
– Do not allow children to handle the products. Since children exhibit the habit of putting things or their own hands in their mouth, it is recommended that mosquito repellent products be stored in places where children cannot reach them.
4. Report any adverse reaction experienced to the retailer where the product was bought, to the local company reflected on the label or to the FDA.