Cebu Toy Ukuleles Found Contaminated with Lead

Colorful toy ukuleles being sold at tourist
souvenir stores in Cebu City and Lapu City are laden with lead, a highly toxic
chemical that is prohibited in the production of toys.

The EcoWaste Coalition,  a toxics watchdog, made the revelation after screening
10 samples of toy ukuleles for lead using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

The samples were purchased last June 14 and 15 for P80 to P150 each from
vendors of souvenir items near the Cebu Basilica de Santo Niño and at the Lapu
Lapu Shrine and subsequently brought to Quezon City for XRF screening.

“Almost one year had gone by since the last screening we conducted and we still
find lead in Cebu-made ukuleles,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the
EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

In July 2013, six samples of Cebu ukuleles were found positive for lead up to
13,900 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm threshold limit for lead
in paints and surface coatings under the US
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Out of the 10 samples screened this time, all were found to contain lead in the
range of 2,179  ppm to 26,100 ppm that will make them illegal to sell in
the US, developed countries and the Philippines.

“We are disappointed to see that ukulele makers have yet to switch despite the
commercial availability of lead safe paints in various colors and
applications,” Dizon said.

“Toy makers should comply with the government’s regulatory policy on lead that
seeks to promote the health and safety of children, workers and the environment
at large,” he said.

Lead is strictly prohibited in the manufacturing of toys under the newly-issued
Chemical Control Order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds by the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources.

For her part, Moresa Tolibas, EcoWaste Coalition’s Technical Officer for the
Lead Paint Elimination Proejct, warned that the “ukulele’s leaded coatings will
sooner or later wear out, creating toxic chips
and dust that can get into children’s hands and mouths.”

“It’s even possible for a child to bite on the painted surface of the ukulele
as she or he play with it and directly ingesting high levels of lead in
paints,” she said.

International health experts have determined no safe level of lead in blood,
warning that even low doses can bring about irreversible damage to a child’s

Considered by the World Health Organization as one of the “ten chemicals of
major public health concern,” childhood lead exposure has been linked to
irreversible brain and neurological damage resulting to decreased intelligence,
learning difficulties, hearing loss, developmental delays and behavioral

The EcoWaste Coalition promised to conduct sustained market monitoring to check
on  business and industry compliance to the DENR’s CCO regulating lead and
lead compounds.

In the meantime, the group advised consumers to only patronize properly
labelled lead safe paints and products to minimize, if not totally prevent,
childhood exposure to lead.