Bishop, Watchdog Decry Illegal Sale of Poisonous Silver Jewelry Cleaner

(CBCP News)

A senior Catholic Church leader and a toxics watchdog jointly urged the government to go on the offensive against dealers of deadly silver jewelry cleaning solutions.

“The unlawful trade of cyanide-laced silver cleaning agents has not stopped and so are the deadly poisoning incidents involving the weak and the poor.We appeal to the authorities to firmly get to the bottom of this problem and bring the senseless killings to a close,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

For his part, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. said: “I join the EcoWaste Coalition in their effort to protect the human health and the environment against cyanide poisoning. Those who flaunt the law against the sale of toxic silver jewelry cleaner must be identified and held accountable for this brazen crime that has already taken so many lives.”

Bishop Iñiguez, who is also the Chairman of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, made the statement after the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol obtainedbottles of illegal silver cleaner in test buys conducted on June 28-July 1, 2012 in five cities in Metro Manila.

The unregistered and improperly labeled silver cleaning products are sold from P30 to P150 in some silver jewelry shops in major shopping malls in Makati, Manila, Mandaluyong, Pasay and Quezon Cities.

The banned items are discreetly sold by most vendors except at Victory Pasay Mall and Welcome Plaza in Pasay City where the items are placed on display in glass cabinets of silver jewelry shops, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.

In their letter to Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona, Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, Food and Drug Administration Director Nicolas B. Lutero III and Environmental Management Bureau Director Juan Miguel T. Cuna, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed dismay over the continued sale of toxic silver cleaner and their use as suicidal potion by persons suffering from emotional, financial, health and relationship issues.

At least five people aged 17 to 62 have died from January to June 2012 due to the deliberate ingestion of cyanide-containing silver cleaner, according to the media monitoring by the EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste Coalition has requested Secretaries Ona and Paje to convene a multistakeholders’ committee to review the implementation of the Joint DOH-DENR Advisory, Series of 2010-0001.

Signed on 24 September 2010 by the two incumbent Secretaries, the advisory bans the sale of silver jewelry cleaning solutions containing cyanide and other toxic substances, and further bans the importation, manufacturing, distribution and sale of silver cleaners without product registration and labeling.

The EcoWaste Coalition also appealed to the authorities to conduct a random inspection of silver jewelry shops in major commercial hubs and shopping malls and decisively apprehend and charge violators of the ban.

The group also asked government regulators to reach out to the management of shopping malls and entice them to help in policing silver jewelry shops doing business in their premises.

Cyanide and its compounds, which are among the 48 substances in the Philippine Priority Chemicals List, are highly toxic to people and marine life even at low concentrations.

Exposure to cyanide through eye or skin contact, inhalation and ingestion can cause irritation, rash, bluish skin color, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, nausea, headache, blindness, suffocation, lung congestion, convulsions, paralysis, coma and death.