EcoWaste Coalition Backs Testing of Fish from Laguna Lake for Toxic Contaminants

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on chemicals and
wastes, has signified its support for the testing of fish from Laguna Lake to
determine if they are safe from environmental toxins such as lead and mercury.
“We support the initiative of Environment Secretary Gina
Lopez to look into the potential toxic metal contamination of Laguna Lake fish,
which are mainly coming from industrial and domestic pollution sources,” said
Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Lopez had suggested the testing of fish, in coordination
with other government agencies such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic
Resources and the Department of Health, after saying last Wednesday that
“Laguna de Bay is overfished and “fish in (the lake) have been found to be heavy
in mercury,”
“In fact, the monitoring of toxic metals and other
contaminants in fish in Laguna Lake should be undertaken on a regular basis to
assure the public that they are safe to eat, especially by children and
pregnant women who are very vulnerable to the harmful effects of exposure to
lead, mercury and other toxic metals,” she said.
“The decline or rise in toxic metal concentrations in
Laguna Lake fish, as the sampling data would show, will be a good indicator of
the effectiveness of government’s interventions and help the Duterte
administration in realizing its vision for the country’s largest freshwater
lake,” she said.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA),
President Rodrigo Duterte) announced that “the Laguna Lake shall be
transformed into a vibrant economic zone showcasing ecotourism by addressing
the negative impact of the watershed destruction, land conversion and
The EcoWaste Coalition recalled that a fish sampling
conducted in 2010-2011 showed that “mudfish from Laguna Lake is not fit for
long-term human consumption primarily due to lead and mercury contamination.”
“Long-term human consumption of mudfish from Laguna de
Bay is not safe due to elevated levels of mercury and lead that were found to
be above the safe non-carcinogenic hazard quotient (NHQ) values,” said Prof.
Victorio B. Molina of the University of the Philippines-Manila who conducted
the study.
While the levels of arsenic, cadmium and chromium do not
pose significant non-carcinogenic health effects associated with the
consumption of mudfish from Laguna de Bay, the concentrations of mercury and
lead showed elevated levels that are likely to cause adverse health effects on
fish long-term consumers, according to Molina’s report entitled
“Non-Carcinogenic Health Risks of Heavy Metal in Mudfish from Laguna
Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury are
non-essential metals from the point of view of human health and are known to
have the ability to bioaccumulate through the food chain, the study said.
“Lead is the most urgent pollutant of concern in terms of
adverse health effects from risks associated with mudfish consumption from all
sampling locations in the lake,” the study pointed out.
According to Greenpeace, a member of the EcoWaste
Coalition: “The Laguna Lake and its surrounding areas are under immediate
threat from household and industrial pollution. Household or domestic wastes
constitute 77% of the lake’s total pollution load, industry contributes 11%,
11% from agriculture and 1% from forests. Solid and liquid wastes enter the
lake by way of the 22 major tributaries and the more than 100 minor
tributaries, including the periodically back-flowing Pasig River.”
Additional Information:
Recommendations from the report “Non-Carcinogenic Health
Risks of Heavy Metal in Mudfish from Laguna Lake.” 
1. Urgent measures should be done by concerned
authorities to protect health of communities consuming mudfish from the lake
especially the children. The immediate goal should be to minimize exposure by
minimizing the amount of fish intake and the frequency of consumption.
2. Regular monitoring of heavy metal in fishes should be
done at least twice a year (wet and dry seasons) by concerned government
agencies at all levels.
3. Regular health advisories regarding quantitative
health risks associated with fish consumption should be issued by the Laguna
Lake Development Authority or the Regional Office of the Department of Health.
4. Local Government Units, especially the lakeshore
communities, should be involved in the heavy metal monitoring in fish and in
developing and disseminating advisories and other health-related information to
the communities and other stakeholders.
5. Inventory and assessment of potential sources of heavy
metal in the lake (e g., industrial sources) most especially for lead and mercury,
should be undertaken.
6. More stringent regulation of effluents from industries
around the lake should be enforced.

7. There should be regular monitoring of heavy metal in
major rivers and tributaries draining into the lake.