Groups Reach Out to Coal Dust-Polluted Community in Tondo, Back Closure of Coal Storage to Prevent Black Lung Disease

Photo by Pia Bonalos/CNN Philippines

Urban poor residents burdened by coal dust pollution in Tondo, Manila got a shot in the
arm from groups who have expressed unity with their cry for health and justice.

Through a medical mission held today at Barangay 105, the EcoWaste Coalition,
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) and the Zone One Tondo
Organization (ZOTO) joined the residents in urging the authorities to shut down
a polluting coal stockpile facility located within the Harbour Centre Port
Terminal, Inc.

Residents from nearby areas have long been complaining against the coal dust
from the storage facility that has been blowing over into their homes for years
and affecting their health, the groups said.
Dr. Erle Castillo told residents who came to seek medical attention that exposure
to airborne coal dusts may cause pneumoconiosis, which is also called “black
lung disease” among coal workers. 
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), “pneumoconiosis is a general
term given to any lung disease caused by dusts that are breathed in and then
deposited deep in the lungs causing damage.”
“When the coal dusts are inhaled, the extremely small particles can deposit in
the bronchial tubes or in the air sacs, which are deep in the lungs and inflict
serious harm to the respiratory system,” explained Castillo, who is former
President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.

“Exposure to coal dust, one of the most common causes of pneumoconiosis along
with asbestos and silica, may lead to the so-called ‘black lung disease,’ which
is not curable at all,” he said.

“The dusts from the tons of
stockpiled coal near the residential areas pose real health hazard for the
people, especially for the young children and the elderly and the government
must act decisively to protect them from such toxic particles and chemicals in
coal,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  
“As prevention is better than cure, we call upon the authorities to close the
source of coal dust pollution at once as demanded by the affected residents.
The coal facility is only aggravating the living conditions in the area,” said Orly
Gallano, President, ZOTO.
“The degraded air quality in this part of Tondo is one of the most obvious
environmental and health impacts of dirty coal. 
To halt this preventable pollution, the coal storage facility has to go
and our country has to stop its dependence on coal and switch to clean
renewable energy sources instead,” said Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary-General
of Sanlakas and head of the Energy Working Group of PMCJ.
The said medical mission was co-organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, PMCJ and
Zoto in collaboration with the Barangay Council of Barangay 105, Zone 8 in
Tondo, Manila
and the Office of Rep. Benjamin “Atong” Asilo.