Chinese New Year Lucky Charms and Curios Tested Positive with Toxic Metals

Lead and other toxic metals were detected in 14 lucky charms and ornaments that are currently enjoying brisk sale as Chinese New Year nears.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group promoting public safety from chemicals and wastes, made the disclosure after subjecting 30 samples to chemical analysis using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

The samples were purchased on January 18-20, 2012 from shops and vendors in Binondo, Manila, the country’s oldest Chinatown and heart of the festive celebration to welcome the “Year of the Water Dragon.”

Among the samples tested were feng shui amulets, bagua, bracelets, piggy bank, door signage, dragons and other animal figurines, joss paper and sticks, kiat kiat money tree, red fish hanging decor, rice urn, and other enhancers and activators for good health and fortune.

Ironically,a dragon figurine outclassed other samples in terms of toxicity with lead content at 14,800 ppm. The same sample registered with the highest amounts of arsenic and cadmium among the items tested.

“Our scientific findings indicate the presence of lead and other hazardous substances in some popular Chinese New Year charms and curios,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The toxic chemicals have nothing to do with the auspicious stuff many Filipinos buy in Chinatown in the hope of stimulating good luck and fending off misfortune,”she pointed out.

“Manufacturers should substitute toxic with non-toxic ingredients, and importers, distributors, sellers and consumers should all demand nothing less than safe products,” she added.

“Toxic-free products will be beneficial to the workers who make them, to consumers who use them, and to waste handlers and recyclers who are exposed daily to a cocktail of chemicals in the conduct of their work,” she also said.

Out of 30 samples, 14 products (47%) were found to contain toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury above levels of concern.

Arsenic,cadmium, lead and mercury belong to the World Health Organization’s “Ten Chemicals of Major Public Health Concern” and are likewise included, along with chromium, in the “Priority Chemicals List” of the Philippines.

Of the 14 tainted products, six had lead ranging from 108 ppm to 14,800 ppm, exceeding the 90 parts per million threshold under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Lead,which is highly toxic and harmful to human health even in very low doses, can damage the brain and cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm.

The tests indicated that:

1. All four dragon samples had toxic metals with one dragon figurine containing 14,800 ppm of lead, 2,371 ppm of arsenic and 252 ppm of cadmium.

2. Two of the three baguas were found to be tainted with one bagua having 13,200 ppm of lead, 8,962 ppm of chromium, 2,174ppm of arsenic, 157 ppm of cadmium and 41 ppm of mercury.

3. A colorful wu lo charm for good health had 4,988 ppm of lead, 4,074 ppm of chromium, 901 ppm of arsenic, 91 ppm of cadmium and 22 ppm of mercury.

4. A gold and red piggy bank had 1,121 ppm of lead, 503 ppm of chromium, 177 ppm of arsenic and 83 ppm of cadmium.

5. A Maneki Neko lucky cat had 114 ppm of cadmium.

The results were obtained through the use of a handheld XRF analyzer operated by a representative from QES (Manila), Inc.




Additional information about the health effects of lead exposure from the WHO:

“Lead is a toxic metal whose widespread use has caused extensive environmental contamination and health problems in many parts of the world. It is acumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”