MANILA, Philippines?Endosulfan, a pesticide in the cargo hold of the sunken MV Princess of the Stars, has a very low solubility in water, according to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
EMB officer in charge Jonas Leones said the endosulfan in flake form that went down with the ferry in waters off Sibuyan Island in Romblon province would require solvents and emulsifiers before the toxic chemical dissolve in the open sea.
Leones, nonetheless, said proper care must be taken by those handling the retrieval of victims? bodies and the toxic cargo.
?It is important that the containers be kept intact because endosulfan is highly toxic to fishes and other aquatic organisms, and could be fatal to humans if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed,? Leones said.
Advice to divers
He advised people involved in the retrieval operation to wear proper personal protective equipment and to thoroughly wash the outside of their gloves with soap and water before removing them.
In the event that the endosulfan containers are destroyed, the retrieval operation should be undertaken with the supervision of authorities expert in handling endosulfan.
Under a worst-case scenario in which a high level of contamination affects the Sibuyan Sea, the Department of Health?s ban on eating fish caught in the area should be maintained, according to Leones.
Leones said that an earlier analysis of the water near the sunken vessel had so far showed no endosulfan contamination.
Dole and Del Monte
A peasant leader in the House of Representatives said the exemption given to Dole and Del Monte to use endosulfan was good for only two years since it was given in 1995.
?The Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority had banned endosulfan (in 1993), but exemptions were provided to multinational plantation food companies Dole and Del Monte operating in the country,? said Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano.
He said that despite recommendations for a ban (after two years), the Pesticides Technical Advisory Committee of the FPA was not convened again.
Instead of being exempted for a limited time, Mariano said the two firms were allowed to use the banned chemical for an indefinite period.
?The exemption and the use of endosulfan has continued,? he said.
Compelling basis for ban
Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna said that based on the data that the Philippine Daily Inquirer published on Saturday, ?endosulfan should be banned again in the Philippines.?
?There is a compelling basis for the ban. Health hazards versus the profits of the foreign firm using it,? Ocampo said.
Inquirer Research on Saturday quoted the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry as saying that endosulfan prevents the human central nervous system from working properly and causes hyperactivity, nausea, dizziness, headache and convulsions.
The report added that the Pesticide Action Network North America, which advocates the use of ecologically sound alternatives to pesticides, said that endosulfan had been linked to birth defects.