Government, Non-Government and Corporate Donors Urged to Ensure that Gift School Bags Are Lead-Free

A toxics watchdog exhorted local government
units (LGUs), non-government organizations and companies that are planning to
give bags to less-privileged children in time for the school reopening to get a
formal certification from suppliers confirming the safety of their products from
lead, a brain-damaging chemical.
“We appeal to generous givers from the public and private sectors to offer bags
that have undergone lead safety tests to ensure that their gifts would not
expose the recipients to lead,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National
Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“The LGUs and other bag donors can demand a certification from their suppliers
that their bags passed the limit for total lead content as analyzed by
qualified government-accredited laboratories prior to procuring and giving away
the items,” she said.
“This is one way of ensuring that bag donors do not in any way contribute to
childhood lead exposure that may hinder a child’s well-rounded development,”
she emphasized.
“As there are other chemicals aside from lead that may adversely affect
children’s health, we also suggest that the bags be tested for other priority
substances such as phthalates, which are commonly used as plasticizers in
polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic,” she added. 
Phthalates are known endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Lucero’s appeal came in the aftermath of her group’s recent investigation that
detected lead up to 5,752 parts per million (ppm) in 23 out of 25 kiddie
backpacks, way above the 90 ppm limit in US for lead in paint and surface
Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, EcoWaste researchers discovered
excessive amounts of lead on the painted portions of some plastic
backpacks, particularly on the designs, logos and the main materials of
which the bags are made of.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, lead exposure can retard the development
of a child’s developing central nervous system and permanently damage the brain
even at low levels of exposure, stressing that the effects are not immediately
observed and that there are no obvious symptoms until the blood lead level is
very high.
Health studies have shown that childhood lead exposure can result to a broad
range of serious developmental and behavioral problems, including reading and
learning disabilities, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and irritability, lower
IQ and poor school performance.
Lead can enter a human body mainly through the inhalation or ingestion of lead
particles or dust from chipping or flaking paints in homes, playgrounds,
schools and other facilities, as well as from lead-containing products such as
toys and other children’s articles.
In his letter to the EcoWaste Coalition in 2011, Health Secretary Enrique Ona
said that “clinical toxicologists have indicated that there are no safe levels
for lead exposure among children.”
“This fact make banning of substances containing lead an imperative,” he said.
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.