EcoWaste Coalition Finds Toxic Lead in Cellphone Cases

Samples of cellphone cases made of paint-coated fake snakeskin leather had tested positive for lead, a dangerous chemical.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Chemical Safety made the revelation after buying yesterday cheap synthetic leather cellphone cases worth P10 each from sidewalk vendors along Recto Avenue in Divisoria, Manila.

The unlabelled imitation leather cellphone cases are available in five colors: red, blue, fuschia, white and black.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the EcoWaste Coalition detected 1,390 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the red cellphone case, which also had 109 ppm of arsenic and 667 ppm of chromium. The blue case had 520 ppm of lead, the fuschia case had 446 ppm and the white case had 390 ppm. The black case had no detectable level of lead.

As per California Proposition 65, lead in leather products may not exceed 300 ppm by weight. The state law also requires that a warning label be placed on all items known to contain certain quantities of chemicals of concern, including lead.

“Users touch cellphone cases many times a day, unsuspectingly exposing them to lead, which may be transferred to the hands or ingested through hand to mouth or skin contact,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The lead detected in the samples may be attributed to plastic stabilizers or paint coatings used in the fake leather products, he said.

“If you have bought a lead-containing cellphone case, or if you suspect that you are using a leaded one, please be careful and do keep it away from kids. As a precaution, wash your hands regularly to remove any tiny amount of lead that may remain after touching it,”advised Dizon.

Health studies have linked lead exposure to impaired mental development, learning difficulties and behavioral concerns in children, to increased rates of infertility, miscarriage and other birth and reproductive problems in women, and to increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke, among other serious health issues.

To minimize the threat of lead exposure from consumer products such as cellphone cases, the EcoWaste Coalition advises buyers and users to avoid products made of synthetic and brightly colored materials that are not certified lead-free, and opt for products made of non-toxic materials.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.