Brain-Damaging Chemical Found in “People Power” Souvenirs

A watchdog tracking harmful chemicals in consumer products had detected high levels of lead, a potent toxin that attacks the brain, in some souvenir items celebrating the triumph of “People Power.”

The EcoWaste Coalition made the revelation on the eve of the 26th anniversary of “People Power Revolution” in 1986 that restored democracy in the country.

The group bought souvenirs from the Filipiniana sections of major retail stores in shopping malls located along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or EDSA, the center of people’s upheavals that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

Among the samples analyzed on February 23 through an X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer were commemorative jewelry, rosary, reflective car sticker, coffee mug and tote bags.

A yellow eyeglasses pin was found to contain 13,100 parts per million (ppm) of lead, while the yellow ribbon pin had 8,566 ppm of lead and a yellow ribbon pendant of a necklace had 731 ppm of lead. All these items were made of metal alloys.

“While these products were not strictly designed for children, it is possible for these items to get into the hands and mouths of kids if within their reach,” explained Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Because of the probability that children could play with these attractive yellow-painted items, the group used as reference the regulatory limit of 100 ppm for lead in children’s jewelry under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

“We need to protect children who are most vulnerable to toxic exposure. Celebrating People Power should not in any way damage our children’s brain,” he stated.

During the political upheavals in the 1980s, Dizon recalled that the people flashed the “L” (for “Laban” or fight) sign with the index finger and thumb as a symbol of resistance against the dictatorship.

“It seems that the famous ‘L’ sign has now assumed a new meaning: fight to eliminate‘lead’ in paints and consumer products,” he added.

“The time has come for the people to wage and win another fight. This time it’s the fight against insidious chemicals such as lead that threaten the health of the society, including those yet to be born,” he pointed out.

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 the World Health Organization (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 further 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.”