EcoWaste Coalition Finds Toxic Lead in Baby Cribs, Urges DOH to Initiate Recall Order

To mark the National Children’s Month, the EcoWaste
Coalition held a press briefing today to draw the attention of government
regulators and parents on lead-containing baby furniture and the urgent need to
prevent infant exposure to toxic lead.
“Our discovery of lead in locally-made cribs prompted us to hold this event in
order to inform the public and to push the government to act, on the basis of
the precautionary principle, to protect helpless babies from being exposed to
toxic lead in paint chip and dust,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the
EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
Using a handheld  X-Ray Fluorescence
(XRF) device, high levels of lead were detected 
on the yellow painted balls of two locally-made wooden cribs that the
group bought from furniture stores in Maypajo, Caloocan City and Sta. Cruz,
Manila City.
The yellow coated balls of the crib from Maypajo, costing P2,000, had lead
content reaching 7 ,871 parts per million (ppm), and the one from Sta. Cruz,
costing P1,000, had 6,938 ppm, exceeding the target 90 ppm maximum allowable
limit for lead in paint under the DENR Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead
Dizon clarified that not all of the painted balls on the cribs had lead.  Lead was not detected on the blue, red and
turquoise colored balls, as well as in the white-coated frame, providing
evidence that lead-safe paints are available for use in children’s furniture. 
“While this is not the first time that we detected lead on children’s
furniture, we were deeply shocked to find lead on infant beds that may be
exposing babies to this health-damaging substance at an extremely sensitive
stage of their development,” he said.
Dizon recalled that in 2013, seven kiddie chairs sent by the EcoWaste Coalition
to a private laboratory were found to contain lead up to 20,680 ppm.
The EcoWaste Coalition is concerned that the lead painted surfaces will crack
or peel over time and get ingested by babies. 
“Babies may swallow the leaded paint chips or leaded dust through their usual
hand to mouth behaviour.  They may even
bite on the lead-painted balls, especially during the teething phase, thus
increasing the risk of exposure,” Dizon said.

For her part Dr.
Annabelle Sinlao stated that “even at very low exposures, lead causes serious
and permanent health effects, especially for children, such as brain and central
nervous system damage, mental retardation, decreased bone and muscle growth, hearing,
speech and language problems,   learning disabilities, low school performance,
poor impulse control and aggressive behaviour. 
Sinlao is lecturer at Manila Central University College of Medicine and
resource person of Health Care Without Harm.   
Quoting the World Health Organization’s study on
“Childhood Lead Poisoning,” the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that “the 
consequences  of   brain  injury  from 
exposure  to  lead  in  early  life are 
loss  of   intelligence,  shortening  of  
attention  span  and  disruption  of  behavior.”
According to WHO, “the  human 
brain  has  little  capacity  for  repair,  these
effects  are  untreatable  and  irreversible.  They
cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that
last throughout life.”

The WHO has warned that “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,”
stressing “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

Chemist Jeiel Guarino, Global Lead Paint Elimination
Campaigner of IPEN (an international NGO network promoting safe chemicals
policies and practices), said that “it’s our shared responsibility to remove
sources of lead pollution in children’s environment such lead-containing paints
used at homes, schools, day care centers and playgrounds.”

“While the phase-out period for lead-containing decorative paints will take
effect in December 2016, we urge paint consumers, including furniture makers,
to choose lead safe paints to curb childhood lead poisoning,” he said, adding
that “a range of paints without added lead are available in hardware and paint

To prevent potential childhood lead exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition has asked
the Department of Health (DOH) as well as the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR) to act.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically requested DOH Secretary Janette Garin to
initiate a product recall order to prevent the further distribution and sale of
the lead-tainted cribs as indicated in the letter that the group sent to the
agency on November 25.
The group also urged DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje to consider expanding the
list of prohibited uses of lead under the Chemical Control Order for Lead and
Lead Compounds to include the prohibition on the use of lead in the production
of children’s furniture and other items that are likely to cause childhood lead
At present, the said Chemical Control Order bans the use of lead in the production
of school supplies and toys, among other things.