EcoWaste Coalition Reveals Latest Findings from Its Toxics-Free Summer Campaign: Lead-Laden Souvenir Key Chains

 Key chains with lead (above)

Key chains without lead (below)
Key chains, which are among the most
affordable mementos available at gift shops in various summer destinations, may
contain elevated levels of lead, a potent toxin that targets the brain and the
central nervous system.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network promoting zero waste and
chemical safety, aired the warning as part of its ongoing “toxics-free summer”
campaign that has seen the group informing consumers about harmful
chemicals lurking in swim floats and rings, play tops and other native toys,
art materials and even in religious figures.  

In its latest investigation, the group detected lead up to 80,500 parts per
million (ppm) in 38 out of 50 key chain samples with paint coatings that
retailers in Quiapo, Manila and elsewhere sell from P10 to P35 each. 

Attached to the key rings are decorative key fobs made of coconut, plastic,
metal or wood, with painted drawings and often bearing the word
“Philippines.”  Some of the fobs are shaped like a fish, guitar, shirt or
slipper that could appeal to a child’s curiosity and liking.

“Adults might give such nicely-designed but lead-laden key chains to kids who
may use them as a toy or for use with a house key.  As the item may
potentially land on a child’s hands and mouth, it is important for key chains
to comply with the government’s regulatory policy on lead,” said Thony Dizon,
Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The lead coated design will surely deteriorate with frequent use, releasing
the lead as chip or dust that kids may swallow through their casual
hand-to-mouth behaviour.  Some kids may even bite or chew on the cute
items, directly ingesting the lead paint,” he added.

Lead is strictly prohibited in the manufacturing of toys under the Chemical
Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds signed by Environment Secretary
Ramon Paje last December 2013.  The said policy also set a limit of 90 ppm
for lead in paints.

As one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” as determined by
the World Health Organization, exposure to lead can cause irreparable brain and
nervous system damage, reduced intelligence, learning disabilities and
behavioral issues.

The top 12 samples of key chains with the highest levels of lead based on the
screening conducted by the group using an X-Ray Fluorescence device were:

1.  A key chain with a rectangular metallic fob with yellow paint and
featuring “tinikling” folk dance and the word “Philippines” has 80,500 ppm of
2.  A key chain with a  circular plastic fob showing  fish and
corrals and the word “Philippines” has 12,800 ppm of lead.
3.  A key chain with a plastic fob showing a couple sitting on a carabao
and has the word “Philippines” has 12,200 ppm of lead.
4.  A key chain with a plastic fob featuring a farmer and carabao-drawn
cart has 10,500 ppm of lead.
5.  A key chain with a plastic fob showing marine life and has the words
“Boracay” and “Philippines,” has 9,027 ppm of lead.
6.  A key chain with a wooden fob shaped and colored like a “suman” and
marked “Antipolo City” has 5,409 ppm of lead.
7.   A key chain with a wooden yellow-colored pencil fob with the
word s“Antipolo City” has 4,282 ppm of lead.
8.  A key chain with a plastic fob showing a couple with the words
“carabao rider” and “Philippines” has  4,108 ppm of lead.
9.  A key chain with a wooden fob shaped as cashew fruit with the words
“Antipolo City” has 2,017 ppm of lead.
10.  A key chain with a wooden yellow-painted fish fob has 1,306 ppm of
11. A key chain with a wooden yellow and orange-painted guitar and the word
“Philippines” has 1,221 ppm of lead.
12.  A key chain with a green wooden fob shaped as a shirt that says “I
love Philippines” has 1,202 ppm of lead.

In view of its findings, the EcoWaste Coalition urged souvenir makers all over
the country to shift to lead-safe paints, and to label their products as
containing or not containing lead and other chemicals of concern to assist
consumers in making an informed choice.