Report: Dangerous Chemicals Detected in 29% of 435 Children’s Products Tested

Environmental health researchers have analyzed 435 children’s products sold in the Philippines such as toys, accessories, cosmetics, and school supplies, detecting dangerous chemicals in 124 of the 435 samples tested (29%).

The report ‘Toxic Metals in Children’s Products in the Philippines” by EcoWaste Coalition and the global civil society network, IPEN, provides the only publicly available database yet of toxic metals in children’s products sold in the country.

The investigation saw the EcoWaste Coalition’s staff and partners purchasing samples from a variety of wholesale and retail outlets located in bargain centers and shopping malls, as well as in ukay-ukay shops, located in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City, three of the country’s top commercial hubs.

The products were then tested by Dr. Joe DiGangi, a scientist and IPEN’s Science and Technical Advisor, using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) that screened and measured the toxic metal contents of the samples.

The XRF is a screening technology, routinely used by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which allows the rapid identification and measurement of up to 20 elements in a product without destroying the sample.

“The results provide solid grounds for preventive policies that require disclosure of chemical content as a condition for sale. The industry should rapidly move to monitor its products and go for safer alternatives that will cause no harm to children and ecosystems,” said DiGangi.

For his part, Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition said: “The data generated out of the product tests in Manila, Cebu and Davao would inform and fortify our push to eliminate health-damaging chemicals in consumer articles, especially those intended for kids’ use. The data, we know, will help policy makers and regulators in upgrading and expanding existing rules to proactively protect children’s health and safety.”

The key findings of the study are as follows:

1. A total of 124 products (29%) contained at least one toxic metal above levels of concern such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury, which were the focus of the study.

2. 71% of the products did not contain toxic metals (or contained low levels of them) indicating the technical feasibility of manufacturing products that do not expose children to toxic metals.

3. The absence or low detection of toxic metals does not prove the safety of the products since the study did not identify or measure other substances of concern such as bisphenol A and phthalates.

4. 67 children’s products (15 %) of the samples had lead levels above the US regulatory limit of 90 parts per million.

5. Eight children’s products contained mercury and four of them were children’s cosmetic products that exceeded the 1 ppm “allowable limit” as set by the Food and Drug Administration.

6. 57 products (13%) contained more than one toxic metal which increases the potential harm due to multiple exposures.

7. Levels of concern were exceeded for antimony by 56 samples (13%); for arsenic by 36 samples (8%); for cadmium by 14 samples (3%); and for chromium by 33samples (8%).

8. None of the products containing toxic metals were labeled with information about their chemical or material content to warn consumers. Some products that carried the “non-toxic” labels were found to contain toxic metals.

To rid the market of toxic children’s products, both the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN have put forward the following initial recommendations:

-Manufactures should actively generate and disclose the chemical content of children’s products as a condition for sale in the Philippines.

-Review and upgrade the Department of Health Administrative Order No. 0032, Series of 2007 to strengthen licensing, testing, labeling, packaging and other requirements, including explicit prohibition on lead and other dangerous substances using total concentration limits.

-Consumers should urge lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate to make legislation protecting children from toxic substances in products a priority action in the 15th Congress.


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