Bishop Iñiguez and EcoWaste Coalition Seek Ban on Deadly Silver Jewelry Cleaners

Quezon City. A Catholic Church leader and a public interest group campaigning for chemical safety urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to impose an outright ban on cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaning agents.

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. and the EcoWaste Coalition aired their shared plea after learning about two new cases of suicidal ingestion of silver jewelry cleaners involving a 20-year old woman and a 25-year old man, both from Tondo, Manila.

“The suicidal intake of cyanide-bearing silver jewelry cleaners is an act of violence against oneself. We are all made in God’s image and likeness, so we must strive to glorify Him in our bodies and protect, not harm, ourselves from health-damaging substances like cyanide.,” stated Bishop Iñiguez who heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“I therefore join the call of the EcoWaste Coalition to ban poisonous silver jewelry cleaners as I remind those facing hardships in life not to despair, but to find hope and love in our living faith,” the Bishop of Caloocan pointed out.

The Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela (CAMANAVA) area, according to police sources, has the most number of suicide incidents in Metro Manila with 68 suicide cases in 2008 alone. Driven by depression and poverty, CAMANAVA suicide victims reportedly drank silver jewelry cleaning liquids, hanged or shot themselves.

“Cyanide is a very toxic substance that can cause lethal harm if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin. To avoid injuries and deaths due to accidental or deliberate poisoning, we urge the government to immediately ban this deadly poison,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“We likewise call on the authorities to popularize eco-friendly and non-toxic ways of cleaning silver jewelry to prevent and reduce health and environmental risks,” he added.

In lieu of cyanide-bearing cleaning solutions, the EcoWaste Coalition has identified toothpaste, baking soda, liquid dish soap and mild detergents as safer substitutes that can remove stains and cleanse silver jewelry.

Banning cyanide-laden cleaners, the EcoWaste Coalition asserts, will promote the Filipino’s people right to health as well as advance 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.

According to the Chemical Control Order (CCO) issued by the DENR in 1997, cyanide and cyanide compounds are highly toxic to humans and to aquatic life even at low concentrations.

The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says that exposure to high levels of cyanide harms 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.

Data provided by the University of the Philippines-National Poison Management and Control Center (UP-NPMCC) show silver jewelry cleaner landing fourth in 2008 in the top 10 most commonly ingested poisons. It ranks third in the list of most commonly ingested toxic substance by children.

From January to April 2009, the UPNPMCC assisted 99 victims of silver jewelry cleaner poisoning, including 52 children. The center also recorded six deaths, all below 19 years of age, due to accidental and intentional ingestion of toxic cleaning solutions.