Philippines to ban toxic ingredients used in jewelry cleaning

The Philippine government is set to ban toxic substances used as ingredients in jewelry cleaning solutions.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently held a multi-sectoral consultative meeting with representatives of civil society and the industry sectors who had been clamoring for stricter measures to control the use of silver jewelry cleaners found to contain cyanide.

“The meeting has allowed the different agencies involved to identify the concrete actions to take on this issue,” DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said.

It was agreed that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will include a registration for jewelry cleaners that do not contain cyanide.

On the other hand, the Bureau of Trade Regulations and Consumer Protection, will ban the sale of unlabeled items, particularly jewelry cleaners, and tap retailer or supermarket associations to do the same in their outlets.

The agency’s Bureau of Product Standards will also review the possibility of subjecting silver jewelry cleaners to its Philippine Standard (PS) certification scheme.

The agencies have also agreed to implement a stricter monitoring system for permits and clearances of facility owners, as well as the sale of cleaners that have not been duly tested, registered, labeled and certified cyanide-free.

Paje said that policies may be amended as needed, especially for the long term. “A ban on the use of such substances will also provide legal basis for confiscation, and help put a stop to illegal ‘cottage operations’ that proliferate their use.”

The DENR chief said that all concerned sectors will heighten their information campaign on the health risks of cyanide-laced jewelry cleaners.

“Labeling containers is vital in preventing risks from poisoning,” he said. “Suppliers, distributors and retailers should also prescribe a Safety Data Sheet informing the consumer about the contents, specifications and handling information of their products.”

Paje reiterated, however, that nothing beats exercising extra care in avoiding poisoning from toxic chemicals.

“Accidents can be avoided if adults practice safety standards in their own homes, by properly storing, sealing and conspicuously labeling potentially harmful chemicals,” he stressed. “They can also use safer alternative solutions for cleaning their jewelry.”

The University of the Philippines – National Poison Management and Control Center had recorded nine deaths for the first half of this year, of which five were pediatric cases.

One such case involved a boy who drank from a bottle that actually contained cyanide-laced jewelry cleaner, mistaking it for water.

Cyanide and cyanide compounds are considered highly toxic to humans and aquatic life even at low concentrations. They can be fatal because when absorbed, they can deprive the body of oxygen.