DOH says ‘white sand’ could cause adverse health effects

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) — The Department of Health, citing medical research, said Monday that crushed dolomite being used to cover a portion of the Manila Bay could cause eye irritation, as well as respiratory problems, once inhaled, and gastrointestinal illnesses when ingested.

“Mayroon pong mga sinasabi sa mga pagaaral na kapag na-inhale natin ito, ng mga tao, may mga adverse reactions - sa respiratory mainly,” Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media forum.

[Translation: Inhaling dolomite has adverse reactions - in the respiratory system mainly.]

Aside from respiratory issues, dolomite particles, once ingested, could cause stomachache and diarrhea, the health official said.

“These are minor effects ng (of) dolomite na nilagay doon sa (that was put in) Manila Bay,” Vergeire added.

While it is unlikely for people to experience these health problems after just one visit to the Manila Bay, Vergeire still urged them to exercise caution. She advised people to observe the minimum health standards such as wearing face masks so they would not inhale the dolomite once they go to the area.

The overlaying of synthetic white sand on Manila Bay shores is part of the P389-million Manila Bay rehabilitation project led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Authorities earlier pointed out the “white sand” is crushed dolomite boulders from Cebu province. However, the dolomite was extracted and brought to Manila without permission from local officials, Cebu Provincial Board Member John Ismael Borgonia earlier said.

Environment advocates have opposed the beautification project, noting it may destroy the natural ecosystem in Manila Bay and the source of the dolomite. Oceana Philippines also pointed out the program is a “total waste of people’s money.” Vice President Leni Robredo called the move "insensitive" since it is being done at the height of a health and economic crisis.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda responded to critics by saying that they studied the project thoroughly before pursuing it.

Vergeire also expressed belief the DENR knows what it is doing and would not implement a project without carefully studying its impacts on the environment and the people.

"Di naman ipapatupad ng DENR yan kung di po nila napagaralan na this will cause harm to environment and people,” she said.

[Translation: DENR would not implement this project without studying whether it could cause harm to the environment or the people.]