EcoWaste Coalition Finds More School Supplies Laden with Brain Poison

Quezon City.  With just over two weeks before the start of the new school year, a toxics watchdog urged parents to be cautious about buying school supplies that may contain lead, a chemical that can reduce a child’s intelligence.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the reminder after analyzing additional school supplies bought from retailers in Divisoria, Manila and in Araneta Center and Mega-Q-Mart in Quezon City with an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

“Parents should be extra careful when buying products that are designed to aid a child’s development, but could ironically contribute to reduced intelligence and school performance due to their secret lead content. We should assert the right of our children to school supplies with no hazardous ingredients that can endanger their health,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Lead interferes with the crucial development of a child’s brain and the damage caused by chronic, low-level exposure to lead is irreversible and untreatable with life-long impact.  Studies indicate that damage to a child’s developing brain happens even if there are no obvious signs of lead poisoning.  There is no such thing as safe level of lead exposure for vulnerable kids whose brains and other vital organs are still immature,” Dr. Bessie Antonio, a pediatric toxicologist at East Avenue Medical Center, pointed out.

The group’s latest advisory against lead exposure through some school supplies was triggered by its latest investigation that detected high concentrations of the brain-damaging poison above the US limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint and surface coatings in the following items:

1. Yong Xin two hole puncher, 50,900 ppm
2. Water color set,  45,200 ppm
3. Colored thumb tacks, 38,500 ppm
4. Colored butterfly clips, 26,600 ppm
5. Play magnet set, 19,500 ppm
6. Colored paper clips, 15,300 ppm
7. Play black board, 2,372 ppm
8. Metal ruler with PVC design, 1,722 ppm
9. PVC plastic envelope, 551 ppm
10. Pencil, 266 ppm

The group had earlier reported finding dangerous levels of lead up to 5,752 in kiddie backpacks, up to 3,347 in lunch bags and up to more than 100,000 ppm in reusable water containers.

Health scientists have not determined a level of lead exposure that may be deemed safe for developing children and foetuses, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

The World Health Organization said “there is no tolerable weekly intake for lead.”

Also, the European Safety Authority Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain said “there is no evidence for a threshold for critical lead-induced effects.”

“Since there is no safe level of childhood lead exposure, we must do all in our power to exterminate all  preventable sources of lead.  We have removed leaded gasoline through the Clean Air Act. It’s high time that we act on other sources of lead pollution,” Dizon said.

Aside from lead added to petrol, the WHO has identified other major sources of children’s exposure to lead, including lead-based paints and pigments, lead in products such as toys, lead solder in food cans, lead in ceramic glazes, lead in electronic waste, lead released by incineration of  lead-containing waste and lead in the food chain via contaminated soil.

The EcoWaste 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.