Stories posted 2007

There’s something about mercury

IT’S A shimmery, shiny substance that seems to have a mind of its own when held between one’s fingers. In the Philippines, it is commonly found in thermometers that are widely used in hospitals to check on patients’ temperatures or are sold over the counter for household use. Other medical devices, in fact, still use elemental or metallic mercury — even if this is a known toxic substance that can be absorbed by the skin and can easily penetrate biological membranes, including the blood-brain barrier. When inhaled, mercury vapors can cause neurological and behavioral disorders, and sometimes can lead to death. Even at low doses, these vapors can have harmful effects on the kidneys, and the digestive, respiratory, and immune systems.


Hazards of healthcare waste

IN THE early 1990s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified medical waste incinerators as the single largest source of dioxin, a potent carcinogen that has been linked to birth defects, immune system disorders, and other harmful side effects. Incinerators are also a leading source of mercury, lead, and other dangerous air pollutants like furans, acid gases, and particulates.

Waste not, want not

NOT TOO long ago, protests were at fever-pitch over how healthcare facilities in the country disposed of their waste. After all, study after study had pointed to an increasing share of healthcare waste in the total municipal solid waste stream. More importantly, that included infectious and hazardous wastes whose then rather haphazard handling, storage, treatment, and disposal had activists and other observers sick with worry about their adverse health and environmental effects.


East versus West

TIMOR LESTE’S political and subsequent security crisis in 2006 began when a group of soldiers from the country’s west, reportedly numbering up to 591 at that time, signed a petition alleging discrimination inside the Timor Leste military (known by its Portuguese acronym FDTL). The group claimed that soldiers from the eastern part of the country were being favored over those from the western section with regard to promotions. These protesting western soldiers refused to comply with the military directorate’s order to return to their post. They were then dismissed.


Perils of the press

DILI, EAST TIMOR — What has been described as East Timor’s leading independent daily operates out of four small rooms and has a budget that threatens to disappear altogether every day.


Name that toxin

WHETHER it’s beer, stress, or too much sleep, there is a form of poison present in the lives of many of us.

We asked people to name their poisons, be it stress, negativity, or a set of squabbling parents. You’d be surprised at what they had to say.

What’s swimming in your soup?

SO WE may not be as avid seafood-eaters as the Okinawans. But we live in an archipelago bordered by the South China and Celebes seas and the Pacific Ocean, after all, so seafood is part and parcel of our daily lives. The Philippines is among the world’s biggest fish producers, netting over four million tons in 2006. It is also a major fish exporter, hauling in over $500 million annual export revenue. The fishery industry employs nearly two million people and is among the main drivers of the country’s steady agricultural growth.

Too many buses, too many agencies clog Edsa

ON ANY given day, 2.34 million vehicles pass Metro Manila’s main circumferential artery, Edsa or C-4. Of the total, 139,227 are public utility buses (PUBs), both air-conditioned and ordinary. In a range of colors and brand names that nobody quite remembers, these giants of the road are perceived to be the bane of Metro Manila motorists and traffic enforcers, even though privately owned cars make up the bulk of the vehicles on the streets of the National Capital Region.


Toxic city

FILMED over a five-hour period from the hills of Antipolo, you can see the gradual encroachment of smog choking Metro Manila in this time-lapse video.

Smog is a combination of smoke and fog. The smoke is caused by nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons emitted by motor vehicles. When this is warmed by the sun’s rays, a photochemical reaction occurs and smog forms.

A puff of a test

HIS TRUCK had been apprehended for smoke belching, so there was the driver, furiously pumping his vehicle’s pedal six times while it was parked inside the cavernous North Motor Vehicle Inspection Services (MVIS) building on East Avenue in Quezon City. Earlier, an MVIS technician had inserted a probe into the truck’s tailpipe. The probe was connected to an opacimeter, which measures the black soot from diesel vehicles, and now everyone was waiting for the device to deliver the verdict on the truck. After a few seconds, the opacimeter spat out a short strip of paper. The figures on it said the truck had registered an emission lower than the cut-off point of 2.5 k (light absorption coefficient), which means it had passed the test.

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