Watch Group to Consumers: Be Cautious of Lead-Laden School Supplies (Group Hopes Toxic Children’s Products to Vanish under Duterte Presidency)

A non-profit watch group for toxic chemicals in
products and wastes has again alerted consumers against buying school supplies
laced with lead, a brain-damaging chemical.

For the fifth year in a row, the EcoWaste Coalition warned against toxic lead
in school supplies as part of its annual back-to-school campaign for children’s
health and safety.

For this year’s campaign, the group released its findings today in front of
children and their parents at a day care center in Tatalon, Quezon City with a
lecturette on childhood lead poisoning and prevention by Dr. Erle Castillo, a

Lead, a hazardous substance linked to learning and behavioral problems, is
prohibited in the production of school supplies as per DENR Administrative
Order 2013-24, or the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds,”
which the group pushed to prevent and control childhood lead exposure.   

“Forty-three percent of the 75 items that we screened for toxic lead had lead
levels that should make parents, who care for their children’s health and
well-being, worried,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s
Project Protect.

“On the other hand, 57 percent of the samples were found to be lead-free,
indicating the availability of alternative products that are safe to use by
children,” he pointed out.

As Rodrigo Duterte, the presumptive president, is about to take over the reins
of the government by June 30, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed the need for the
next administration to do more to curb the sale of school supplies and other
children’s products laden with lead and other harmful chemicals.

At the event, participants brandished small tri-color placards of blue, red and
yellow suggestive of Duterte’s campaign colors with the text: “School supplies
dapat ligtas sa lead.”

“We hope, in the next six years of the Duterte presidency, consumers will no
longer worry that they are buying poison products for their children and that
they are not sending hazardous substances to school with their kids,” Dizon

“As a doting grandfather, we believe that Duterte will make it sure that only
non-toxic school supplies, toys and other children’s products are offered for
sale by manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers,” he added.  

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition
detected lead in 32 out of 75 school supplies -purchased from formal and
informal retailers in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila, Monumento, Caloocan City
and Cubao, Quezon City – in the scale of 201 to 87,000 parts per million (ppm),
way above the regulatory limit of 90 ppm.

Topping this year’s “dirty dozen” school supplies with lead above 5,000 ppm

1.  A plastic envelope with yellow handle, 87,000 ppm.
2.  A yellow thumb tack, 78,700 ppm

3.  An “Artex Fine Water Colors” set, 62,600 ppm
4.  A plastic envelope with red handle, 36,800 ppm
5.  An orange metal water jug with “Car” design, 28,200 ppm
6.  A “Rubber Duck” pencil pouch, 27,800 ppm
7.  A yellow “Despicable Me” pencil pouch, 22,000 ppm
8.  A PVC keychain with ice cream design, 13,100 ppm
9.  A “Ronron” school bag, 7,081 ppm
10.  A yellow vinyl coated paper clip, 6,015 ppm
11.  A “Minghao” school bag, 5,862 ppm
12.  A “Snoopy” school bag, 5,777 ppm

The group noted that the Food and Drugs Administration in 2014
banned “Artex Fine Water Colors” for containing high lead content as reported
to the agency by the EcoWaste Coalition.

While the four samples of crayons tested negative for lead, the group pointed
out that their packaging carried no toxicity warning and “non-toxic” label as
required by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed lead as one of the “ten
chemicals of major public health concern,” contributing to about 600,000 new
cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year with the highest
burden in developing regions.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and
even relatively low levels 

of exposure can cause serious and in some cases
irreversible neurological damage,” the WHO said.

Lead, the WHO further said, is “a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple
body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal,
cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

“There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” the WHO