Church and Environmental Leaders Push for Ban on Cyanide-Laced Silver Cleaners to Save Lives

Quezon City. To mark the World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) on September 10, church and the civil society leaders have joined forces in urging the government to move fast in purging the market of unregistered and unlabeled silver jewelry cleaners laced with cyanide, a fast-acting poison.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. and EcoWaste Coalition’s Secretary Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, in a joint press release, exhorted the Aquino administration to act against the rising incidents of suicide cases through the deliberate intake of cyanide-mixed silver cleaners.

“We now know that the intentional ingestion of cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaners is a major cause of premature death among Filipino adolescents and adults facing life crisis,” said Bishop Iñiguez, who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“The government has to act decisively to cut the immoral sale of this deadly concoction. Ban cyanide-laced silver cleaners now to reduce suicide rates and save lives,” the leader of the Diocese of Caloocan pointed out.

According to police sources, the Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela (CAMANAVA) area has the most number of suicide cases, 68 in 2008, with victims reportedly drinking silver cleaners, hanging or shooting themselves.

For her part, Dr. Paquiz affirmed the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” as she requested the authorities to ban market access for illegal silver cleaning products.

“Prohibiting the manufacture, distribution and sale of silver cleaners that are not duly registered, properly labelled and certified free of cyanide is essential to preventing both accidental and non-accidental poisoning cases beforehand,” she said.

According to the UP National Poison Management and Control Center (UPNPMCC), the non-accidental ingestion of silver cleaners has dramatically risen from 7% in 2005 to 86% in 2009.

Data from the UPNPMCC also show that in 2009 alone, 11 Filipinos (three in the adult age group and eight in the pediatric age group) died out of 235 cases of silver cleaner poisoning handled by or referred to the Center. From January to June 2010, nine have already died (four adults and five children).

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.

A project of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the WSPD promotes global commitment and action to prevent suicides.

Governments, according to the WHO, need to develop policy frameworks for national suicide prevention strategies. At the local level, policy statements and research outcomes need to be translated into prevention programmes and activities in communities.

“The Philippine government can show its solidarity with the IASP and the WHO by launching a strong policy and action plan to combat poisoning from cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaners and through other effective prevention activities,” Bishop Iñiguez and Dr. Paquiz said.

Banning cyanide-laden cleaners, they further said, will promote the Filipino’s people right to health as well as advance the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global strategy to protect human and ecological health from the damaging effects of toxic substances, including chemicals in products and wastes.


WHO World Suicide Prevention Day: