Watchdog Sounds Alarm over Toxic Pollution as Firecrackers Test Positive for Lead and Other Heavy Metals

 Consumer fireworks found laced with toxic lead
 Consumer fireworks bought in Divisoria, Manila and screened for heavy metals
Quezon City.  The EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group on waste and pollution issues, expressed serious concern over the unregulated use of toxic metals in pyrotechnic devices.

This developed as the group discovered lead and other heavy metals in all the 20 samples of  consumer fireworks that it purchased for P8 to P170 each on December 2 and 3 from street vendors at Juan Luna, M. de Santos, Sto. Cristo and Tabora Sts. in Divisoria, Manila.

None of the 20 samples provided information about their chemical ingredients, particularly their heavy metal contents such as aluminum, barium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead and zinc, which are combined to the black powder mixture to create the desired colors and sparks.

“We are deeply concerned about the cocktail of toxic fumes and residues from the use of firecrackers and fireworks containing undisclosed quantities of lead and other heavy metals,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To make it worse, many of these hazardous products are packaged for retail sales and eventually sold to innocent children like ordinary candies,” she lamented.

“A lucky child may escape getting injured from using these dangerous articles, but she or he could not run away from the toxic smoke resulting  from the blast.  Unknown to the child, the ensuing smoke is full of poison chemicals that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, trigger asthma and cause even far serious health problems,” she pointed out.

Dr. Maricar Limpin, a pulmonologist, had earlier warned that the “blasting of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices yields greenhouse gases, metal oxides, particulates and other pollutant that we inhale, affecting the lungs and other vital organs such as the kidneys, heart and brain.”

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence analytical device, the group detected lead, a potent neurotoxin and probable human carcinogen, up to 6,519 parts per million (ppm) in 10 samples such as:

1. Tiger Fireworks’ “Dragon Egg Thunder,” 6,519 ppm lead.
2. Leopard King’s “Pili Cracker” (small box), 4,870 ppm lead.
3. Leopard King’s “Spirit Whip,” 4,105 ppm lead.
4. Diamond Fireworks’ “Great Small Magic Scourge,” 3,893 ppm lead.
5. Leopard King’s “Pili Cracker” (big box), 3,076 ppm lead, 495 ppm barium.
6. Tiger Fireworks’ “Dragon Eggs,” 2,913 ppm lead and 1,419 ppm barium.
7. Leopard King’s “Happy Ball,” 2,261 ppm lead
8. Diamond Fireworks’ “Pilipao Crackers,” 2,066 ppm lead.
9. Leopard King’s “World Warcraft,” 1,081 ppm lead.
10. Leopard King’s “Happy Flower,” 123 ppm lead.

The XRF device detected antimony, another probable human carcinogen, in what is called as “Pulling Fireworks” at 12,000 ppm.

Barium was detected in nine samples, especially in luces and sparklers, in the range of 495 ppm to over 100,000 ppm.  Three products registered with barium above 100,000 ppm:  Leopard King’s “Sparklers,” Lion Fireworks’ “Sparklers” and Leopard King’s “Happy Flower.”

In light of its findings, the EcoWaste Coalition renewed its appeal to the general public to shun firecrackers and fireworks and opt for non-polluting, non-injuring merry making to celebrate the joyous holidays.

“We also request the public  to give the money saved from buying pyrotechnic devices (and the associated medical costs in case of allergy, injury or death) to charities to help in rebuilding homes and communities devastated by super typhoon Yolanda,” Lucero said.