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DOH cites health risk posed by crushed dolomite, says DENR approval means 'white sand' project safe

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Crushed dolomite rocks—which are being used to cover a stretch of Manila Bay’s shoreline—could lead to eye irritation and respiratory problems, the Department of Health said Monday.

Government agencies began filling a portion of Manila Bay’s shoreline last week with artificial sand from crushed dolomite boulders as part of the “beach nourishment” program.

Critics of the project said the artificial sand does not only pose geophysical hazards but also potential harms to people’s health.

Citing studies, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said crushed dolomite rocks may lead to “adverse” effects, mainly on the respiratory system, once inhaled.

“Once dolomite becomes dust or it aerosolizes, it can cause respiratory issues or effects to a person,” Vergeire said in a media briefing.

Dolomite particles could also cause eye irritation and gastro-intestinal discomfort such as stomach pain and diarrhea, if ingested.

According to a safety report of US cement company Lehigh Hanson in 2012, inhaling dolomite dust may “cause discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing” and may even cause cancer.

Another company from the US, Lhoist North America said that dolomite “causes damage to lungs through prolonged or repeated exposure when inhaled.”

Vergeire, however, said the DENR would not push through with the project if its study found that pulverized dolomite rocks would cause harm to the environment and the people.

"These are the minor effects of this dolomite in Manila Bay. I think with the clearance of the DENR, hindi naman ipapatupad nang DENR 'yan kung hindi napag aralan na this will cause harm to the environment and also to our people," Vergeire said. 

“We just needs to continuously follow minimum health standards to prevent any effects of dolomite in Manila Bay,” she added. 

Lawyer Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the harmful effects of dolomite can be used as a ground for the filing of a petition for writ of kalikasan, a  legal remedy that could halt the project.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Benny Antiporda earlier said the “beach nourishment” project is part of the government’s program to rehabilitate the degraded Manila Bay.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH MANILA BAY MANILA BAY REHABILITATION PROGRAM
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