Advocacy Toxic Products Toxic Toys

Chinese New Year’s Warning: Be on guard against toxic rat-inspired “lucky” figurines

24 January 2020, Quezon City.  The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental and health group, has detected lead, a hazardous chemical, on some cute but toxic rat-inspired figurines.

To mark the Chinese New Year of the Metal Rat, the group purchased 11 decorative rat figurines from retailers in Binondo and Quiapo, Manila for P100 to P200 per set and had them screened for lead, a heavy metal banned in paint formulations, using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

“While five of the samples are luckily negative for lead content, six had lead above the regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm),” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Out of the 11 samples, the group detected lead ranging from 874 to 3,798 ppm on six samples.  None of the 11 samples had product labeling information, and none of the lead-painted ones provided any lead hazard warning,

“These adorable items can easily pass for toys, so it’s very important to ensure that such items are guaranteed lead-safe,” Dizon said.

A child can be exposed to lead when she or he plays with a lead-coated item, bite it and ingest the lead.  Lead exposure may also happen if the item is broken or damaged, contaminating the household dust with lead that a child can ingest as a result of hand-to-mouth behavior.

Lead is exposure is detrimental to human health, especially to the developing brain and central nervous system of a young child.

Childhood exposure to lead, considered one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), can result to lower intelligence, speech and language problems, hearing loss, reduced bone and muscle growth, increased blood pressure, damage to the kidneys, and behavioral disorders.

Last year, the year of the Earth Pig, the EcoWaste Coalition detected lead up to 5,042 ppm on three piggy banks.  In 2018, the year of the Earth Dog, four samples of dog figurines were found to contain lead up to 6,578 ppm.

In 2017, the year of the Fire Rooster, lead measuring 5,032 ppm was uncovered in one lucky rooster figurine, while in 2016, the year of the Fire Monkey, lead up to 7,800 ppm was discovered in brightly colored monkey ornaments.

To avoid buying lead-containing products, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to insist on their right to product information and to refrain from buying items that carry no information and offer no assurance of safety from harmful chemicals such as lead.

The group asserted that producers, importers, distributors and retailers should only make and offer for sale products that are duly labeled and certified as compliant to product safety regulations.


For more information about the toxicity of lead, please see this material from WHO: