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Children’s Protection from Chemical Hazards Pushed

Bantay Bata
Seminar participants are one in seeking the protection of children, including the unborn, from toxic chemical exposures that can put their health and future in jeopardy.

Quezon City. Children, including babies in the womb, are highly vulnerable to the harmful effects of hazardous chemicals that can put their health and future at risk, thus the need for research, policies and risk communication to prevent and reduce early life exposures.

The vulnerability of children to environmental toxicants was duly emphasized at a recent seminar jointly organized by the toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition and the research unit of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH) with over 65 people from various community and non-government organizations in attendance.

As noted by resource persons Dr. Geminn Louis Apostol and Dr. Sary Valenzuela from the ASMPH Center for Research and Innovation (ACRI), children are particularly susceptible to toxicants lurking in their surroundings as they consume more air, water and food than adults do relative to their body weight, and considering their typical hand-to-mouth behavior and less developed natural defenses against toxins and diseases.

ACRI’s environmental health specialists provided thought-provoking insights about the threats to human health associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution, smoking and vaping, chemicals in household and toy products, chemicals in plastics, pesticides in food, and hazardous waste, specifically electronic or e-waste.

“The health of Filipino families, children in particular, continue to be threatened by toxic chemicals from air pollution, pesticides, plastic products, improperly managed waste, and e-waste,” Apostol pointed out. “Now more than ever, there is a need to produce more research on these issues, draw up evidence-based policies, and promote effective risk communication to protect the public’s health.”

Valenzuela drew attention to the environmentally unsound disposal practices for busted, spent or obsolete electrical and electronic products and their components such as by dumping, landfilling, open burning and unsafe recycling, which can release toxic pollutants that can contaminate the air, water, soil and dust and even travel significant distances. “Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable,” she said.

The presentations and the consequent discussions touched on several chemicals of concern, including cadmium, lead, mercury and other heavy metals, flame retardants, pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol A/S and other toxic plastic chemicals, as well as the growing plastic and waste pollution crisis.

The seminar concluded with an interactive activity that induced participants to identify actions that will lead to better health for themselves, their families and communities.

Cigarette smoking, the open burning of trash, the unbridled consumption of single-use plastics, and setting off firecrackers to welcome the New Year were among the unhealthy activities that should be stopped as identified by the participants.

Segregating waste at source, plastic use reduction, opting for reusables and supporting refillable stations, examining product labels, planting vegetables and trees, and promoting environmental awareness and stewardship, especially among the children and youth, were some of the good practices that should be embraced.

The participants also specified things that should be further studied and learned, including pollution prevention laws and regulations, hazardous chemicals, unsustainable products, and healthy lifestyle options.

EcoWaste Coalition
Let's make an eco-friendly, zero waste, and toxic-free Philippines a reality.