4 February 2019, Quezon City. An environmental and health watch group cautioned luck seekers from purchasing Feng Shui charms and amulets that are laced with dangerous levels of cadmium and lead, two highly hazardous chemicals.
The EcoWaste Coalition issued the precautionary warning as many Filipinos rush to get their luck activators and enhancers in time for the celebration of the Chinese New Year of the Earth Pig.
The group over the weekend purchased 20 assorted lucky charms and amulets, costing from P25 to P300 each, from retailers in Binondo and Quiapo and had them screened for toxic metals using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical instrument.
“Some lucky charms and amulets that are supposed to attract energy, health, fortune and happiness are unluckily contaminated with cadmium and lead, two highly hazardous substances that belong to the WHO’s list of 10 chemicals of major public health concern,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
Out of the 20 items, 15 were found to be contaminated with excessive levels of lead and cadmium way above the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in paint under Philippine and US laws, and 100 ppm limit for cadmium in jewelry under the European Union regulation .
Cadmium amounting to 1,906 to 293,000 ppm was detected in the pendants adorning 4 red fabric bracelets and steel chain necklaces, while lead ranging from 1,324 to 57,300 ppm was discovered in 11 lead-painted lucky charms and amulets, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed.
“Cadmium and lead, which can accumulate in the body and damage human health, should not be present in consumer products, especially for items that are supposed to enhance good health and better life,” Dizon said.
Among the worst samples found by the group were a stainless steel necklace with a pig pendant that has 293,000 ppm of cadmium, and a red fabric bracelet with a pig adornment that has 238,800 ppm of cadmium.
“Five lucky objects” that promise to yield five blessings (longevity, wealth, peace, wisdom, and righteousness) were among those heavily laden with lead: a holy gourd with 57,300 ppm of lead, dragon 52,500 ppm, lotus flower 22,000 ppm, windhorse 20,300 ppm and 3-legged frog with 19,500 ppm of lead. A lucky peach trinket was also found to contain 56,300 ppm of lead
According to the World Health Organization, lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.” Lead exposure among children even at low levels can interrupt and damage brain development and cause lifelong learning and behavioral problems, while exposure among adults can bring about miscarriage in women, reduced sperm count in men, hypertension and other health issues.
To protect children, women and workers from lead exposure, the Philippines took a globally-recognized move to phase-out lead-containing decorative paints in 2016, and is currently on the way to eliminating lead in industrial paints this year.
Cadmium is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “carcinogenic to humans,” and is also recognized as a reproductive and developmental toxin associated with reduced birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion and birth defects in humans, as well with behavioral and learning disabilities.
Instead of cadmium and lead-laden lucky charms and amulets, the EcoWaste Coalition advised luck seekers to go for the tried and tested formula to attract health, fortune and happiness: healthful lifestyle, positive relationships with fellow beings and the environment, “sipag at tiyaga” (hard work and perseverance), and prayers and good deeds.
If buying painted lucky charms and amulets could not be avoided, the group suggested that buyers pick those with plastic laminate that will protect the paint from chipping and crumbling.
List of 15 lucky charms and amulets with high cadmium and lead content:
- Stainless steel necklace with pig pendant, 293,000 ppm cadmium
- Red fabric bracelet with pig adornment, 238,800 ppm cadmium
- Stainless steel necklace with money pouch pendant, 182,800 ppm cadmium
- Red fabric bracelet with twin cherry adornment, 1,906 ppm cadmium
- Holy gourd lucky object, 57,300 ppm lead,
- Lucky peach trinket, 56,300 ppm lead
- Dragon lucky object, 52,500 ppm lead,
- Lotus flower lucky object, 22,000 ppm lead
- Windhorse lucky object, 20,300 ppm lead
- 3-legged frog lucky object, 19,500 ppm lead
- Golden lucky coin, 8,917 ppm lead
- Good luck pat-kua (medium), 7,643 ppm lead
- Good luck pat-kua (small), 5,093 ppm lead
- Good luck pat-kua (big), 3,644 ppm lead
- Lucky golden dragon, 1,324 ppm lead
List of 5 lucky charms and amulets without cadmium and lead:
- Holy lotus charm
- Holy gourd charm
- Welcoming wealth door fu
- Red fabric bracelet with fish pendant
- Fabric red bracelet with peanut pendant
Notes on Cadmium and Lead Regulations:
Under the EU Regulation 494/2011, cadmium in jewelry is restricted to 0.01 % (or 100 ppm) by weight of the metal in metal beads and other metal components for jewelry making, metal parts of jewelry and imitation jewelry articles and hair accessories, including bracelets, necklaces and rings, piercing jewelry, wrist-watches and wrist-wear, brooches and cufflinks.
Under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and DENR Administrative Order 2013-24, lead in paint shall not exceed the 90 ppm total lead content limit.