12 December 2019, Quezon City. For the 14th year in a row, the EcoWaste Coalition today launched its “Iwas Paputoxic” drive for public safety and environmental health as the country gets ready to bid 2019 goodbye and usher in 2020.
Held in support of the firecracker injury prevention program by the Department of Health (DOH), “Iwas Paputoxic” seeks to encourage families and the communities they belong to turn away from the dangerous and polluting tradition of detonating firecrackers and fireworks to welcome the New Year.
At a festive event held at the San Antonio Elementary School in Quezon City with hundreds of pupils in attendance, the group, together with government officials, Miss Philippines Earth 2019 Janelle Lazo Tee and Miss Philippines Earth Eco-Tourism Karen Nicole Piccio, informed the young audience about the negative effects of firecrackers and fireworks to human health and ecosystems, as well as promoted the use of alternative ways of merrymaking.
“The misuse of firecrackers and fireworks can cause blast injuries or burns that may require amputation, eye damage that may lead to blindness, tetanus, poisoning and even death with children as the most affected” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition who also stressed that “while the number of injuries has been declining through the years, we still need to work harder to protect all children from being harmed by firecrackers and fireworks.”
According to DOH, firecracker-related incidents declined by 34 percent with 340 cases in 2018 compared to 550 cases monitored in 2017, with the National Capital Region having the highest number of recorded incidents. Most of the victims were youth aged five to 14 years with most of the injuries caused by piccolo, boga, lusis, kwitis and triangulo.
“The warlike bursting of firecrackers and fireworks also pollute our environment with toxic smog that can trigger or worsen respiratory and other health disorders, while generating equally toxic litter that only adds to our garbage woes,” he pointed out.
Antonio Miranda, Principal of SAES enjoined the students assembled at the school’s covered court not to even touch firecrackers and fireworks for their own safety. “It is better to be safe than get harmed by piccolo, rockets, sparklers and other pyrotechnic devices, legal or not. Tandaan ninyo: nasa huli lagi ang pagsisisi.”
As explained by Dr. Germinin Louis C. Apostol, Environmental Health Specialist of the Center for Research and Innovation, Ateneo de Manila University: “The inhalation of the toxic air pollutants released from the detonation of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices can cause chronic or allergic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, laryngitis, pneumonia, rhinitis, and sinusitis, especially among children and others suffering from colds and allergies.”
Among these toxic air emissions are suspended particulate matters and other gaseous pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide.
Instead of wasting money for a few minutes of toxic fun, the EcoWaste Coalition urged children, as well as adults, to save it for school projects or to buy nutritious foods.
To show that fun is not in any way reduced by the absence of firecrackers and fireworks, the students staged a lively countdown to the New Year using emission-free alternative noisemakers, including pots and pans, improvised maracas and tambourines, paper and plastic horns, and other creative noisemakers.
The Batang Emergency Response Team (BERT) of SAES also made a presentation on the dangers of firecrackers and first-aid tips in case of firecracker injuries..
The EcoWaste Coalition further urged the public not to burn used tires on New Year’s eve, an illegal act that can generate loads of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, volatile organic compounds, benzene, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls,and heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium and mercury, which are released directly into the atmosphere.