Following the initial investigation it conducted in March 2012 that saw nine of the 20 samples positive for lead, a potent neurotoxin, the EcoWaste Coalition expanded its probe on toxins in slippers by screening 23 new samples.
Fifteen of the 23 samples were imitation products from Divisoria’s bargain stalls and eight were original products bought from Robinsons Place, Manila and in SM “Clearance Outlet” in Quiapo, SM Manila in Ermita and SM North EDSA in Quezon City.
A handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer was used to screen the samples for heavy metals such as lead.
Out of the 23 samples,12 pairs were found to contain lead in excess of 90 parts per million (ppm), the limit for lead in painted surfaces under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
Out of the 12 lead-positive samples, seven were counterfeit slippers bought from vendors at Juan Luna St. and Recto Ave. in Divisoria and carrying brand names such as “Havaianas,” “Nike,” “Puma,” “Storm” and “Tattoo” with lead content up to 1,462 ppm.
The five other lead-positive samples were original Caribbean slippers bought from SM stores that had lead between 2,438 ppm to 22,900 ppm. The “Beard,” “Gary,” “Harper,” “Neptune” and “Zed” styles of Caribbean slippers also had antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium above levels of concern.
The EcoWaste Coalition noted that four pairs of bogus “Havaianas” (costing P35 to P50 per pair) and two pairs of fake “Crocs” (costing P100 and P150 each), all from Divisoria, were found to contain low or non-detectable levels of lead.
An original Havainas costing P995 had non-detectable lead. The item was purchased at the Havaianas shop in Robinsons Place, Ermita.
An original Banana Peel flip flops from SM had no detectable lead content, but was found to contain 194 ppm of chromium.
An original Planet slippers, also from SM, had no detectable level of toxic metals.
“The additional data we generated only underscore the need to get rid of lead-containing consumer products like slippers in the market to avoid potential human exposure to this brain poison,” observed Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“This is a serious health and environmental concern and we ask the government, particularly the Department of Trade and Industry, to take swift action,” he pointed out.
Aside from directly exposing the users to lead through dermal contact, the lead can scatter into the environment as the soles rub on the ground and as the slippers wear out and then later disposed of, Dizon explained.
Based on its latests findings, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the SM management to stop the sale of lead-tainted Caribbean flip-flops.
“In the higher interest of consumer health and safety, we urge you to immediately halt the sale of Caribbean flip-flops and to press your suppliers to only offer safe items with no lead and other toxic metals added,” wrote the EcoWaste Coalition in their letter dated May 3, 2012.
Lead, a brain-damaging chemical, has been linked to reproductive, developmental, behavioral and neurological problems, including birth defects, attention deficit disorder, language and speech difficulties and lower IQ.
Lead exposure occurs through the ingestion, inhalation or skin contact with air, water, food, soil and consumer products containing lead.