By Chito Chavez
A waste and pollution watchdog appealed to the candidates for the May 14 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan election (BSKE) to minimize the use of tarpaulin posters laced with cadmium, a cancer-causing chemical.
Quezon City based EcoWaste Coalition issued the call as the official campaign period for the upcoming election starts on May 4 and ends on May 12.
“Tarpaulins such as those made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic often contain cadmium, a chemical that is deemed extremely harmful to human health and the environment,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
As the campaign period is limited to nine days and will only cover a small geographical area, the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged Barangay and SK candidates not to focus their resources on the quantity of tarpaulins and other campaign materials to be made and disseminated.
“Voters will surely remember candidates who have taken the trouble of visiting their homes and neighborhoods not only to shake hands but, more importantly, to chat with them about their concerns and how the barangay and the SK could be of assistance to their lives,” Dizon said.
To draw attention to this health and environmental threat, the EcoWaste Coalition had 10 new campaign tarpaulins done by different signage makers in Caloocan, Quezon and Taguig cities.
The tarpaulins, measuring 18 x 24 inches and costing P36 to P150 each, carried the names of popular teleserye characters as barangay and SK candidates.
The group subjected each tarpaulin to chemical analysis using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device to determine if the material contains cadmium, which is used as stabilizer or coloring agent in PVC plastic.
Out of 10 tarpaulins, 10 yielded cadmium in the range of 1,028 to 1,536 parts per million (ppm), way beyond the European Union’s limit of 100 ppm for cadmium in plastics.
The tarpaulins of the following supposed candidates were found to contain the highest concentrations of cadmium:
1. “Crisanta Bautista,” 1,536 ppm
2. “Ricardo Dalisay,” 1,156 ppm
3. “Jong Generoso Jr.,” 1,120 ppm
4. “Matadora,” 1,104 ppm
5. “Lakas,” 1,087 ppm
6. “Perla Nuñez,” 1,080 ppm
“We are concerned that cadmium-containing tarpaulins are adding to the growing toxicity of the waste stream that our society generates,” Dizon said.
“The PVC plastic scraps from signage makers, as well as the used tarpaulins, are disposed of like ordinary trash and hauled to dumpsites and landfills for disposal where their cadmium and other chemical additives can be released as the materials degrade,” he explained.
Dizon pointed out that chlorinated materials may also end up being burned in dumps, cement kilns and incinerators triggering the formation and release of even more toxic pollutants such as dioxins and furans.
He added that it’s high time for government regulators to adopt a chemical control order for cadmium so as to reduce, if not eliminate, their use in the production of plastic and other materials and lessen their health and environmental impacts.
Cadmium belongs to the list of priority chemicals determined by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) “to potentially cause unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) also considers cadmium, along with arsenic, asbestos, lead and mercury, among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern.”
Cadmium, according to WHO, “exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen.