EcoWaste Coalition: Keep Pinoy Kids Safe from Toxic Gifts

Baclaran, Pasay City. As a precautionary awareness drive for the annual Christmas rush where consumers tend to shop indiscriminately for holiday gifts, Ecowaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, held an “AlerToxic Day” campaign in the streets of Baclaran on the borders of Parañaque City and Pasay City.

The pre-Christmas “AlerToxic Day”emphasized the need to rethink the usual items we buy as gifts, especially for kids, that insidiously harbor lead [Pb], a neurotoxicant that affects both children and adults.

To draw public attention and support for children’s safety from toxic gifts, EcoWaste Coalition members, led by “Santa Claus” and volunteers dressed as “gift boxes” marked with a reminder “is it safe?”, roamed the busy Baclaran streets, informing consumers to choose only safe and non-toxic presents this Christmas.

“We don’t want to expose our loved ones, especially our children to lead. Not during the Christmas season or any other season for that matter. If the urge to shop is irresistible, let us please buy gifts that are free from this harmful element,” said Paeng Lopez, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s campaign to phase out lead in paints.

A major environmental health hazard, exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior. Even when exposed to small amounts of lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss.

“We should rethink the way we buy our Christmas gifts. More important than considering whether what we are buying will be appreciated is taking into account if it is safe,” Lopez said.

“In addition, our second instinct in buying gifts should be to check the label to ensure that what we are about to buy are free from lead or other harmful ingredients,” stressed Lopez.

The Coalition also urged the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry to proactively safeguard consumers from hazardous products by conducting regular test of toys and other items being sold in the market and recalling those that put the health and safety of children at risk.

“As a matter of sound and preventive practice, the DoH and DTI working together should come up with an annual list of products that must never find its way to the market for being detrimental to children’s health and safety, and it would do all of us a lot of good if they release it before the onset of the Christmas rush,” suggested Lopez.

Overseas, the United States Consumer Product and Safety Commission has been regularly ordering the recall of items containing excessive lead. Their website is abundant with goods from toys to industrial products that were ordered out of the market for containing this harmful heavy metal.

Very recently, the Center for Environmental Health, also in the United States, tested about 250 children’s products bought at major retailers and found lead levels that exceeded federal limits in seven of them.

Among those with high lead levels: a Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit and a Disney Tinkerbell Water Lily necklace. The group said it also found excessive lead in a Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, two pairs of children’s shoes, a boy’s belt and a kids’ poncho.

The environmental watchdog instead recommended the consumers to create their own gifts, give home-cooked specialties, fruits, potted plants, books, school supplies, an out of town trip or a simple family get together as alternative to the rituals of gift giving.

Lead is also known to adversely affect the kidney, gastrointestinal system, and the immune system. Exposure to it may also lead to miscarriage for pregnant women and disorders in sperm production for men. Furthermore, it can increase blood pressure and cause anemia for older people. Chronic exposure causes mental retardation, coma, convulsions and even death.

Relevant websites:
US Consumer Product and Safety Commission: www.cpsc.gov/
US Center for Environmental Health: http://www.ceh.org/

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