Toxic Slippers: Flip Flops Flunk Chemicals Screening

Quezon City. A toxics watchdog has uncovered high amounts of heavy metals in what many consider as essential purchases, especially during the summer season: slippers.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the EcoWaste Coalition screened the slippers for toxic metals and detected lead, antimony, barium and cadmium above levels of concern in 11 out of the 20 samples.

Lead, in particular, is a known brain-damaging poison and kids are among the extremely susceptible because of their fast developing nervous systems. Health experts have determined no safe level of lead exposure, notably for fetuses and children.

Nine of the 20 samples topped the 90 parts per million (ppm) total lead content limit for painted surfaces under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, while six went over the 60 ppm soluble content limit for antimony, three exceeded the 1,000 ppm soluble content limit for barium and two surpassed the 75 soluble content limit for cadmium.

The samples were obtained from vendors at Farmers’ Market and Mega Q-Mart and from popular retail establishments such as Puregold, Shopwise and SM, all in Cubao, and from the Matalino St. branch of 7-Eleven store chain.

Among the samples screened, all three “Caribbean” flip flops (“Jack,” “Madeline” and “Quentin” styles) bought from 7-Eleven and SM registered with the highest amounts of lead and antimony of up to 10,900 ppm for lead and up to 4,295 ppm for antimony.

“We are stunned by the detection of high levels of lead and other heavy metals frequently used as pigments or stabilizers in slippers whose safety aspects we often take for granted,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.

“Aside from directly affecting those who wear these slippers, these toxic metals, particularly the lead on the painted parts of slippers, can spread into the environment as these wear out, as the soles rub on the ground and as these are later discarded or even burned,” he explained.

“We therefore ask manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to produce and market products with no lead and other harmful chemical ingredients, and to adequately label their products so consumers can make informed and safe choices,” he stated.

“As for consumers, we urge them to use their power to demand products that do not pose hazards to health and the environment,” he further said.

This is the second time that the EcoWaste Coalition analyzed slippers for chemicals that can adversely impact human health and the environment.

In 2009, the EcoWaste Coalition took part in a seven-country study on chemicals in slippers led by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation that found high levels of copper, nickel and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) in three samples procured from Philippine stores.



SSNC report on chemicals in slippers:

CPSIA testing requirements: