Health experts have warned that lead exposure among children even at low levels can interrupt and damage brain development and cause lifelong learning and behavioral problems, while exposure among adults can bring about miscarriage in women, reduced sperm count in men, hypertension and other health issues.
A non-profit watch group on toxic chemicals, products and wastes cautioned consumers anew against purchasing lead-laden lucky charms and amulets ahead of the celebration of the Chinese New Year of the Fire Rooster this Saturday.
The EcoWaste Coalition warned that some of these Feng Shui items are decorated with paints containing dangerous levels of lead — a toxic metal belonging to the list of “ten chemicals of major public health concern” of the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the WHO, lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”
“Not all Feng Shui charms and amulets are created equal. While many are safe from toxic lead, some are coated with highly-leaded paints and should in fact carry a lead hazard warning,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Why are these products, which are supposed to attract energy, health, long life, happiness and wealth, coated with lead paints that the Philippines and the entire world are trying to eliminate?,” he asked.
“As these products are hardly regulated, we advise consumers to be wary of painted charms and amulets unless these are certified as lead-safe,” he added.
“We make this warning after finding high concentrations of lead in red and yellow paints of some lucky charms and amulets. Red and yellow are among the ‘lucky colors’ for the year of the Fire Rooster,” he said.
To drive his point, Dizon cited five Feng Shui items that the EcoWaste Coalition obtained from retailers in Binondo, Sta. Cruz and Quiapo, Manila and screened for lead using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence device.
— The red paint of a metallic “bagua” had a lead content of 57,100 ppm.
— The yellow paint of a “gain luck coin” (also known as a “money plate”) had a lead content of 33,500 ppm.
— The yellow paint of a “lucky dragon amulet” had a lead content of 10,700 ppm.
— The black-green paint of a rooster figure had a lead content of 5,032 ppm.
— The yellow paint of a “four-corner blessing” charm had a lead content of 3,284 ppm.
The government’s Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds has set a maximum limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paint.
In lieu of lead-laden lucky charms and amulets, the EcoWaste Coalition urged luck seekers to opt for the tried and tested formula to attract health, fortune and happiness: healthful lifestyle, “sipag at tiyaga” (hard work and perseverance), fervent prayers and good deeds.
Those who wish to decorate their homes and offices for the Chinese New Year may also go for “lucky fruits and vegetables” like oranges and pomelos for “abundance and happiness” and ginger or taro for “family unity and prosperity,” the group suggested.