Christmas Goodies Emblazoned with Cartoon Characters Laced with Lead

Why are Christmas gift items wooing  children with attractive cartoon characters loaded with health-damaging  chemicals?

The EcoWaste Coalition, an organization campaigning for children’s  safety against toxins in commerce and the environment, raised this  question after finding excessive levels of lead and other hazardous  substances in consumer products emblazoned with cartoon figures.

“The use of popular cartoon figures in these toxic products to entice  consumers to buy such products for their kids is deceptive and  dangerous and buyers should be forewarned ,” said Thony Dizon,
Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“It’s deceptive because it exploits children’s credulity and misleads  both adults and kids into believing that a product is suitable for  children by using cartoons to conceal their toxic components,” he  said.

“It’s dangerous because many of these toxic ingredients are capable  of causing permanent damage to the health of a hapless child,” he  added.

In anticipation of the Christmas gift-giving tradition, the group went  to Divisoria, Manila on December 6 and 7 to buy 40 popular gift  items decorated with images of cartoon characters that kids love and  adore.

The gift items, costing P10 to P100 each, were subsequently screened  for toxic metals with the aid of a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF)  analytical device.

The XRF screening revealed that:

Out of 40 samples, 35 were found loaded with one or more toxic metals  with lead present in 33 samples above the US limit of 90 parts per  million (ppm) for lead in paint and surface coatings.

The samples featured popular cartoon figures such as “Batman,” “Ben 10,”  “Cars,” “Despicable Me” minions, “Dora,” “Doraemon,” “Hello Kitty,” “Mickey  Mouse,” “Minnie Mouse,” “Pikachu,” “Princess,” “Ruto,” “Spiderman,”  “SpongeBob Squarepants,” “Thomas and Friends,”  “Tinkerbell,”
“Winnie the Pooh,” and “Woody Woodpecker.”

Lead is globally recognized for its toxicity even at low doses and  lead exposure has been blamed for various health problems such as  neurological disorders, reproductive abnormalities, cardiovascular
diseases and diminished intelligence, to name a few, the EcoWaste  Coalition said.

Out of 10 toys with cartoon images, all had lead with a “SpongeBob  Squarepants” boxing gloves having 9,356 ppm.  A “Pikachu Pocket  Bola” had 5,165 ppm lead, while a “Ben 10” wrist strap had 3,257 ppm  lead.

Out of 10 kiddie bags with cartoon creatures, six had lead with a “Despicable Me” bag having 3,839 ppm.  Another “Despicable Me”  bag had 3,022 ppm lead, while a “Dora” bag had 2,741 ppm lead.

Out of 10 plastic slippers with cartoon designs, seven had lead with  a “Hello Kitty” pair of baby slippers having 3,106 ppm. A “Mickey  Mouse” slipper had 2,271 ppm lead, while a “Cars” sticker had  2,130 ppm lead.

Out of 10 gift mugs with cartoon characters, all had lead with a  pink “Hello Kitty” mug having 38,200 ppm. A “SpongeBob Squarepants”  mug had 24,200 ppm lead, while a”Mickey Mouse” mug had 23,400  ppm lead.

Other chemicals detected in many of the samples were antimony,  arsenic, cadmium and chromium.

To avoid buying unsafe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded consumers  to habitually read product labels and to seek information about their  chemical ingredients.

The group further reminded consumers to look for the manufacturer’s  License to Operate (LTO) number on the label, which can serve as an  indicator that the product is compliant with the documentary  requirements under the Department of Health’s Administrative Order  2007-32.

DOH A.O. 2007-32 requires all locally produced and imported toys to  state the following on their labels: a duly registered name and  trademark, a model reference number, the name of the manufacturer or  distributor, and the place, country and year of manufacture, as well  as warnings and precautionary indications.