Phase out PCBs by 2014 urged

Published by rudy Date posted on July 1, 2009

MANILA, Philippines–Environmentalists called on the government to fast track the phaseout of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in large transformers and voltage regulators in the power sector.

Manny Calonzo of the Ecowaste Coalition said on Tuesday the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) required governments “to prohibit the production, import, export and use of all PCBs,” and implement an action plan to address PCBs.

“The government already has a program laid out to phase out PCBs. But the real problem is fast tracking the program to accomplish the phase out by 2014,” Calonzo said.

In simple ceremonies on Tuesday, the coalition reiterated its support for a program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to ensure that PCBs and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) would no longer be used in the country.

“The pioneering project will demonstrate the efficacy of environmentally sound and safe non-burn approach for managing PCBs and will surely contribute to both the local and global push to eliminate PCBs and advance chemical safety,” Calonzo said.

The group also launched the “PCB Eliminator,” a “masked hero” whose mission is to protect “our people and the ecosystem from harm caused by exposure to these harmful substances.”

The new green crusader joins the other mascot heroes of the waste and pollution watchdog, namely “Boy Bayong,” an advocate against single use plastic bags, and “Super WA” (for “Walang Aksaya”) a champion for Zero Waste.

Angie Brabante, chief of the chemical management section of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) said that if introduced directly into the environment, PCB could affect the skin, immune and reproductive system. It is also dangerous to wildlife and resides in the environment for 30 years.

She added that electric cooperatives around the country continued to use transformers and regulators with PCB. According to him, 32,000 transformers in use still contain PCB.

“There are new alternatives now to PCB oils including transformers that use mineral and silicon oil,” she said.

Calonzo said that at present, the biggest concern now would be how to dispose of PCBs. There is only one facility being constructed in the country to dispose of PCBs without burning, according to him. That facility is being constructed in Bataan and will be finished this year.

According to the coalition, PCBs belong to the so-called “dirty dozen” of POPs that include pesticides, industrial chemicals and unintentional byproducts of industrial and combustion processes.

Worldwide, there is an estimated five million tons of PCB oils and contaminated equipment.

In the country, initial inventories by the EMB estimated 6,879 tons of PCB-containing equipment and waste products with about 2400 tons of PCB oil.

PCBS are also found in industrial establishments, manufacturing plants, military camps and hospitals.

Exposure to PCBs may lead to cancer, particularly cancer of the liver. There have been well-documented cases of water pollution with PCBs in industrialized countries, which led to the poisoning of marine life. –Alcuin Papa, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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