The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has welcomed a new policy issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that seeks to protect human health and the environment from cadmium, a highly toxic chemical and a known human carcinogen.
Signed by Secretary Roy A . Cimatu on May 6, 2021 and recently published in a national newspaper last October 22, DENR Administrative Order 2021-08, also known as the Chemical Control Order for Cadmium and Cadmium Compounds (CCO), seeks to reduce the risk of exposure to human health and the environment from cadmium and related compounds used in industrial processes.
Classified as one of the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), “cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal system and the respiratory system and is classified as a human carcinogen,” according to WHO.
“We welcome this policy issuance by the DENR regulating industry use of cadmium as this can contribute to safeguarding the health of workers and the general public from the adverse effects of exposure to this highly toxic element,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
The EcoWaste Coalition has been lobbying since 2016 for the adoption of a CCO that will prohibit or restrict the use of cadmium and its compounds to reduce exposure, especially among workers and consumers, and to minimize, if not eliminate, cadmium emissions and discharges from human activities such as waste management and disposal.
The CCO, which will take effect this November, requires any person or entity engaged in the importation, manufacture, distribution and industrial use of cadmium and cadmium compounds to register with and obtain importation clearance from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
Applicants are further required to meet the specified requirements pertaining to importation, manufacturing, chemical management plan, emergency and contingency plan, labeling, workers’ training, handling, transport, treatment, storage and disposal.
The CCO further requires any person or entity involved in the transport, recycling, treatment, storage and disposal of cadmium-containing wastes to register and comply with all the applicable provisions of the rules and regulations on hazardous waste management under Republic Act 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990.
“The tightened regulation on the management of cadmium-containing wastes is essential to prevent and reduce cadmium releases into the environment from the recycling, open dumping, landfilling, open burning and incineration of such wastes,” noted Dizon.
“As the CCO does not cover cadmium and cadmium compounds in batteries, ceramics, cosmetics, electronics, jewelries, plastics, toys and others, we hope that other regulatory agencies will adopt and/or enforce health protective controls or restrictions on the cadmium content in products and materials under their jurisdiction to protect consumers and the environment,” said Dizon.
Considering the global concern on plastic pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition will continue to push for a prohibition on the use of cadmium and its compounds as a colorant or as a stabilizer in plastic materials, noting that the European Union has already banned cadmium in plastics starting December 2011 to protect the health of their citizens and reduce pollution.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “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,” stated the UNEP’s “Final Review of Scientific Information on Cadmium.”