3 June 2023, Quezon City. The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has proposed that smoke-producing devices, also called colored smokes or smoke bombs, should be tested and regulated to ensure public health and safety following an incident in Bacolod City.
As reported by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC)-Bacolod City Chapter, the smoke inhalation incident last May 29 affected 22 individuals, mostly college students, some of whom experienced hyperventilation and dizziness stemming from the chemical exposure.
Presently sold and used with minimal restrictions, colored smokes are employed for fashion shows, gender reveal parties, photo shoots, sports events, wedding ceremonies and other fun endeavors. Activities using colored smokes are ideally held in an outdoor location, but some might be held in an enclosed space.
“Colored smoke may be a source of harm if it contains chemicals of concern and if it is improperly used,” said Atty. John Menguito, Member of the Board of Trustees from the Visayas, EcoWaste Coalition. “Regulating colored smokes will help in avoiding smoke inhalation and chemical exposure incidents, which can be dangerous, especially for children and youth, the elderly and people with asthma and chemical sensitivities.”
“While paputok (firecrackers) and pailaw (pyrotechnic devices) are regulated and controlled under Republic Act No. 7183 and Executive Order No. 28, series of 2017, it is not clear if pausok (smoke-producing devices) are covered by the law,” commented Menguito who is also the managing trustee of the Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC).
“As we are clueless about the toxicity of colored smokes, we request concerned agencies or academic institutions to conduct the necessary product tests and to make the results public,” he added.
The group’s call to regulate the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, and use of colored smokes came on the heels of a highly publicized incident in Bacolod City.
Last Monday, 20 students and two security personnel fell ill after inhaling colored smoke used during a Physical Education class performance in Bacolod City College (BCC), an educational institution operated by the city government.
One group of students used a colored smoke purchased online as props for their performance inside BCC’s activity center.
Emergency responders from the PRC, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, Amity Volunteer Fire Brigade, and the Mountain Tigers Search and Rescue rushed to the BCC and gave immediate assistance to the victims, some of whom were brought to medical facilities for treatment.
Taking its cue from the reported online purchase of the colored smoke used by the students for their performance, the EcoWaste Coalition quickly ordered a couple of products from an online dealer.
According to the product label, “Creative Color Smoke” is “made in China.” While it provides a warning and some usage instructions, the label lacks the manufacturer’s markings and ingredients list, the group noted.
“It is essential that chemicals used to produce colored smoke are non-toxic and are clearly identified on the label. The public has the right to know the chemical composition of a product, as well as the hazards they pose to health and the environment, including their by-products, if any,” the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.
Interestingly, the product insert, which provides additional cautionary information, describes the China-made “Creative Color Smoke” as “pyrotechnics,” further warning “it may emit sparks while producing smoke.”
R.A. No. 7183 explicitly prohibits the importation of firecrackers and fireworks as finished products, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.