Women seek protection from toxic chemicals

- Katherine Adraneda -

MANILA, Philippines - Environment and health advocates yesterday asked presidential candidates to implement policies that will protect women and children from toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Today is the centennial anniversary of International Women’s Day.

Women members of Eco-waste Coalition and Save Babies Coalition yesterday held a parade from Binondo Church to Sta. Cruz Church in Manila—some of them in colorful outfits mimicking a pregnant woman’s belly, some wearing headdresses resembling cosmetics—to distribute educational materials on consumer products that may contain toxic chemicals that can affect women’s reproductive health as well as their unborn children’s. 

“We need a new leader who will keep toxic chemicals under tight control to safeguard women’s health and their ability to bear, nurture and uphold life,” said Ines Fernandez of EcoWaste and Save Babies.

“These chemicals are so invasive that even a mother’s belly, which we thought should be a safe place for the fetus to grow and develop, is contaminated with chemicals of concern, including many used in common consumer products such as cosmetics and personal care products,” she added.

Former Ecowaste president Manny Calonzo said presidential candidates should support the protection of women from toxic substances because as a Chinese proverb goes: “Women hold up half the sky.”

On Feb. 9 and 18, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the seizure and recall of 12 China-made face cream and skin whitening products found to contain high levels of mercury, an extremely toxic metal.

EcoWaste said mercury absorbed through the skin enters the bloodstream and may cause allergic reactions and adverse effects to the nervous system.

Ecowaste said a 2009 bio-monitoring study of the US-based Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) on nine pregnant women showed that toxic chemicals found in various consumer products contaminate the mother’s body, exposing her unborn child to poisonous substances. 

Found in the blood and urine of the women who participated in the study were 13 toxic substances including mercury, bisphenol A, phthalates and “Teflon chemicals,” which can cause birth and reproductive disorders, cancer, disruption of hormonal functions and damage brain development.

Bisphenol A is chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic and is linked to cancer, early puberty, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems.

Phthalates are plasticizers and fragrance carriers found in consumer products like shower curtains and shampoo and are known to cause reproductive problems and asthma.

Teflon chemicals or perfluorinated compounds are used to create stain-protection products and non-stick cookware and are likely to cause low birth weight, obesity, and cancer.

“The next President can initiate policies that will keep toxic substances away from pregnant women and the developing fetus, which is most vulnerable,” Ecowaste said.

Meanwhile, members of the Gabriela party-list are marching to Mediola Bridge today to protest the “long years of extreme suffering and difficulties” under President Arroyo’s “tyrannical rule.”

Nacionalista Party vice presidential candidate Sen. Loren Legarda and senatorial candidate Sen. Pia Cayetano will join the rally.

“Commemorating the International Women’s Day is continuing the tradition of militancy of the women’s struggle. Here in the Philippines, we declare March 8 as the National Day of Protest for Filipino Women,” said Rep. Luz Ilagan, first nominee and national chairperson of Gabriela Women’s Party.   

“Because 2010 is an election year, the women’s role in upholding the militant spirit of this year’s commemoration is even more highlighted,” she added.

This morning, women artists will paint a mural in front of Sto. Domingo Church while marchers assemble in designated meeting points along España in Manila; Araneta Avenue corner E. Rodriguez Avenue, and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City. 

Gabriela said there will be other rallies in Davao, Cebu, Baguio, Bacolod, Panay, Southern Tagalog, and Bicol today.

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