Environmental group Ecowaste Coalition on Monday said it has found cadmium, a cancer-causing substance, in plastic tarpaulins used by candidates as election campaign materials.
“Plastic tarpaulins have become extremely popular for all types of advertising and promotion. The use of tarps by politicians running for the May polls is a case in point,” said Ecowaste coordinator Aileen Lucero.
“But, the problem goes beyond the huge volume of tarps hanging on unauthorized places like bridges, cables, lamp posts and trees that have to be laboriously removed by the Metro Manila Development Authority and Public Works Department workers,” she noted.
Lucero said most tarpaulins, especially those made of polyvinyl chloride plastic, contain hazardous additives such as cadmium, a carcinogenic substance that is among the 10 chemicals of major public health concern of the World Health Organization.
She cited the results of the chemical screening conducted by their group on 300 pieces of campaign tarps from various national and local candidates that were among those removed by the MMDA because they were posted outside the common poster area.
All of the 300 tarpaulins were found to contain cadmium in the range of 697 to 1,921 parts per million, way above the European Union’s 100 ppm limit for cadmium in plastics.
“While developed economies have adopted measures to ban cadmium in all plastics, the Philippines has yet to follow suit,” Lucero said.
Lucero also cited the European Commission Regulation No. 494/2011, which prohibits manufacturers from placing mixtures and articles produced from plastic material containing cadmium “equal to or greater than 0,01 percent by weight,” or 100 ppm.
“We need to ban the intentional use of cadmium-based pigments and stabilizers in all plastics, including tarps and packaging materials, to protect the public health and reduce the amount of cadmium that enters the waste streams, which, at the end of the day, will get dispersed into the environment,” she said.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “products containing cadmium are not typically collected separately from the general waste stream in developing countries. Therefore cadmium discards will end up in municipal waste and disposed of in landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping.”
“Some of the cadmium in these products will be released to the environment, the extent of which depends on disposal method, control technologies applied and other factors,” UNEP stated.
Scientific studies have linked long-term exposure to cadmium to high blood pressure, age-related macular degeneration, and cancer of the breast, lung and kidney, which is considered the critical target organ for toxicity of cadmium in humans,
Cadmium is classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
To decrease global environmental cadmium releases and reduce occupational and environmental exposure to cadmium and associated health effects, the WHO has recommended, among other things, the “[reduction] as far as is practicable emissions of cadmium—particularly into surface waters.”