Ecowaste warns against toxic school supplies

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Bad for kids: Children’s health advocates from the EcoWaste Coalition displays samples of school supplies found to be containing lead above permitted levels. Medical science has found that lead interferes with children’s brain development and impairs their health.

Bad for kids: Children’s health advocates from the EcoWaste Coalition displays samples of school supplies found to be containing lead above permitted levels. Medical science has found that lead interferes with children’s brain development and impairs their health.

A CHEMICAL known to damage a child’s developing brain even at low exposures was discovered in some children’s school supplies sold on Metro Manila markets.

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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 and Makati City and had them examined for total lead content by SGS, a global testing company.

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

The lead levels of the following school supplies were found way above the threshold limits under the US CPSIA: Standard Office Plus yellow thumb tacks (P24.75), 140,000 ppm; “Ronron” backpack (P100), 120,000 ppm; “Princess” backpack with yellow zipper (P150), 97,000 ppm; yellow stainless steel vacuum flask (P100), 78,000 ppm; “Artex Fine Water Colors” (P50), 37,000 ppm; blackboard (P35), 32,000 ppm; “Luck” giant paper clip with Angry Bird décor (P7.50), 16,000 ppm; transparent backpack with orange zipper (P299), 13,000 ppm; 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 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 them with unleaded substitutes or offer cash refunds instead,” he added.

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

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2013-24 strictly prohibits the use of lead in manufacturing 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.

The EcoWaste Coalition therefore advised consumers to look for and read the product labels carefully; avoid PVC school supplies, which may contain lead and other toxic additives; refrain from buying products coated with paints unless certified “lead safe”; avoid buying products with strong chemical smells; ask for receipts or any proofs of purchase.

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