The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, aired this warning on the eve of Valentine’s Day after discovering traces of heavy metals in 13 out of 20 (65%) products bought from formal and informal retailers in Binondo, Divisoria, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila.
The group purchased the items on February 10 to 12 and screened them for cadmium, lead and other heavy metals on February 13 using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer.
Among the product samples were stuffed hearts, puffy toy gifts, mugs, panty rose and other Valentine’s Days knick-knacks.
“Our findings indicate that some Valentine Day’s gifts and accessories are laced with hazardous chemicals that can harm people we care about,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
Cadmium and lead, two of the “Ten Chemicals of Major Public Health Concern” as per the World Health Organization (WHO), were detected in five samples.
According to the WHO, “cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen,” while lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”
Levels detected ranged from 1,248 ppm to 2,059 for cadmium (exceeding the 75 ppm limit under the proposed US Children’s Toxic Metals Act) and 159 ppm to 6,713 ppm for lead (exceeding the lead in paint limit under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act).
“Ceramic mugs with ‘kilig to the bones’ (titillating) images or messages were among the ‘dirtiest’ with worrisome levels of cadmium and lead unfit for food contact materials,” she noted.
A mug with the message “World’s Best Lover” registered with the highest amount of cadmium at 2,059 and also had 6,628 ppm of lead, 1,233 of arsenic and 513 ppm of antimony.
Another mug with the image of a cheerful boy holding a bouquet of hearts tested with the highest amount of lead at 6,713 ppm and also had 1,951 ppm of cadmium, 1,065 ppm of arsenic, 635 ppm of chromium and 295 ppm of antimony.
A “Garfield” stuffed toy had 1,785 ppm of lead, 1,346 ppm of chromium, 296 ppm of arsenic and 171 ppm of antimony.
Lucero noted that “none of the samples had complete product information, keeping consumers in the dark about who made the products, their chemical contents and their effects to health.”
“Seven samples tested negative for heavy metals signifying that products meant to express love can be made without such substances,” she added.
Fetuses, young children, workers and women of child-bearing age are most susceptible to the effects of lead exposure and poisoning, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Citing information from WHO, the group said that lead absorbed by the fetus can cause difficulties during pregnancy, including miscarriage, premature birth or low birth-weight.
While not as at risk as children to severe effects, lead exposure in adults can cause problems in the reproductive, nervous, cardiovascular and digestive systems.
The WHO has warned that “there is no known safe blood lead level but it is known that, as lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increases.”