A Joint Advisory signed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Ramon J.P. Paje and Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Enrique T. Ona declared silver cleaners containing cyanide and other toxic substances as “threat to health and safety” and affirmed “the strict prohibition on their sale in the market.”
“We laud our environment and health authorities for taking tough action to stop the injuries and deaths from the accidental and non-accidental ingestion of cyanide-laced silver cleaners. This is a victory for public safety against toxics,” said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, Secretary of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“Alone, the advisory would not be enough to ensure zero poisoning and death. We therefore urge the government to craft and carry out a corresponding ‘Oplan Silver Cleaner’ enforcement mechanism,” she pointed out.
The group likewise commended the University of the Philippines – National Poison Management and Control Center (UP-NPMCC), DOH-Environmental and Occupational Health Office and the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) .
“We must stay vigilant against the sale of these cheap, but extremely deadly chemical mixtures. Through our AlerToxic Patrol volunteers, we will continue to monitor the market and duly inform the authorities,” added Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).
The EcoWaste Coalition, Dizon announced, will disseminate “Save Lives” posters to notify dealers and consumers about the combined move by the health and environment departments to bring silver cleaner poisoning cases to a close.
“All commercial establishments such as jewelry shops and other retail outlets and ambulant vendors are strongly warned against selling and/or dispensing unregistered and unlabeled silver cleaners,” the Joint Advisory said.
“Anyone found selling the banned products shall be penalized ,” the Joint Advisory warned as the government sought the help of concerned citizens in providing information that may lead to the apprehension of unscrupulous importers, manufacturers, distributors and sellers by calling DOH-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at 8078275.
To prevent indiscriminate disposal that can harm aquatic life, the Joint Advisory, as proposed by the EcoWaste Coalition, directed all individuals and entities to surrender unregistered and unlabeled silver cleaning agents in their possession to the nearest office of the DENR-EMB or the DOH-FDA or their corresponding regional offices.
Data provided by the UPNPMCC to the EcoWaste Coalition show that in 2009 alone 11
Filipinos (three from adult age group and eight from pediatric age group) died out of the 235 cases of silver cleaner poisoning handled or referred to the PGH-based group. From January to September 2010, 11 have already died (6 adults and 5 children).
The UPNPMCC also reported a dramatic increase in the non-accidental intake of silver cleaners, which rose from 7% in 2005 to 86% in 2009.
More recent data show that between July to September 2010, 57 of the 68 in-patient admissions and telephone referrals managed by the UPNPMCC were due to non-accidental ingestion of silver cleaners, or 84% of the cases handled.
The EcoWaste Coalition had written over 10 letters to the government through the DENR from May 2009 up to October 2010 alerting the agency about the illegal sale of toxic silver cleaners, the numerous poisoning cases as reported in the media and the urgency of enforcing the ban.
Last August 23, the EcoWaste Coalition, together with nearly 150 groups and individuals from Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and the National Capital Region, petitioned the DENR to duly implement the ban as embodied in “Chemical Control Order for Cyanide and Cyanide-Compounds.”
In the same petition, they urged the DENR to launch an “Oplan Silver Cleaner,” stressing “that we are racing against time to save the next Filipino from getting injured and killed by cyanide poisoning.”
On July 6, the EcoWaste Coalition brought a mock coffin in a black veil event called “Kalampag-Luksa” outside the DENR to draw attention to the senseless deaths due to the ingestion of toxic silver cleaners.
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