Beware of Toxic Christmas Gifts

Quezon City. “Christmas gifts can make one merry, or sorry,” waste and toxic watchdog EcoWaste Coalition reminded consumers today amid the yuletide shopping frenzy.
The coalition issued the statement after 57 of the 100 common gift items they screened using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device were found laden with toxic substances, particularly lead, cadmium, and arsenic.
The harmful elements were detected in such items as coffee mugs and drinking glasses which the group bought in test buys conducted in Divisoria in Manila, in  Cubao and Commonwealth Market, both in Quezon City, and in Baclaran, Pasay City.
“We are aghast to find that some Christmas goodies out there are like gifts in Pandora’s box, cloaked with hazardous chemicals that can pose health risks to consumers,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“We advise consumers not to shop for poison gifts.  To get the best value for our hard-earned money, we need to assert our inherent rights as consumers for product information and safety, including the chemical contents of a product and their effects to health and the environment if any,” he added.
Lead, cadmium and arsenic are among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Lead, found in 44 items, is a known neurotoxin, which attacks the nervous system. Small children are especially more vulnerable to the damaging effects of lead, as “even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” according to the WHO.
“It’s worrisome that many of the items are improperly and insufficiently labeled, depriving consumers access to product information that is vital to making sound purchasing decisions,” stressed Dizon.
Dizon identified the top ten gift items that screened  with the highest lead content as follows:
1. Yellow water thermos jug with duck design (P240.00), 53,800 ppm
2. Mango glass bottle (P110.00), 41,700 ppm
3. Mickey mouse coffee mug with spoon (P51,00), 35,100 ppm
4. Angry Bird coffee mug (P75.00), 23,200 ppm
5. Mickey mouse tall glass (P70.00), 22,100 ppm
6. Beer mug with dice and bottle opener (P170.00), 21,200 ppm
7. Angry Bird pigs big mug (P50.00), 20,100 ppm
8. Winnie the pooh coffee mug with spoon (P75.00), 19,700 ppm
9. SpongeBob coffee mug with spoon (P51.00), 19,400 ppm
10. Grizzlies’ duck mug with lid (P100.00), 15,500 ppm
The tested merchandises range in price from P 10.00 to P240.00.
To aid consumers when buying Christmas goods, the coalition was quick to list the following earth- and budget-friendly shopping tips:
1. Take stock of what you have. Check for things that can be repaired, reused, recycled or even re-gifted before buying new items.
2. Write down all your holiday necessities and take this list when you shop to avoid impulsive purchases.
3. Organize and plan your trips to the market or malls to reduce transportation costs and help ease holiday traffic jams.
4. Set a budget and avoid straying from it.
5. Look out for holiday sales for stuff that you and your family truly need. Support charity fairs such as those meant to help survivors of typhoon Ruby in rebuilding their homes and lives.
1. Shun plastic bags and bring your own bayong or reusable carry bags when you shop.
2. Consider buying in bulk to cut on product cost as well as packaging waste.
3. Avoid excessively packed items.
4. Select products made of recycled materials and with the most recycled contents.
5. Buy goods that are durable and can be repaired, reused, recycled or passed on to other users.
6. Patronize locally-produced stuff, support the local economy, and lessen greenhouse gas emissions by cutting on energy consumption related to product distribution.
7. Save receipts in case you need to return defective goods and wrong sizes and requirements.
8. Check for product information and avoid those that are not properly labeled.
1. Think about re-giving gifts that you have obtained at one time but have not used.
2. Look into your closet and give away clothes and accessories that still look good and are usable like a pretty scarf, a nice jacket, and a cute bag.
3. Share books to friends and colleagues.
4. Write heartfelt messages to family and friends on recycled Christmas cards and include a photo or two you have of them.
5. Cut up old Christmas cards and reuse them as gift tags.
6. Send e-cards in lieu of paper cards. Personalize them with your own graphic designs or choice photos.
7. Share your signature home-made goodies and dishes, especially from “secret” personal or family recipes.
8. Cook Noche Buena dinners for street children or less fortunate families on Christmas Eve.
9. Tell your loved ones that instead of giving them gifts this year, you will make donations in their names to charities, orphanages and environmental projects.
10. Draw or paint creative stuff on flat and smooth stones to make paperweights, plain mugs to make pencil holder or bayong or katsa bag to make your shopping bags more “sosyal.”
11. Choose gifts that come with little or no packaging at all such as gift certificates, movie or concert tickets, bus or train passes, raffle coupons, etc.
12. Don’t wrap gifts. Otherwise, wrap them in old magazines or newspapers, discarded bandannas or fabric scraps.
13. Give gifts that grow and restore the environment such as plant and flower seeds or bulbs, kitchen herbs or tree saplings.
14. If you feel that you absolutely have to buy something, then patronize local products such as handicrafts made by indigenous and rural communities, jail detainees and the urban poor, non-toxic personal care items, organic products from health and wellness groups, reusable bags from women’s and environmental groups, and other gift items from charities and cooperatives.
15. Buy simple notebooks, cover them with attractive used fabrics, and decorate them with inspirational verses or excerpts from poems and songs.
16. When giving toys, choose ones that are free of choking, laceration, strangulation and toxic hazards; age-appropriate; and properly labeled.
17. Shun replica guns and other war toys. Go for toys that promote creativity, non-aggressive behavior and social harmony.
18. Gift your barangay by leading or getting involved in a neighborhood project that will serve the poor or preserve the community environment.