As part of their advocacy for chemical safety and environmental health, the waste and pollution watchdog today launched their “Iwas PapuTOXIC” drive, stressing that firecrackers cause not only noise pollution, but also toxic smoke and litter that can endanger human and animal health and the environment.
In an effort to boost the campaign, a thousand students from Claret School in Quezon City made a big show of how the New Year can be just as festive without firecrackers by sounding alternative noisemakers from recycled materials as they unfurled a giant banner saying “PapuTOXIC sa kalusugan at kalikasan, sa tao at hayop man: iwasan!”
In lieu of firecrackers, the enthusiastic students created “emission-free, zero waste” sounds from tambourine made from bottle caps, maracas from tin cans, cymbals using pot lids, and shakers from plastic bottles, juice packs, soap and toothpaste boxes filled with seeds, coins and pebbles.
Joining the festive campaign launch were Claret grade school principal Evelyn Angeles, actor Roy Alvarez, veterinarian Dr. Rey del Napoles, Cathy Untalan of the Miss Earth Foundation and the representatives of Alaga Lahat, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Earth UST, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation and Sining Yapak.
“With money so hard to come by these days, lighting firecrackers is literally burning hard-earned money away, while putting the safety and health of the people and animals around us at grave risk,” Roy Alvarez, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.
“Centralized pyrotechnic display does not solve the problem either. It is undeniably pouring money down the drain and should be discouraged. We propose that public funds earmarked for fireworks should be used to buy books for school libraries, build more classrooms and set up community recycling facilities,” Alvarez emphasized.
The EcoWaste Coalition has drawn up 10 eco-friendly substitutes to firecrackers which are available at minimal or no cost at all:
1. Blow traditional horns or "torotot."
2. Make and shake homemade maracas from used tin cans.
3. Jiggle the tambourine made from flattened bottle caps.
4. Clang improvised cymbals using pot lids or pans.
5. Knock empty coconut shells.
6. Play the guitar or any available musical instruments.
7. Play your favorite music.
8. Beep the bicycle or car horns.
9. Clap your hands and stump your feet.
10. Sing, dance and shout “Happy New Year!”
The EcoWaste Coalition identified six reasons why Filipinos should turn away from the bloody, dirty and costly rites of welcoming the New Year with firecrackers:
1. Firecrackers can cause serious if not fatal injuries. Incorrect handling can lead to the loss of limbs, lives and properties.
2. Firecrackers produce smoke and dust loaded with harmful chemicals that can aggravate the poor air quality and cause throat and chest congestion and other health problems, particularly for people with asthma and chemical sensitivities.
3. Firecrackers leave behind unwanted discards such as paper scraps, cellophane and plastic wrappers, and PVC pipes from “boga” that add to the mountains of holiday trash.
4. Firecrackers produce deafening noise that can lead to anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and hearing disabilities, and trigger high blood pressure and heart attack.
5. Firecrackers can result to severe ear injuries for animals who are more sensitive to sound, so the noise hurts their ears, terrifies them, and causes them to run wildly or lose their navigational skills.
6. Firecrackers waste money that should be spent instead to buy food for the table, clothes and books for the children and other essential needs.
The EcoWaste Coalition expressed support for Senate Bill 2119 filed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., which calls for a ban on the manufacture, sale and use of all firecrackers. Pimentel justified the proposed move, saying that “no amount of safety reminders from health and law enforcement authorities can prevent accidents from occurring when revelers handle firecrackers or pyrotechnics because of their highly perilous nature.”
Besides the danger to life, limb, and eardrums, firecracker explosions, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, emit the same toxic chemicals as smoke-belching vehicles, significantly increasing the level of deadly gases and particulates in the atmosphere.
A World Bank study released in 2007 estimates that there are nearly 5,000 premature deaths in Metro Manila alone due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases from exposure to poor air quality. Costs associated with treating reported diseases attributed to air pollution amount to PhP962M per year, with an additional PhP6.7B in lost income for air pollution-related deaths due to pneumonia in children and cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer in adults.
“While recognizing the marked decline in firecracker-related injuries in the past years, we believe that the Department of Health and the entire government machinery should do more and aim for zero injury, death and pollution from firecrackers, which is definitely the better way to welcome the New Year,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.
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