City to regulate improper disposal of lamps due to dangers of mercury

In a bid to protect the citizenry from the health hazards caused by mercury, the Iloilo City Council, last Tuesday’s session, approved the proposed ordinance regulating the disposal of lamps by individuals and institutions.
The ordinance, known as “Proper Disposal of Lamp Wastes Containing Mercury Ordinance”, sponsored by Councilor Jason Gonzales, wants to ensure that proper disposal of lamp wastes containing mercury is strictly implemented in accordance with national laws to minimize the hazards to human health and the environment from exposure to harmful substances.
He cited Republic Act 6969 or “Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990” which sets the framework for the country’s effort to control and manage toxic substances and hazardous and nuclear wastes.
He also said that Section 16 of RA 7160 gives the local government unit the mandate to ensure this.
Gonzales said that when these lamps are broken, compacted, crushed or disposed improperly, mercury is released into the air, water and land, posing significant threat to people and the environment.
He said that mercury bioaccumulates, with higher concentrations on tissues of aquatic plants and animals; and biomagnifies, with higher concentrations in the food chain; and once in the atmosphere, mercury is disseminated and can circulate for years.
He narrated an incident when he saw a group of children crushing lamps with the use of stones. “I asked them what they were doing and they said they are separating the plastic from the aluminium so they can sell it. Just imagine that these children have already inhaled the contaminated air. There must have been 30 bulbs there,” Gonzales said in the dialect.
Meanwhile, Councilor Ed Penaredondo said it is no wonder that cancer is also a prevalent disease in the Calajunan dumpsite in Mandurriao.
The proposed ordinance provides that there should be a safe storage area where the lamps are not easily broken or crushed before they are sent to a disposal facility; if placed in a container, the container should be labelled to contain lamp wastes and should be capable of preventing mercury leakage; and when a lamp is removed and replaced, the used lamp should be packaged and sealed in at least two plastics before putting it into a disposal unit.
Councilor Joshua Alim narrated that in Ireland, the homeowners themselves are the ones bringing their lamp wastes to the designated disposal unit. The iron-clad container immediately crushes the wastes.
Gonzales said, so far, the city has no disposal unit.
He narrated that SM City Iloilo, since there is no disposal unit yet, merely keeps their used lamps in a secure storage area in the mall.
With this, Councilor R. Leoni Gerochi suggested that several disposal units be placed around Iloilo City.
The ordinance provides that the crushing of these lamps must be under controlled conditions and approved by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
Councilor Lyndon Acap said that there is a private company in Iloilo City that has a crusher.
“We can enter into a memorandum of agreement with them and at no cost to the city. There is also a buyer (of wastes) from Manila,” he said.

Gonzales agreed to include the suggestions in the said ordinance.* (Marie Katherine Villalon/TNT Libre, Aug. 22, 2013)

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