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Environment Chief Quizzed in Hearing: Is Dolomite Harmful to Humans?

It's the 'white sand' used in Manila Bay's makeover.
by Clara Rosales
Sep 9, 2020
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Wednesday that dolomite in its natural state is not harmful to humans. The agency is pulverizing the sedimentary rock to fill a portion of Manila Bay with "white sand" for quarantine-weary residents of Metro Manila.

What is hazardous is the silica that is generated from crushing dolomite, he said. The size of the particles being dumped on Manila Bay would be too big to be inhaled by the human body, he said.

Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire earlier said that inhaling or ingesting dolomite dust poses minor health risks to humans. She later clarified that it was the process of crushing dolomite that causes health problems, and not interaction or exposure to the sand itself.

ALSO READ: Manila Bay 'White Sand' Can Irritate Humans, DOH Says as Debates Rage

"Dolomite in its natural state is not a health hazard. It is not listed by the mines safety and health association, occupational safety and health association and even in international agency as cancer or as a carcinogen," Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu told a House hearing.

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Cimatu countered criticisms that the sand is purely for aesthetic purposes. He said the dolomite particles can actually clean the water in Manila Bay. Environment Usec. Jonas Leones supported this statement, saying dolomite is often used for marine aquariums.

Manila Bay's White Sand Fails to Cover Larger Pollution Problem
'White Sand' Mining Threatened 'Womb' of Cebu's Endangered Bird: Official

Proponents of the project said it was meant to provide an escape from quarantine for folks stuck in the Metro Manila. Critics said it fails to address the root cause of pollution in Manila Bay. Talks of health risks were also on the table, along with budget and procurement concerns. Mining for dolomite also affected the natural habitat of endangered birds in Cebu.

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