Laboratory Analysis Detects Dangerous Levels of Lead in Some School Supplies

chemical known to damage a child’s developing brain even at low exposures was
discovered in some children’s products as consumers scramble for back-to-school

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, revealed that nine assorted school
supplies that it had sent to a private laboratory for analysis detected lead up
to 140,000 parts per million (ppm) in palpable violation of Philippine and US government
regulations on lead.

As part of its ongoing “waste-free, toxic-free” back-to-school campaign, the
group bought the items for P7.50 to P599.75 each from formal and informal
retailers in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila City and Makati City and had them
examined for total lead content by SGS, a global testing company.

The DENR Administrative Order 2013-24 strictly prohibits the use of lead in the
manufacturing of school supplies, among other control measures on lead and lead
compounds, while the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) prohibits
lead in concentration greater than 90 ppm in paint or any similar surface
coatings of children’s products. 

The US law also sets a limit of 100 ppm of total lead content in any accessible
component part of a children’s product such as zippers of school bags.

As per laboratory test results, the samples were found laden with lead, a toxic
metal notorious for interfering with the developing brain and causing
irreversible damage to a child’s health and development.

“The lead levels found in the samples using required test methods are
atrociously high, and should provoke immediate removal of such dangerous
products from the market,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste
Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As some consumers may have already purchased them, the manufacturers,
distributors and retailers of the leaded products should take these products
back, replace with unleaded substitutes or offer cash refund instead,” he

“Parents should insist on their right to safe products, a basic entitlement for
all consumers,” he emphasized.

For her part, pediatric toxicologist Dr. 
Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center pointed out:  “while lead is harmful to everyone, it is
most of all dangerous to young children because their growing bodies absorb and
keep more lead than adults do,” adding that “the damage to their budding brains
and nervous systems is often irreversible, but fully preventable.”

The lead levels of the following school supplies were found way above the
threshold limits under the US CPSIA:

1.  Standard Office Plus yellow thumb
tacks (P24.75), 140,000 ppm
2.  “Ronron” backpack (P100), 120,000 ppm
3.  “Princess” backpack with yellow
zipper (P150), 97,000 ppm
4.  Yellow stainless steel vacuum flask (P100),
78,000 ppm
5.  “Artex Fine Water Colors” (P50),
37,000 ppm
6.  Blackboard (P35), 32,000 ppm
7.  “Luck” giant paper clip with Angry
Bird décor (P7.50), 16,000 ppm
8.  Transparent backpack with orange
zipper (P299), 13,000 ppm
9.  Creative Gear “Fashion Girl” backpack
(P599.75), 170 ppm

None of the above products indicated the presence of lead as ingredient on the
label to inform and warn consumers.

The fact sheet “Lead Poisoning and Health,”published by the World Health
Organization (WHO) categorically states “there is
no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

“At lower levels of exposure that cause
no obvious symptoms, and that previously were considered safe, lead is now known
to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems,” the fact sheet

“In particular lead affects children’s brain
development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioural
changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial
behaviour, and reduced educational attainment,” the fact sheet emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition therefore advises back-to-school consumers to observe
the following shopping tips:

1.  Look for and read the product label
2.  Avoid PVC school supplies, which may
contain lead and other toxic additives.
3.  Refrain from buying products coated
with paints unless certified “lead safe.”
4.  Avoid buying products with strong
chemical smell.
5.  Ask for receipt or any proof of