By Pesticide Action Network Philippines
Manila – An international coalition of activists today launched
the 3rd Global Day of Action against Waste (GDAW) citing the increasing
health impacts of polluting waste disposal practices which affect
mainly children throughout the world.
More than a hundred groups from 35 countries participated this
year in what has become an annual day of protest against unsustainable
and dangerous waste disposal systems. Coordinated by the Global
Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), this year’s
protest highlighted recent evidence from the World Health Organization
which indicates that more than 3 million children under the age
of five are dying each year because of polluted air and water
and exposure to other environmental hazards.
“To be really blunt about it, the worsening levels of pollution
worldwide are killing children. Governments are obviously failing
to protect children and the human population at large from harmful
chemical assaults resulting from unsustainable and irresponsible
practices such as incineration,” according to Von Hernandez,
Incinerators are linked to serious environmental health threats.
Incineration alone is responsible for 69 percent of global emissions
of the notorious pollutant dioxin which is linked to cancer, immune
and reproductive system disorders, birth defects, and other health
threats. Incineration is also a primary source of mercury, a potent
neurotoxin, which builds up in the environment - especially aquatic
ecosystems - and affects the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver.
It is especially harmful to pregnant women and children.
“Many people are unaware that even backyard burning of
household waste produces toxic gases and particulate matter that
spread over wide distances, and can remain suspended for some
time in the air where the trash was burnt. Families exposed to
frequent burning of household waste in their neighborhood are
at a risk for inhaling toxic by-products of burning such as dioxins
and furans, which have been shown to be associated with cancer,
weakening of the immune system, reproductive disorders, and other
diseases. Children are especially susceptible because their natural
defenses are not yet fully developed.” says Dr. Romeo Quijano,
a toxicologist from the UP College of Medicine, and president
of Pesticide Action Network Philippines (PAN Phils.).
In addition to the immediate pollution they create, incinerators
and landfills also perpetuate wasteful and unsustainable production
and consumption systems. Incinerators destroy resources, which
would be better conserved for future use given the increasing
pressure to harvest finite natural resources.
“Available evidence worldwide from various academic, governmental
and international institutions indicate that many of the chemicals
coming out of dumpsites, landfills and incinerators have also
now been found in the human body. The fact that everyone is now
contaminated with these harmful pollutants proves that we are
now dangerously skirting the edge of the ecological precipice.
How much harm are we willing to accept before we abandon these
deadly ways of managing society’s discards,” added
GAIA is an international coalition of community-based organizations,
research and policy advocacy institutions, citizen pressure groups
and other nonprofit organizations and individuals working together
to promote clean production, zero waste and sustainable discard
management systems. GAIA members which now number 470 in 75 countries
are committed to ending waste incineration and advancing real
solutions to the waste crisis. A member of GAIA, PAN Philippines
is a non-government organization that has engaged in various activities
related to pesticides, health and environment for almost a decade