26% of Davao Children’s Products Tested Positive with Toxic Metals, Study Finds

Davao City. The popular children’s puzzle mat with its varied coloured tiles, a familiar accessory in most nursery and pre-school rooms, was found to contain elevated amounts of lead far beyond the regulatory limit

The puzzle mat contained more than five times the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm.

An infant milk bottle designed to contain candies was found to contain more than three times the amount of mercury permitted in packaging by 19 US states.

These were some of the findings revealed in a study of Davao’s children’s products conducted by Dr. Joseph DiGangi, Senior Science and Policy Adviser of the International POPs Eliminations Network (IPEN), with the Interface Development Interventions and the EcoWaste Coalition, Inc.

The 135 samples were bought from 568, Haotian Toys, Robinsons Toys R Us, SM Toy Kingdom and in Bankerohan in Davao City.

In a public forum sponsored by the environment NGO Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), a member of the EcoWaste Coalition, DiGangi presented the results of the tests conducted over the weekend which revealed that approximately 26% of the 135 children’s products bought from department stores, public markets and ukay ukay stalls all over Davao City contained at least one toxic metal above levels of concern.

A significant number of the products contained lead levels above the US regulatory limit. Twenty two samples (16%) contained lead ranging from 92 ppm to more than 1700ppm; almost 20 times higher than the US regulatory limit.

Alarmingly, at least 21 items (16%) from the 135 samples were also found to contain more than one toxic metal increasing the potential harm from multiple exposures.

Dr. Romy Quijano, a University of the Philippines toxicologist, warned the public of the dangers of these toxic metals. “ Lead, mercury and other heavy metals in toys are significant threats to children’s health. People should be made aware that these poisons cause brain damage, neuro-behavioral disorders and other serious illnesses.”, he said.

DiGangi , a molecular biologist and biochemist, had tested the products with the X-Ray Flourescence (XRF) analyzer to screen priority chemicals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury in the 135 samples, using 30-second measurements of each sample.

The device, however, is unable to identify and measure other chemicals of concern such as bisphenol A and phthalates hence samples with low or non-detectable concentrations of metals may still not be totally safe.

The XRF is routinely used by private companies and by US regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“If we can analyze products, so can the manufacturers, distributors, and importers.”, said DiGangi. “It’s time for the industry to be proactive and eliminate toxic metals before products end up in children’s hands.’ DiGangi said. “

IDIS Executive Director Lia Jasmin Esquillo, meanwhile, urged the vendors and the local business community to stop engaging in the production, trade and sale of toys and other children’s products containing these toxic metals.

“Our children’s safety is paramount”, she said. “ Policymakers and regulatory agencies should use these findings to craft laws to help ensure that children are not exposed to undue risks to their lives and health.”

The national Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, released a press statement endorsing this research survey initiative.

Dr. Suzette H. Lazo, FDA Director, noted that the XRF technology has “significantly boosted monitoring efforts and prevented unsafe products from being marketed to unsuspecting consumers.”

“The FDA hereby enjoins every manufacturer, importers, distributors and retailers to be more aware of safety issues and to exercise extraordinary diligence in their manufacture and distribution of products under their stewardship by assuring that these are free of harmful chemicals,” she stressed.