Valenzuela Councilor Files Ordinance Banning Cyanide-Laden Silver Jewelry Cleaners

Quezon City. A youth member of the Valenzuela City Council has proposed an ordinance, which, if enacted, would ban and penalize the sale of silver jewelry cleaners containing cyanide, a highly toxic substance.

Councilor Ricmar C. Enriquez has proposed City Ordinance 2009-109 to address the adverse health and environmental impacts associated with the use of cyanide-laced cleaning solutions.

Enriquez, who is also the President of the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation of Valenzuela City, explained that the sale of cyanide-containing silver cleaners is “patently unlawful and must be stopped or abated.”

Enriquez observed that the toxic cleaning agent “is being sold in public like any harmless goods, creating a mindset among the people, particularly the youth, that it is a safe and ordinary item.”

Speaking at the hearing conducted yesterday by Councilor Ignacio G. Santiago,Jr. Chairman, Committee on Ordinances and Legal Matters, the delegation from the EcoWaste Coalition expressed its hope that the ordinance will be eventually passed and enforced “to address a scourge of our times: the accidental or suicidal ingestion of poisonous silver jewelry cleaners.”

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-governmental group promoting chemical safety, is campaigning for the elimination of silver jewelry cleaners laced with cyanide and other chemicals of concern such as thiourea and the promotion of safe and eco-friendly substitutes.

“We commend Coun. Enriquez for filing the ordinance as we urge the City Council to adopt without delay this timely precautionary policy that can avert cyanide poisoning from accidental and suicidal intake of highly toxic silver jewelry cleaning agents, especially by demoralized and downtrodden individuals,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

At the insistence of the EcoWaste Coalition, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau had some samples of silver jewelry cleaners tested last year that confirmed “high content of cyanide, which is fatal to humans when ingested.”

The DENR, in a letter sent to the EcoWaste Coalition and to the Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health, said that the Department has already given the directives for the confiscation of these jewelry cleaners pursuant to DENR Administrative Order No. 1997-39, Chemical Control Order for Cyanide and Cyanide Compounds.

“The risk that these jewelry cleaners containing cyanide pose to public health is extremely high, as evident in the reported casualties, thus, its ban will be strictly enforced,” the DENR-EMB letter said.

At the Committee hearing, the EcoWaste Coalition further proposed the banning of silver cleaners containing thiourea, another toxic chemical that is classified as a probable human carcinogen.

Thiourea is a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen. Exposure to thiourea may cause irreversible effects, affect fertility, cause allergic skin reaction, skin ulcers and liver damage, and may be fatal if swallowed.

If approved, violators caught selling, acquiring or possessing cyanide-containing silver cleaners in Valenzuela City shall be fined not less than P5,000 and/or imprisoned for not less than six months at the discretion of the Court.