EcoWaste Coalition Finds Harmful Chemicals in Some School Supplies

Quezon City. With school reopening just around the corner, a toxics watchdog urged consumers to be watchful and alert against toxic chemicals lurking in common school supplies.

The EcoWaste Coalition pressed for consumer vigilance after finding chemicals above levels of concern in nine out of 25 school supplies bought from street vendors and bargain stalls in Divisoria, Manila and from a major bookstore chain.

The EcoWaste Coalition screened the samples for heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

According to the latest toxics screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition:

A. The amount of lead detected in 8 out of nine tainted samples, including a water canteen, exceeds the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in children’s products under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008;

B. The levels of lead found in the samples range from 229 ppm to as high as 3,863 ppm.

C. The presence of cadmium, a known human carcinogen, in one sample at 443 ppm is an added hazard.

Health authorities have stated that there are no safe levels for lead exposure among children even in very low doses, the group emphasized.

Lead is classified as a neurotoxin or a substance that is capable of damaging the central nervous system, including the brain, causing behavioural, body movement, emotional and intellectual disorders.

Childhood exposure to lead, among other effects, may lower a child’s intelligence quotient (IQ) and decrease her/his school performance and educational accomplishment.

“All of the lead-containing products are clearly designed and marketed for kids as we can see from the attractive and colourful patterns featuring cartoon characters popular among children. This is bad news for our children and their future,” observed Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Lead in school supplies is a real threat to our children’s health as lead can be released as toxic flake, chip or dust as the products age and deteriorate,” she emphasized.

“The good news is we found non-detectable levels of lead in 16 products, indicating the availability of products with low or no lead in the market. However, it will be extremely difficult for consumers to determine which products are really okay because of inadequate product safety certification and labeling,” she said.

The nine school supplies containing toxic metals above levels of concern include:

1. A yellow Dora the Explorer water canteen (price P219.75) with 3,863 ppm of lead, 2,514 ppm of chromium, 605 ppm of arsenic and 17 ppm of mercury

2. A blue Naruto backpack (P100) with 1,361 ppm of lead

3. A yellow and blue Ben 10 backpack (P100) with 711 ppm of lead and 520 ppm of antimony

4. A green and yellow child raincoat (price P100) with 579 ppm of lead and 443 ppm of cadmium

5. A pink backpack with shiny printed design (P150) with 538 ppm of lead

6. An Adventurer Music in the Ears plastic envelope (P65) with 356 ppm of lead

7. A red Mickey Mouse pencil case with magnetic lid (P50) with 274 ppm of lead

8. A black girl school shoes with Angry Birds design (P150) with 229 ppm of lead

9. A red X power sports car pencil case (P20) with 1,559 ppm of chromium