laden with brain-damaging chemical associated with lower intelligence quotient
The EcoWaste Coaliton, a toxics watchdog, made the warning as bags and other
back-to-school necessities come into sight in Divisoria, the nation’s bargain
As part of its series of product sampling ahead of the reopening of school
classes, the group bought 25 samples of bags, costing P50 to P280 each and with
colors and images appealing to children, from bargain stores and sidewalk
vendors in Juan Luna St. and Recto Ave. in Divisoria and Rizal Ave. in Sta.
Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, EcoWaste researchers
screened the samples for lead, a potent brain and nervous system poison, and
other chemicals linked to serious health and environmental problems.
In the absence of a specific standard for lead in children’s bags, the EcoWaste
Coalition used as reference the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit for lead in
consumer paints and surface coatings under the US Consumer Product Safety
Out of 25 samples, 23 (92%) were found to contain lead up to 5,752 ppm in
excess of the 90 ppm threshold. None of the samples had proper product labels.
“Parents should not only be worried with overloaded school bags that can cause
back pain and deformities,” stated Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator,
“Parents should be concerned as well with toxins prowling in those bags that
can impair brain development, causing shorter attention span, learning
disabilities and decrease in IQ score,” she suggested.
The “Risk Management Strategy for Lead” published by Health Canada in February
2013 said that “research suggests that an incremental increase in blood lead
levels of 1 microgram per deciliter is associated with approximately a one IQ
point deficit,” the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.
The European Food Safety Authority, US Environmental Protection Authority,
World Health Organization (WHO) and other health and science bodies have not
identified a safe level of exposure to lead below which no adverse health
effects can be observed, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.
According to WHO, “the potential for adverse effects of lead exposure is
greater for children than for adults, because in children 1) the intake of lead
per unit body weight is higher, 2) more dust may be ingested, 3) lead
absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is higher, 4) the blood–brain barrier
is not yet fully developed and 5) neurological effects occur at lower levels
than in adults.”
“This is why it is crucial to get rid of childhood lead exposure at its source
such as lead-added paints, lead-containing consumer products, and lead-contaminated
dust and waste,” Lucero added.
“This is why lawmakers and regulators need to act fast to ban lead in paints
and products, particularly those designed for children’s use such as kiddie bag
and other school supplies,” she said.
The main routes of exposure to lead are through ingestion, inhalation and, in
minimal cases, via dermal contact or skin absorption.
Based on the chemical analysis conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, the
following kiddie bags registered with lead over 1,000 ppm:
1. Superman 5,752 ppm
2. Dragon Ball Z, 4,156 ppm
3. Ben 10, 3,536 ppm
4. Superman, 3,317 ppm
5. One Piece, 2,660 ppm
6. SpongeBob SquarePants, 2,565 ppm
7. Slam Dunk, 2,233 ppm
8. Superman, 2,127 ppm
9. SpongeBob SquarePants, 1,830 ppm
10. Ben 10, 1,595 ppm
11. Princess, 1,464 ppm
12. Iron Man, 1,254 ppm
13. Avengers, 1,102 ppm
To minimize exposure to lead in school bags and related articles, the EcoWaste
Coalition recommends that parents:
1. Avoid polyvinyl chloride
(PVC) plastic bags as their materials may contain lead used as stabilizer, as
well as phthalates used as plasticizers.
Lead and phthalates are listed among endocrine disrupting chemicals, or
chemicals that may interfere with the production or activity on hormones in the
human endocrine system.
2 Avoid bags painted with colorful
designs unless labelled and certified safe from lead paint.
3. Avoid school bags that have strong chemical
smells, indicating the use of paints with high levels of volatile organic compounds.
4. Avoid products with “cracked” painted design as it
could easily chip off under normal use,
potentially spreading lead-containing paint flakes and dust.
5. Avoid products lacking essential product information such as the manufacturer’s
or distributor’s contact information in case you need to make an inquiry or
6. Ask for receipts in case you need to
return the items you bought if they are found to be defective, substandard or
Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups
pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical
issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.